Monday, December 30, 2013

OPINION - Shields and Gerson Year-End

"Shields and Gerson on the political lessons of 2013" PBS Newshour 12/27/2013


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's top political news, including the factors that fuel economic inequality in the U.S., how Edward Snowden used technology to decentralize government power and the lessons they hope politicians learned in 2013.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour):  So, we have just heard this conversation, Mark, about inequality.  We have talked about it before at this table. How big a problem is it in this country as we close out this year?

MARK SHIELDS:  I think it's a growing problem.  I think it's a real problem, Judy.

And the president has obviously -- has called it the defining issue of our time, and pointed out that, over the past 35 years, we have seen a widening of the difference in income and wealth between the middle class and between the top 1 percent.  The top 1 percent in the past 30 years, since Ronald Reagan was president, have seen their incomes go up by 279 percent.

Just last year, 10 percent, the top 10 percent got more than 50 percent of the country's income.  That's the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history.  And sort of the irony of this is that, as his critics have branded him a socialist, if anything, capitalists have done exceedingly well during Barack Obama's presidency.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  If that's the case, Michael, where is the outrage, or should be there any outrage about this?

MICHAEL GERSON:  Well, there should be.  I think there should.

I mean, I think you are seeing stickiness at the lower ends of the ladder and an ability for the upper class to perpetuate privilege.  Often, affluent and educated people are marrying affluent and educated people.  The problem here, the bad news is, it's a very complex social problem.  It's not just a difference in income.  It's a difference in skills and education and social capital.

And those are what really make the difference in the long term.  And that's going to require institutions to change fundamentally to be able to transfer those skills and education and values.

The good news, from my perspective, is that both left and right have part of the answer here.  You know, part of the problem is the decline of families and values-shaping institutions, and part of the problem is the decline of blue-collar jobs at decent wages.

You know, both left and right should have something to contribute here.  Robert Putnam, who is an expert on these issues at Harvard, calls it a perfectly purple problem, meaning the left has insights into the problem.  The right has insights in the problem.  They should come together and have some ideas.

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