Republicans Should Again Support Middle Class Growth

“Having worked for Senate Republicans in the 1980s, I remember a time when Republicans stood up to special interests and purged the tax code of preferences for investment income and other special breaks.” – Sheila C. Bair

Grand Old Parity

By Sheila C. Bair, OP-ED Contributor, The New York Times (02/26/2013)—Last month Emmanuel Saez, a celebrated economist at the University of California, Berkeley, issued another depressing report on income inequality. Among other things, Mr. Saez examined how real family incomes changed in the United States from 2009 to 2011, the first two years of the recovery. The richest 1 percent of Americans, he found, saw their incomes grow, on average, by more than 11 percent. As for the other 99 percent? You guessed it: incomes shrank by nearly half a percent.

The phenomenon is hardly new. The yawning gap between rich and poor has been growing since the 1970s and reached a 90-year peak in 2007, just before the financial crisis. The Great Recession narrowed the gap a bit, but now, once again, the richest Americans are vacuuming up what wealth is out there, a trend that Mr. Saez expects to continue.

I am a capitalist and a lifelong Republican. I believe that, in a meritocracy, some level of income inequality is both inevitable and desirable, as encouragement to those who contribute most to our economic prosperity. But I fear that government actions, not merit, have fueled these extremes in income distribution through taxpayer bailouts, central-bank-engineered financial asset bubbles and unjustified tax breaks that favor the rich.

This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.

But more fundamentally, it cuts against everything our country and my party stand for. Government’s role should not be to rig the game in favor of “the haves” but to make sure “the have-nots” are given a fair shot. [MORE]

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