Income inequality was the main theme of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union last night. The fat cats are getting fatter while droves of Americans working minimum-wage jobs have been forced to live in poverty. Why hasn’t there been a revolt yet?
The answer boils down to three points, according to economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in his recent piece in Salon.
First, the working class is afraid of losing what little it has. The same class that led the march for a 40-hour workweek and social security is now biting its tongue. Over three quarters of employed Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. With union membership at an abysmal 7%, no one wants to rock the boat.
Second, students aren’t going to lead this revolution. After leading us through decades of productive reform and protest, students face a daunting job market and, for many, the looming burden of debt. Since the average starting salary for college grads has dropped 10% since 1999 (adjusted for inflation), the threat of bankruptcy has become very real for many. It’s hard to lead a revolution from your mom’s basement.
Finally, many Americans have lost hope for real reform. Fewer than 20% of Americans believe the federal government is looking out for their best interests. Only the most outrageous conspiracy theory could get people on their feet. Although Reich thinks the GOP and the mega-rich could have engineered such a conspiracy, he doesn’t think they actually did.
Luckily, this middle class malaise will come to an end. Pointing to history, Reich says the public will eventually take back the economy and restore democratic order. These goals could be accomplished now through reform, though the longer we wait, the more likely we are to see a violent revolution.
Watch below as Reich explains the seven biggest lies in the economy: