NEWS BLOG: What I’m reading – Harold Meyerson on inequality in the US

Here’s a belated Fourth of July gift for you, and it’s one of the more powerful pieces I’ve read in a while.

It’s by Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, who worries that Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a nation of equality is at risk.

(You’ve gotta love a journalist who describes the infant United States “squalling to the world in our very first utterance that all men were created equal and endowed with unalienable rights….”)

Meyerson holds up the history of political leaders who have pushed for civil rights and equality in the US, and the forces that have worked against their efforts. The efforts for equal rights have been paying off, but economic equality is a different story entirely.

“In consequence,” Meyerson writes, “wages are at their lowest level since the end of World War II as a share of the national income, and U.S. median household income is at roughly the same level it was 20 years ago. The nation is richer and more productive than it was 20 years ago, but all that added income and wealth has gone to the top 10 percent, and disproportionately to the richest 1 percent.”

No, this isn’t an argument for communism. But it is an argument for laws and progressive tax policies that offer equal opportunity rather than favoring a select few. And it’s an argument for a political system that doesn’t sell elected offices to the highest bidder.

Happy Fourth.



  1. I think I’ll pass on Mr. Meyerson’s scribblings. I’d have trouble taking seriously anyone who talks about the “dream of equality” of a man who found the leisure time to write the Declaration of Independence because of the income he derived from slave labor and who, in his book “Notes on Virginia”, contended that blacks were inherently intellectually inferior to whites and that slavery was for a period of time necessary because of the basic differences between the races. ( All of which begs the question of whether Jefferson, that Champion of Liberty, also fathered children with one of his slaves and then kept those children in bondage for many years.)

  2. I think I’ll pass as well. Deliberately misrepresenting statistics (e.g. “The nation is richer and more productive than it was 20 years ago, but all that added income and wealth has gone to the top 10 percent”) is kind of a turn-off. As is passing it off as “powerful” without serious analysis or definition. That’s not what the source article says, and even its claims are of dubious clarity. For instance: “the growth of mean labour income has been roughly equal to the growth in productivity. But our finding that the bottom 90 percent did not enjoy real income gains equal to productivity growth implies that the growth rate of median income has lagged significantly behind growth in the mean.” Uh huh. I can see why one might want to bumperstickerize this.

    Take (more) care


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