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.

** For interviews, questions, or comments, please contact:
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.

  • Kelsey Ness

    You are SO RIGHT !! I watch the way the Koch Brothers message has been sold by the DEM candidates and it’s terribly ineffective.Bless his heart, Harry Reid is just not the type of public speaker to drive these points home. One has to be a hardcore wonl to even see snippets of them.

    50% of voters have never heard of them, and I believe the figure is FAR CLOSER to 15% who truly UNDERSTAND what they are doing and have done for 25 years. They have skirted the law, changed laws and now can raise unlimited funds and hide the donors.

    This in totality, what they have done makes Watergate look like a convenience store robbery. I won’t take the time to explain how I can DO THIS, but what they are doing UNDER THE RADAR OF THE AVERAGE AMERICAN is far worse than Nixon hiding his crimes.

    TWO MEN…unbelievably…are just two to three election cycles away from OWING all lawmaking in America ! THIS IS A FRIGHTENING REALITY

    I watched Charles Schumer discussing some two tier election method a few days ago, and as much as I admire all his wrok, it was like watching paint dry. I wish in this crucial election period, they all need to consider every 10 seconds of camera time as gold.

    ALEC will all but RUIN America..and no one is talking about it. THEIR APPROACH IS WEAK…there are NO JFKs, RFKs, MLKs or pre election Obama public speakers with fire and passion, which is PRECISELY what we need. Alison Grimes of KY is the only one I’ve seen so far.

    The Kochs, meanwhile, send out talking points to all their people;m this is why their message, even if they are boldface lies, is the same from everyone; on point and consistently hammering it home OVER and OVER. In my opinion, we need to do something similar. This is not your fathers political environment. We have a highly motivated ‘opponent’ with every modern political weapon at their beck and call.

    I see us no different, strategically, than our side at Bastonge in Dec 1944. Our lines are deeply penetrated and another shellacking half as bad as 2010, will set us back several years.

    I am delighted to find this blog and I urge you to have a Facebook page. Your comments and those of your colleagues are far too good to be buried like needles in a haystack in the massive world wide web.

    Excellent job; I will share these routinely.