Income Inequality and Democracy

The Janus Forum at UVM recently held a debate featuring senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, David Madland and Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute on the question: “Is Growing Income Inequality a Threat to our Democracy?”
Did you miss the event? Watch here

David Madland is the author of the book Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn’t Work without a Strong Middle Class. He has also been featured on television shows such as “PBS NewsHour” and CNN’s “Crossfire” and has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker. Madland’s resarch and work is focused on economic policy, retirement, labor unions, employment, public opinion, economic inequality and the middle class
Read Madland’s full bio here
Read more about his views here

Madland argued that growing income inequality in the U.S is a threat to our democracy. His main points were that,
1. The levels of inequality have dramatically increased: In 1970, CEO’s made 22 times more money than the average worker, now they make 300 times more.
2. There is evidence of special interest tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the very wealthy, hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than secretaries. This has only gotten worse, by a lot, in recent years despite there being consensus and push for tax reform.
3. Wall Street bailout had no strings attached, corruption convictions have quadrupled while at the same time, things the public wants haven’t received funding- investment in infrastructure, higher education, increase in minimum wage,
4. Polls of what the public says compared to what politicians actually do show that they lean towards what higher income people want, not everyone else, especially when it’s in direct conflict with the interests of the wealthy.
5. Public perception of corruption in Government has increased drastically.
6. The direct ways income inequality infiltrate the political system is through campaign contributions, lobbying, and what politicians do on a daily basis, try to raise money and talk to wealthy people rather than talk to their constituents.
7. Income inequality makes us less civic in the way it pulls us apart and makes us feel different, live different lives, interact less, think they are different and become less trusting. This increases polarization, the rise in income inequality correlates to the rise in polarization.
8. When we are less participatory, we are less likely to join together in organizations. We then vote less and feel less connected and powerless, less engaged.

Michael Tanner is an author of many books and has been featured in almost every major American newspaper and is frequently featured on network and cable news programs.His research and work is focused on poverty and social welfare policy, health care reform, and Social Security.
Read Tanner’s full bio here
Read more about his views here

Tanner argued that income inequality is not a threat to our democracy, His main points were that,
1. We are overstating the problem of income inequality, pretax and pretransfer income, doesn’t reflect government redistribution to low income people. This consideration closes the gap significantly, then when considering how much income they actually have to spend that shrinks it even more.
2. Inheritance is not a big part of wealth, top wealthy, large majority are “self made”,3% have from inheritance. Money is not passing through generations, the top 400 richest people are not from the dynasty families, family fortunes are often gone by the third generation.
3. The top wealthiest are not all on Wall St, a third are in business and 10-12% are medical professionals and in finance. The top wealthiest got wealthy from giving us things we want.
4. Inequality doesn’t matter, poverty is much more important, more inequality does not equal more poverty. If we were to double everyone’s income, so many people would be raised out of poverty. The recession made the rich lose millions, but it wasn’t good for the poor. It is better to be unequally rich than equally poor.
5. We have experienced upward mobility and that is what matters. There is huge income inequality in China but many have been lifted out of poverty. Poverty has declined even though inequality has increased.
6. The rich don’t all share the same political ideas, there are ones who give a lot of money to politics but they balance each other out.
7. Labor unions and organizations like the NRA also give a lot, it’s not rich businesses protecting themselves, money in politics is based on interests and beliefs.
8. The rich are just part of process and the process should be open to everybody without knocking them down, the goal is more participation
9. Why should we give more power to government if government is a tool for rich to have power over the poor?

Lawrence Debate Union Public Debate: Is Income Inequality so Great that we can no longer be a Free and Fair Democracy?

The Lawrence Debate Union at UVM recently had a debate on the question, “Is Income Inequality so Great that We can no Longer be a Free and Fair Democracy?”
Here are some highlights from the debate:
“If income inequality were to disappear, the structural problems of access would not because they often are around the lines of identity-race, gender, sexuality, etc.” -Gillian Tiley

“When a candidate can only be elected with a vast amount of money, those who are supposed to represent and run for all of us are most beholden to those with money because they are the only reason they succeed.” -Miranda Zigler

Did you miss the debate? Want to hear what members of the Lawrence Debate Union had to say? Watch what happened here.

Student Opinion: Gillian Tiley

We’ve heard from Hannah on why income inequality does harm democracy but lat Thursday we heard from both sides. Gillian Tiley a senior at UVM and member of the Lawrence Debate Union was on the side defending that income inequality is not a threat to democracy. Here is what she had to say about the debate before it happened!
“Side opposition seeks to contextualize how income inequality interacts with democratic participation, both in examining the 2016 election as well as current political practices. Our discussion will consider the validity of the rust belt vote in electing President Trump, the positive benefits of wealthy liberal elites, the necessity of wealthy individuals for funding organizations that expand access and resources to marginalized populations and the very important notion that inequality exists in all forms, not just in terms of wealth—a world without income inequality is still a world with uneven access to democratic representation.”

Stay tuned for video coverage of the event!

Student Opinion: Hannah Lefevre on why Income Inequality is a Threat to our Democracy

Hannah Lefevre, a sophomore and member of the Lawrence Debate Union at UVM shares her thoughts on whether Income Inequality is a threat to our democracy below!

“Growing income inequality is a threat to our democracy because it inhibits those facing income inequality from experiencing the same privileges that those who are financially stable are able to experience. This allows for the class divide between the rich and the poor, as well as the rich and the middle class to increase and puts more power in the hands of those who have the privilege to experience that power. This then translates to the upper class having more say in government decisions because they are the ones who end up holding positions of power in congress and they are the ones who have the most accessibility to voting resources. These voting resources include transportation to polls that are typically located in suburban neighborhoods or other locations that aren’t as accessible.”

Like what Hannah had to say? Here are some related articles to income inequality, voting access and representation!

The Atlantic: Why Are the Poor and Minorities Less Likely to Vote

Class Bias in Voter Turnout, Representation, and Income Inequality

Michael Tanner on Income Inequality and Democracy

Read the article Here.
Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute seeks to mitigate all of the concern over income inequality and clarify facts about income inequality in the article “Five Myths about Economic Inequality”. Tanner’s fifth and final percieved myth he addresses is directly related to the discussion about income inequality and democracy. In Tanner’s fifth myth that income inequality distorts political processes as Madland would argue, Tanner makes the argument that that big government is what exacerbates income inequality and government involvement is the cause of cronyism, not simply income inequality itself.

“It may be reasonable to say, therefore, that far from being the enemy of inequality, big government can actually be an engine, or at least an accomplice, to greater inequality. It is not that inequality tilts the political playing field so much as it is that government provides the mechanism through which inequality can flourish.”

“Moreover, while many wealthy individuals are politically active, that activism is often offset by groups that represent lower-income individuals, or groups whose politics cut across the socioeconomic spectrum. For example, 14 of the top 25 spenders during the 2012 election were unions, which ostensibly advocate for the working class.”

The study of election spending can be found Here.

David Madland on Income Inequality and Democracy

Read the article Here.

David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American progress advocates for a strong middle class in his piece “Symposium First Principles: Arguing the Economy-Growth and the middle Class”. Madland speaks directly to the question of whether income inequality poses a threat to democracy in the section titled “Good Governance”. Madland makes the claim that income inequality and the consequent shrinking of the middle class increase corruption and reduce efficacy and democracy in Government.

“A strong middle class, as thinkers from Aristotle to James Madison to modern political scientists have noted, fosters better governance by helping ensure government is well-run, increasing citizen participation, minimizing factional fighting, and promoting policies for the benefit of all of society rather than special interests. In contrast, economic inequality and a weak middle class make the political system imbalanced and depress the political participation of the non-wealthy, reducing voting, discussion, and interest in public policy.”

“..economic inequality has a harmful effect on bureaucratic quality, government stability, and democratic accountability. Moreover, actual corruption in government becomes much more common without a strong middle class. In short, a weak middle class hollows out governing practices and institutions, so that the bureaucracy no longer delivers for its citizens.”

Want to read more about Madland’s ideas? Here are the articles he references,
Solt
Chong&Gradstein

It’s time to meet the scholars!

It’s time to meet the scholars who will debate the question: Is Growing Income Inequality a threat to our Democracy? On October 25th!
Our next scholar, arguing that growing income inequality is not a threat to our democracy is Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.

Tanner has written extensively on a variety of domestic policies with a particular emphasis on poverty and social welfare policy. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal. He writes a weekly column for National Review Online and appears regularly on network and cable news programs.

It’s time to meet the scholars!

It’s time to meet the scholars who will debate the question: Is Growing Income Inequality a threat to our Democracy? On October 25th!
Our first scholar, arguing that growing income inequality is a threat to our democracy, is David Madland, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C.

Madland has written extensively about the economy and American politics on a range of topics, including economic inequality. He has appeared frequently on television shows, including “PBS NewsHour” and CNN’s “Crossfire” and he has been cited in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Is Growing Income Inequality a threat to our Democracy?

The Janus Forum is pleased to announce our first debate of the year on the topic of income inequality. David Madland, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute will be debating whether growing income inequality is a threat to our democracy. The debate will take place on October 25th in 107 Ifshin Hall at 3:00 pm with a reception to follow in the atrium, hope to see you there!