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Will The 2020 Contenders Take On Inequality?

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But this progressive consensus on inequality did not survive the Cold War. With the capitalist-boss-baiting Soviet Union our archenemy, anyone who continued to trumpet New Deal distributional themes was suddenly deemed dangerously subversive. By the early 1960s, top Democrats were no longer talking up the importance of taxing the rich. John F. Kennedy's New Frontier assured Americans instead that a "rising tide lifts all boats." We needn't worry about the wealthy, the new party line went. If we just cut taxes to grow the economic pie, everyone could get a bigger piece.

By the 1990s, with no one in political power worrying about the wealthy, the predictable had taken place: America's richest had become fabulously richer, amid rising poverty and flat-lining wages. Republicans and Democrats shared responsibility for this. Both parties deregulated and privatized. Both lavished subsidies on the wealthy and their enterprises. Both hailed the rich as job creators.

"I'd like to create more millionaires than were created under Mr. Bush and Mr. Reagan," Bill Clinton even opined in 1992's first general election presidential debate.

Clinton succeeded at that task, as has every president since he left office. Will that pattern change if voters choose one of the candidates running to replace Donald Trump? Are these office seekers pushing policies and programs that hold out hope for a significantly more equal America?

Class wars unfold on multiple fronts, and virtually all national policies and programs affect how equally we distribute our income and wealth. But some fronts affect income and wealth distribution more directly than others. The Nation/IPS inequality questionnaire highlights these battlefronts, focusing on struggles that involve everything from taxes and inter-generational transfers of wealth to CEO pay and the composition of corporate boards.

The questionnaire is online at inequality.org/2020, as are the candidates' full responses. No candidates seeking the GOP's 2020 nomination chose to complete the survey, and none of them have made much of an effort on the campaign trail to address the inequality concerns that it raises.

The Democrats who chose not to complete the survey, by contrast, have commented on many of the questions it poses. The profiles that follow rest on those comments as well as the completed surveys.

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Sam Pizzigati is an  Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Editor,  Too Much ,  an online weekly on excess and inequality

Author, The Rich Don't Always (more...)
 

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