Political Income Inequality

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The Politics of Income Inequality The unequal distribution of wealth is often mentioned among both democratic and republican parties, phrases such as “widening income inequality” and “vanishing middle class” a common occurrence in political rhetoric. But is the rich-poor gap as significant as they claim? According to research by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economic professors at UC-Berkeley and EHESS respectively, the answer is indisputable: the total market income amassed by the top 0.1 percent has been increasing steadily in the past three decades— the shares from 1970 to 2010 have more than tripled, rising from 2.78 percent to 9.53 percent— levels unseen since the Great Depression. Admittedly, Saez and Piketty’s findings are based…show more content…
However, the degree of leverage the wealthy truly have against the majority is a point of criticism. Many assume supermajority rules ensure the prohibition of results that severely damage people’s interest (Beitz 65). However, this argument presumes equal electoral engagement, and the effect of income inequality on this engagement is under considerable debate. Some theorists believe that the deep cleavage of inequality suppresses political engagement, especially amongst the poorest of society (Dahl 85-86). Other political scientists argue that greater inequality results in more political engagement (Brady). And in fact, the exclusionary practices that breed homogeneity in affluent areas also limit the range of social problems, thus depressing interest in politics (Oliver 95). Frederick Solt, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa, reviews these perspectives and examines their validity through cross-national data from multiple advanced industrial democracies. His findings indicate that higher levels of income inequality powerfully depress political participation. Solt’s work substantiates the assertion that issues advocated by the poor are unlikely to be considered and thus debated in the political process. Therefore, revealing how economic inequality undermines political equality. This is corroborated by a study done by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, professors of politics and decision making in Princeton University and Northwestern respectively, in which they evaluate the major influence on public policy of elites, interest groups, and the average citizen. Their multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no
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