A new report explains how the rules governing the US economy are tipped in favour of asset owners over wage earners, and offers solutions to transform our system. Authored by Chuck Collins and published by the Institute of Policy Studies and the Next System Project.
The US economy’s deep systemic inequalities of income, wealth, power, and opportunity are part of global inequality trends, but US-style capitalism and public policy make inequalities more acute. Their observable and felt harm to our civic and economic life is corroborated by research from many disciplines. Yet, by the same token, moving toward a more egalitarian society would realign most aspects of economic and social life for the better. So how can we bring these changes about?
For starters, we must know what we are up against. These inequalities do not spring mainly from technological change and globalization, though both compound and complicate the rift. Instead, imbalances of power and agency embedded in our political and economic system are the main drivers and accelerators of inequality.
Reducing inequality requires a “next systems” analysis and playbook. Here, we briefly examine our current inequality predicament and show how these inequalities undermine our democracy, economic stability, social cohesion, and other cherished values. We then explore the systemic causes, perpetuators, and superchargers of inequalities and, finally, evaluate policy interventions and pressure points for leveling them.
The path through this thicket is only partly uncharted. The United States can learn from other advanced industrial countries with significantly less inequality, adapting policies and practices to US needs and circumstances. We can also learn from our own history—from understanding that our rigged rules have been racially biased—to how we dramatically reduced inequality between 1940 and 1975.
That said, part of the path is uncharted. Grappling with climate change and other breached ecological boundaries—whether ocean acidification, fresh water contamination, or methane dumping—intensifies the challenges of reducing extreme inequality. And many of the New Deal and post-World War II policies that reduced inequality for earlier generations won’t work now given today’s levels of population, resource consumption, and ecological risk.
Together, the extent and widely felt effects of inequality challenge us to put a fine-tuned combination of historical insights, policy innovations, best practices, and fresh thinking to the test. Just as urgently, we also need a vision of a more equal and opportunity-rich society.