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2016 Presidential Candidates Address Inequality (Sort Of)

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2016 Presidential Candidates Address Inequality (Sort Of)


At last, America’s political leaders indicate that they now hear the voices and feel the pain of the poor and of the millions of working families slipping out of the middle class.

Congress had previously paid no attention to the ever-widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us, but that inequality has recently emerged as a top political topic in the race for such Republican presidential contenders as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. They are publicly lamenting the wealth gap and — by gollies — proposing solutions. Alas, though, the “solution” proposed by each of them is not to provide help for those who’ve been knocked down, but to offer aid to the same corporate elites who’ve been enriching themselves by knocking down the middle class and holding down the poor.

Specifically, their solution is to cut taxes on corporations and the rich, do away with environmental and labor protections and cut or privatize government programs — from Head Start to Social Security — that ordinary people count on. For example, Sen. Rubio proposes to kill the food stamp program (even though the need for it is greater than ever) and redirect that money into what he calls a subsidy for low-wage workers. Does he think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? That’s not a subsidy for workers, but for low-wage employers. Why should taxpayers subsidize the poverty pay of profitable giants such as McDonald’s, rather than making them pay living wages and cover their own labor costs?

I guess we should count it as progress that Republican candidates are at least having to admit that inequality is a problem, but come on — offering the same old failed, anti-government snake oil is an insult to the American people. Jeb Bush shows how vacuous their flim-flammery is by saying that, to address the ever-widening wealth and income gap, he’ll “celebrate success and … cherish free enterprise.” Gosh, what a comfort that’ll be to America’s hard-hit majority.

It may be futile to hope that the GOP’s gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our “Land of Opportunity” — but where are the Democrats?

At present, they’re mostly with Hillary Clinton, who has warned that “extreme inequality has corrupted other societies.” Uh … yes, but what about our society? Clinton says: “We have to have a concerted effort to meet a consensus about how to deal with this.”

Huh? That’s not an answer, much less a solution — it’s a political tap dance around a crucial matter facing America. Why would she dodge a chance to swing away at a down-the-middle, working-class issue that’s right in the wheelhouse of her party’s populist strength? After all, recent polls show huge public support for direct government action to reduce the wealth gap, from raising taxes on the super-rich to raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

But there is one tiny constituency whose opinion outweighs all others on this issue: The 1 Percenters. Clinton and other top Democrats are weaker than Canadian hot sauce when it comes to embracing the unequivocating populism that ordinary voters want, because only 13 percent of the super-rich think government should take action to redress inequality. These privileged ones tend to blame America’s widening inequities on the very people who’re losing jobs, income and wealth — claiming that such people should simply improve their work ethic and character.

Why would Democrats care what these few supercilious elites think? Well, because meek Democrats like Clinton have become so dependent on rich people’s campaign checks that these Democrats let the 1 percent restrict the party’s policies and message, thus alienating the workaday majority.

When both parties kowtow to money, the people’s needs are ignored, and politics becomes illegitimate.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: Occupy Chicago (Ken Fager/Flickr)

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. Dominick Vila April 8, 2015

    The financial schism that has been growing throughout the last century, and that went on overdrive in the 1980s, is not limited to those who are no longer middle class, it includes every middle class citizen, whose ability to pursue his/her dreams are rapidly becoming an untenable illusion.
    The fact that Republican presidential candidates are proposing an expansion of the “solutions” proposed by Reagan and Bush II is not surprising. Relying on corporate growth and profitability as the means to sustain economic growth and prosperity has been the centerpiece of Republican policies for decades, and the main difference between their economic philosophies and that of the Democrats. For them, investment in education, making college and trade school education free for qualified students, guaranteed pensions for all retirees, and programs that provide affordable healthcare to seniors and to those who cannot afford high insurance premiums are, in their minds, the reason for the demise of the middle class. The fact that most of us could not afford the astronomical fees charged by insurance companies before MEDICARE and the ACA were implemented, and that many seniors were living in abject misery before Social Security became a reality, makes absolutely no difference to those who don’t bother to check the price of the items or services they want because their cost is irrelevant to them.
    What we are seeing is the final attempt to turn the United States into a plutocracy controlled by elitists who don’t want to waste their time worrying about the needs of 47% of their fellow citizens, a country where people obediently follow the instructions conveyed to them by Big Brother, all while pretending to oppose the concept of big government.
    The Federal and State governments are far from perfect, but they beat the company store on every front.

    1. charleo1 April 8, 2015

      Very true, all around Dom. But speaking of schisms, there is a widening one within the Democratic camp. Concerning these inequities that are rife within our ever more money driven, ever more Plutocratic economic, and political systems, that Jim Hightower describes. Inequities the Plutocratic Right, and Libertarians like Rand Paul, are flat out lying to the public about, as to their causations. That’s why many of us on the Democratic Left are wondering, where is the Democratic leadership on this issue? Vis a vie, Chuck Schumer, the apparent replacement for Harry Reid. I detect, there is almost a giddiness among the Corporate Right Wingers about Reid’s departure, and Schumer’s, let’s make a deal reputation. And how close, some are wondering, is Hillary’s philosophical kinship with her husband? Who after all, fast tracked NAFTA, and signed into law much of the reckless deregulation of Wall Street. Going along with the requests of a Wall Street worshiping Congress, that facilitated the near collapse of the World economy. This is not to unfairly impugn Hillary for Bill’s mistakes. But does explain, at least partially, the growing popularity of Liberal juggernauts like Elizabeth Warren, or the grass roots following of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Who speak unapologetically about raising the cap on Social Security, taking on the oil companies over global climate change, and the fairness, and fiscal necessities of raising the tax rates on the rich. And what a ringing endorsement of Hillary it would be to many of us, to hear a conglomerate of Wall Street bankers threaten to withhold their financial support, if she didn’t tone down her rhetoric about breaking up the big banks. I’m not saying that has to happen. There’s a big difference in being on good terms with Wall Street, and crawling into bed with the lot for their money. Only that some of that pushback needs to happen. And I think would be great for the Democratic Party, if it did!

  2. paulyz April 8, 2015

    Basically this article acknowledges that income inequality has greatly increased under Obama’s & the Democrats’ policies for almost 7 years. Racial division has also increased, as well as debt, poverty & unemployment. The promised “transparency” in Gov. is untrue as is the promise of removing all pork from bills.

    1. kenndeb April 8, 2015

      Liberals will NEVER acknowledge that they ever do anything wrong. Lying and deceit are their mainstays.

      1. bobnstuff April 8, 2015

        And the Republican are oh so much different, They care so much about the middle class that they want to change their lot, they want to make them poor so they won’t feel out of place. It’s all about who gives them money. Go to a meeting of your local Republican committee and see what they talk about and see who has the power. Money talks. Name one thing they are trying to do to help the poor. The great job creators in the party keep cutting jobs and sending them over seas.

        1. paulyz April 8, 2015

          Jobs and a healthy, vibrant economy is what helps alleviate poverty & creates a middle-class, not the Federal Government creating dependency & class-warfare. Most companies went overseas precisely because of the U.S. highest corporate tax rates, plus excessive government regulations that render them unable to compete. Why N.Y. city offered tax breaks for 10 years to companies that move their businesses there, are you starting to understand?

          1. bobnstuff April 8, 2015

            On plant Earth the Republicans have a habit of kill the economy, not building it. The Republicans shift the taxes onto the middle class which reduces spending and hurts the economy while building wealth for the rich. The jobs went overseas because of labor costs, why pay an American a living wage when you can get slave labor in another country. Also the ability of destroying the environment with out the government stopping you seems like a nice thing to the Republicans. Our health care system also played a part. In the US the company pays for the health care of their employees, in the rest of the world the government pays for it. It’s when the Democrats are in power that the economy grows and jobs are created. Let me put it this way, the Democrats farm the economy while the Republicans strip mine it.

          2. paulyz April 8, 2015

            Your blame America & wealth biases leads you to make statements that are false. There are around 12 major industrial Countries that pay higher wages than in the U.S. But many products flooding America come from low wage countries like China, India & Mexico. Blame them on how they create poverty & unfair labor costs to do business, not U.S. companies. Our health care system is also FAR better than many other countries, or was until Obamacare. So you believe when the Government runs it, it will be so wonderful. Ask people in China & Mexico how they enjoy it. For decades, American companies not only paid American workers good wages, but also health care & retirement, but since Liberal policies always brainwashing people like you into blaming business, you attack America first. That is very simple-minded thinking that Socialists want you to believe. We have seen 7 years under Obama & the Democrat Party how much worse economic conditions have become, & eventually will be unsustainable.

          3. bobnstuff April 8, 2015

            Our health care system is a over priced substandard. In other words we get ripped off. Cuba has a better health care system. The ACA has helped but it didn’t go far enough.
            You have been brained wash if you believe the US health care system was good, it is not even in the top 20. Yes I blame US business for sending jobs over seas, It wasn’t because of taxes, they still have to pay corporate taxes unless they move their whole company over seas. Oh and about the economy, Just how much better do you want it to be. Stocks are up. Unemployment is down. Corporate profits are good, the GDP is growing. You can’t even see the real world. You have
            been fooled by the guys with their hands in your pockets. You are the sucker.

          4. paulyz April 9, 2015

            You consider Obama’s “recovery” that was longer & worse than the recession to be good economic news? When people from other countries that can afford to do so, come to the US for health care. Liberals like you enjoy the benefits and freedom (which is disappearing under Socialism quickly), but constantly criticize your own country. If it is so bad you Liberals & Illegals could always leave to go to all these other wonderful countries. The US also has the highest corporate tax rates of major industrial countries. You must be a young, college, brainwashed individual.

          5. bobnstuff April 9, 2015

            Other then the ACA just what freedom have you lost? No new gun laws, free speech is give to anything that moves, What freedom has been taken from you that you have ever had?
            We have some good doctors just a lousy system. If you have money things are great. The system is third world other the for the rich. Read the rankings on life expectancy and infant deaths. As I said we aren’t even in the top twenty in health. Oh and It’s my right as an American to point out the flaws in the system although it seem that the right sure likes to use that right a lot. This the Republicans that are trying their best to make this country like a third world nation. What makes a third world country different then the US? Poverty, unhealthy living condition do to pollution, and a large wealth gap. Sounds like the Republican plan to me.

          6. paulyz April 10, 2015

            Many times Liberals have instant anger when discussing issues with opposing views because they jump on the Leftist propaganda on wealth being their enemy. If they really understood that the Tea Party stood for many things they should agree on, instead of labeling them all racist, White, Republican, greedy, wealthy, etc…. The Tea Party formed because of everyday, average Americans tired of high taxes, special interests, spending, growing debt, growth & control of an out-of-touch Federal Government, bail-outs, attacks on some of our Bill of Rights, Illegal “immigration”, …..

            These are issues that hurt all Americans, & the members or supporters of the Tea Party issues are just as outraged at Republicans that are involved in this as Democrats. One would really think that if there wasn’t the knee-jerk opposition & belief in the false media labeling of these people by the Left, they would see how things have been twisted for political advantage.

          7. bobnstuff April 11, 2015

            In the beginning the Tea Party was a single issue non partisan group focused on tax reform. A good idea. Then it was hijacked and has become the pawn of the big money right wing in the republican party, not a trustworthy group. The republican party doesn’t not like grass roots movements with in the party so they took control on a national level and killed the Tea Party and now use it’s members for their own purpose. To bad for the country,
            they might have done some good.

          8. paulyz April 11, 2015

            Completely incorrect. The big money that goes to the Democrats & Republican Establishment RINOS are the reason they BOTH attack the Tea Party. They both are paid many millions to maintain the status quo of Big Federal Government. They do NOT want that power & control threatened, so they use every trick to badmouth & demonize them. We have even seen how the IRS went after them Illegally. The loss of Government of the People under big money & power of those in control of the Federal Gov. is what is happening, thus the constant smear tactics. They do not want to lose their power & influence & big lobby money.

          9. Independent1 April 11, 2015

            Until Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh began the ‘let’s hate everyone except the rich campaign’ back in the mid 1990’s, although politicians would sometimes take issue with some aspects of the direction that a president wanted to take the country, NEVER was there the level of obstructionism that we’ve seen from the GOP in the past 20 years. So your comment is nothing more than total nonsense for any presidency prior to Clinton’s 2nd term and now Obama’s presidency. Presidents virtually always set the direction they wanted, and Congress virtually never totally obstructed what they wanted. Congress NEVER ever even suggested idiocy like ‘let’s shut down the government and kill some legislation by defunding it’ –that’s clearly current day GOP IDIOCY!!

            So yes!! For all practical purposes, prior to Obama, the spending and direction that our government took was for the most part always dictated what A PRESIDENT WANTED!! Like with Reagan – even though the Dems questioned his ‘trickle down fantasy’ and ‘star wars’ nonsense, they did not question it to the standpoint of totally obstructing the spending that he wanted – so they let him spend like a drunken sailor!!!

          10. Independent1 April 10, 2015

            Considering that Obama stopped a 800,000/mo job loss in about 3 months and actually started with positive jobs growth within 10 months which is faster than any president has done in history – I’d say that’s something. And considering that he reduced a 10.1% unemployment rate in December of 2009 to a 5.5% unemployment rate today (6 years) faster than any president in history, I’d say that’s something else. Especially considering that the fake president you RWNJs think is a saint, couldn’t reduce a 10.8% to 5.5% in 8 years…I’d say that’s really something.

            And I say that considering that in 18 years, that Carter, Clinton and Obama have created 39-40 million jobs while Reagan and the two Bushes barely created 20 million jobs in 20 years, is really something too!!

            Fact is worthless, Republicans know absolutely NOTHING ABOUT RUNNING A GOVERNMENT!!!

            Republicans consistently tank the economy every time they try running it!!! That’s why since 1901 there have been 17 recessions and 3 depressions. And all three depression occurred while a Republican was in the Whitehouse, and all of them occurred during a Republicans either 2nd term, or when he followed 8 years or more of Republican presidency. Just like Hoover did in 1929 when he took over from Coolidge, and then proceeded to turn a mild recession into a world-wide depression.

            And of the 17 Recessions, 14 of them were when a Republican was in the Whitehouse, and again mostly during their 2nd term, which means THEY CREATED THE CONDITIONS THAT CAUSED THE RECESSION!!!

            You have absolutely no positive statistics whatsoever to stand on with respect to Republicans. Even with building the economy, Republicans have a mediocre 2.6%/yr GDP growth average since 1900, while Democrats have a 4.2% average.

            Republicans are absolutely pathetic when it comes to guiding our economy!!!!!!!

          11. paulyz April 11, 2015

            You never differenciate between who in controlling the White House & who is controlling Congress when you just throw dates around. Liberals like to give credit to a President during good periods, or criticize a President during bad times, same with Congresses, to spin it to their liking. Very simple-minded thinking or unintelligent brainwashed minds.

          12. Independent1 April 10, 2015

            You’re right, it’s got nothing to do with America’s taxes being too high, it’s the gimmicks that companies can play when they do most of their business in one country, while supposedly having their headquarters in a foreign country. We don’t force them to pay the taxes they should be paying to the U.S., and many times the country that they choose for their headquarters doesn’t tax them much, if anything, since the majority of their income comes from business done in another country.

            That’s exactly what Apple has finagled. Their headquarters is now supposedly in Ireland, while most of their income comes from business in the U.S. With that arrangement, they pay virtually no taxes to the U.S. and they pay virtually no taxes to Ireland, because very little of their income comes from business in Ireland.

            So it’s not that U.S. taxes are all that high, seeing that on average about 200 of the Fortune 500 companies in any given year, pay zero taxes or in some cases get refunds, even though they have millions and even billions in earnings; because of all the legal games their able to pay via our convoluted tax code.

          13. highpckts April 9, 2015

            BS!!! And without regulations where do you think we would be??? They would take your grandmothers lounge chair and sell it for a profit if they could get away with it! With no regulations you would be out of luck! Seems to me they compete pretty damn well especially in foreign countries!!

          14. paulyz April 10, 2015

            Relax with your typical knee-jerk reactions to any discussions from anyone that disagrees with you. Nobody said we don’t need regulations, I said “excessive” regulations.

          15. highpckts April 10, 2015

            Oh and 99per cent of your replies aren’t “knee jerk” answers? I certainly hope so because if not then you are out in “left” field without any facts to back up your rants!!

      2. paulyz April 8, 2015

        You got that Exactly right.

    2. Independent1 April 11, 2015

      Pure Hogwash!! You’re are so full of unadulterated BS, that it’s sickening!!

      Here are some graphs created in 2010 which was virtually at the end of the major part of Bush 2s destruction of our economy, and the income inequality has changed very little from then to now 5 years later!!!

      All you know how to do is lie through your teeth!!

    3. Independent1 April 11, 2015

      Unemployment has increased?? Is that why Obama has reduced the unemployment rate faster than any previous president?? And he’s even accomplished something the worthless president named Reagan couldn’t accomplish!! He’s gotten the unemployment rate to 5.5% in less than 6 years; something Reagan NEVER ACCOMPLISHED IN 8 YEARS!!!

      And talking about debt – where Reagan and the 2 Bushes increased America’s deficit spending every single year they were in office, Obama has reduced deficit spending faster than any president in history!! And he’s reduced it further than any president in history, partly because the last GOP president increased it further and faster than all previous presidents the U.S. has every had ALL COMBINED!!! Do you realize that??? Bush Jr. added 8-10 trillion to our debt all on his lonesome which is more debt than had been added by all 40 plus previous presidents including the next BIG SPENDER REAGAN, ALL COMBINED!!!

      1. paulyz April 12, 2015

        Did you actually forget that under Obama, we had record long-term unemployment for 6 straight years? Even now the jobs added are only half enough to just replace what is needed, and that is not even counting Millions that are no longer counted.

        I also see that instead of addressing the real problems we face today, you resort to ignoring them and STILL try to switch the topic to Bush & Reagan, typical Liberal tactic when they don’t have a legitimate explanation, otherwise, you must be completely hoodwinked by the Leftist media, Obama, & Democrat Party. By the way, how can you just dismiss the 18 Trillion in debt we now have, double the Presidents you dug up from the past?

        p.s. I remember when Hillary & Obama were running for President in 2008, how they were for the Defense of Marriage Act; marriage being one man & one woman, with Obama even stating, “As for me as a Christian, it is a sacred union, Gods in the mix.” That now of course was all BS to get elected. Just like Obama & Harry Reid (which he admitted to), lying about Gov. Romney. Or the many lies about Obamacare. You would think even Liberals would be outraged over being lied to over & over, but as long as they get their social programs rammed through, they don’t care. It is because of having “principles” that change with the wind.

        1. Independent1 April 12, 2015

          I clearly don’t have to respond to your latest rant of gibberish. Your post is so moronic that even an imbecile like yourself can see all the lies and fabrications of reality!! Not even you can really believe what you posted!! You’re lying to yourself!!!

    4. Independent1 April 11, 2015

      In fact, income inequality has actually gotten less over the past 5 years, I just found a pie chart that is actually current (April 2014), and according to that chart, the upper 20% now own 84.6% of all the wealth (net worth), whereas, back in 2010 according to that pie chart, they owned 89% of all the wealth. So the recovery under Obama has actually channeled some of the wealth increases in the last 5 years (about 4.4%) back to the 80% of lower-income Americans.

      http://i1.wp.com/ramblingloonephants.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/wealth-distribution.jpg?w=500#q=Us Wealth Distribution Pie Chart

  3. TZToronto April 8, 2015

    Contrary to what many right-wingers think, many of us on the Left who have benefited from capitalism have nothing against the concept of the corporation. What we don’t like is the unreasonable advantages corporations and their executives get that ordinary people have no access to, advantages that allow them to pay nothing in taxes while the guy who sweeps their offices has to pay and pay and pay. The strange thing is that the USA has prospered when the wealthy and the corporations they own and run had to pay what today look like outrageously high taxes. I guess shareholders are not content with owning something that makes money. They want their share NOW and constantly, and if that means putting every American out of work, then so be it.

  4. Anne Droyd April 12, 2015

    Certainly, most people now recognize that Obama is a fool.


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