Our country can't go on like this
The problem of inequality in the United States is an elephant in the room which has grown so huge that not even the most oblivious among us can ignore it any more. I haven't been able to find any independent confirmation of Michael Moore's statement that the richest 400 Americans now own more wealth than the poorest 50% of the population (155,000,000 people!), but as these charts show, inequality is shockingly high and rapidly increasing.
At the same time, federal tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level since 1950, while corporate tax revenues as a share of GDP are near historic lows -- about one-sixth of what they were in the early 1950s. Yet in the teeth of all this, Republicans scream "socialism" and demand endless cuts in everything that benefits ordinary people, to "solve" an artificial budget crisis manufactured by unprecedented tax reductions.
Yes, it is necessary to run deficits at times of high unemployment to stimulate the economy -- but Republicans have fought hard against the measures which have the most stimulative effect, such as extending unemployment insurance, while defending those which have the least, such as extending the Bush tax cuts for the highest income levels. The kinds of spending cuts they are now demanding would devastate the job market. It's not about helping the economy, but about preserving the conditions that cause rising inequality.
The usual response to raising these issues is to caricature them as demands for absolute equality, something which could only be achieved by totalitarianism. Any sensible person accepts that some inequality is a reasonable and inevitable price to pay for the kind of competitive and productive economy that benefits us all. But that does not describe the situation we have now or the direction we're heading, which are intolerable and ultimately unsustainable.
There are people who will dismiss anything Moore says simply because he's the one who says it, but there's a reason why his recent speech in Wisconsin touched a nerve. As we've seen in Europe over the last few years, when the political establishment refuses to address a major problem, eventually the people will start gravitating toward those radicals and political outsiders who do address it. Nor was the reaction merely the product of an un-representative audience. Poll after poll, even Rasmussen, has shown Governor Walker's support collapsing across the state, while Obama's approval climbs. People all over the country are waking up.
Obama has not done all he could have done to address inequality, and he's perceived as having done even less -- but he's the best available alternative to the Republicans. For now. If inequality continues to grow, and if Republicans continue to insist there's nothing wrong with it and to promote policies that exacerbate it, and if Democrats don't do anything more to deal with it than they already have -- well, don't be surprised when those radicals and political outsiders start achieving serious mass support. If the Republicans wanted to see someone like Moore become President someday, all they'd need to do to bring it about is to carry on as they're now doing.