President Obama’s Words on Inequality Are “Not Enough,” Say Experts at Institute for Policy Studies

Washington DC – President Obama’s remarks this week on inequality and economic mobility are on the right track but need to be followed by action, said experts Sam Pizzigati, editor of Inequality.org and IPS Associate Fellow, and Chuck Collins, director of the Inequality and the Common Good project at IPS.

Chuck Collins is the author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It, one of the first books on the 99 Percent after the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He co-founded the groups United for a Fair Economy and Wealth for the Common Good.

Collins offered the following comments on President Obama’s speech:

President Obama is right to identify inequality as a defining challenge of our time. We are now living through a second “Gilded Age,” a period of extreme wealth inequality that mirrors the dizzying disparities that came after the Industrial Revolution, from the 1890s to 1920.

But we need more than speeches to address this challenge. We need to press for bold policies to reduce the concentration of wealth and power. Words are not enough. Enacting a robust inheritance or estate tax, ending offshore tax havens, and other meaningful actions are needed to allow all to share in the prosperity of our rich country. President Obama has taken a strong stance on inequality. Now it is time for him to act.

Sam Pizzigati is the author of the recently-released book The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph Over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, a detailed historical account of the last 100 years of inequality in this country. Pizzigati is also editor of Inequality.org, a comprehensive online resource supported by IPS, and an IPS Associate Fellow.

Pizzigati offered the following comments on President Obama’s speech:

Back in the 1990s, the conventional political wisdom — in both parties — openly derided the notion that the wealth then amassing so furiously at America’s economic summit posed any sort of threat to the nation’s wellbeing.

How things have changed. This week, a President of the United States gave a speech that disapprovingly rattled off staggering stats on America’s top-heavy distribution of income. This maldistribution, President Obama made clear, is rotting our economy and democracy — and even undermining the everyday trust between people that makes for healthy social cohesion.

A President offering a coherent case against inequality. That’s progress. But not enough. This President is still not offering up policy proposals potent enough to reverse America’s incredibly dangerous concentration of wealth and income. He is, as veteran progressive analyst and IPS Board member Robert Borosage puts it, pulling his punches. We at IPS remain committed to keep punching away.

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Lacy MacAuley, Institute for Policy Studies, (202) 445-4692,
[email protected] **

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The Institute for Policy Studies is celebrating its 50th year of turning ideas into action. IPS is a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power.