THE PROBLEM WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT…. Back in July, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) lamented the notion that Democrats are “snuffing out the America that I grew up in.” In other words, Boehner remembers the 1950s and 1960s – he was born in ’49 — and wishes the country were more like it was then.
There were more than a few problems with his assessment, but what was striking was to remember how extraordinarily liberal the country was, at least economically, when Boehner was “growing up.” The top marginal tax rate was 90% (nearly triple today’s figure); union membership was 30% (more than quadruple today’s figure); the Republican Party, which included plenty of liberals, endorsed massive spending projects; and the economy was heavily regulated — airlines didn’t even set their own prices.
And perhaps most importantly, the chasm between the rich and poor wasn’t nearly as wide as it is now. According to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the gap between the richest 1% and the middle and poorest fifths of the country “more than tripled between 1979 and 2007.” We have greater income concentration at the top of the income scale now than at any point since 1928.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told the United Steelworkers that she thinks such dramatic income disparities are bad for the country. And here’s how Fox News responded to the very idea that this is a social issue worthy of officials’ attention:
If you even mention the gap between rich and poor, the Republican response is knee-jerk: socialism. It doesn’t matter what these income disparities mean for the economy, for our social fabric, for Americans’ ability to get ahead — what matters is making sure no one is even allowed to consider this an issue worth addressing.
And as Jon Chait added, “By the way, [the screen shot] was taken during the ‘straight news’ portion of Fox News, not the opinion portion. Just so you can keep it straight.” [Update: Reader B.G. reminds me that Chait may be wrong about this one — last year, Fox News conceded that “Fox & Friends” is not considered part of the network’s “news” programming.]