Mitch McConnell (AP/Alex Brandon)

The 4 biggest conservative lies about inequality

The four biggest lies conservatives tell about inequality, followed by the truth.


Robert Reich
July 12, 2019 10:30AM (UTC)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Even though we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the 19th century robber barons, conservatives keep lying about what’s happening and what to do about it. Here are their four biggest lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

1. The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators, so we dare not tax them. 

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The truth is the middle class and poor are the job-creators through their purchases of goods and services. If they don’t have enough purchasing power because they’re not paid enough, companies won’t create more jobs and the economy won’t grow. The giant Trump-Republican tax cut for corporations and the rich hasn’t trickled down to ordinary Americans. It’s just made the rich even richer.

2. People are paid what they’re worth in the market, so we shouldn’t tamper with pay. 

Wrong. Four decades ago, CEOs of big companies got 30 times the pay of typical workers. Now they get 361 times their workers’ pay. It’s not because they’ve done such a great job, but because they control the compensation committees of their boards. They’re using corporate profits to buy back even more shares of stock so their total compensation rises even more. And, they’re monopolizing the economy at the same time.

Meanwhile, most American workers earn nearly the same today as they did forty years ago, adjusted for inflation. That’s not because they’re working less hard now, but because they don’t have strong unions bargaining for them, as they did then.

3. Any child can make it in America with enough guts, gumption, and intelligence, so we don’t need to do anything for poor and working-class kids. 

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The truth is we already do next to nothing for poor and working class kids. Their schools don’t have enough teachers or staff, their textbooks are outdated, they lack science labs, their school buildings are falling apart. We don’t help with costs of child care. We don’t invest in early childhood education. We spend less educating poor kids than we do educating kids from wealthy families.

4. Increasing the minimum wage will result in fewer jobs, so we shouldn’t raise it. 

In fact, studies show that in states where the minimum wage has been increased, the number of jobs increases. That’s because minimum-wage workers have more money to spend  resulting in more jobs, and also saving employers money on employee turnover.

America’s lurch toward widening inequality can be reversed. But doing so will require bold political steps. And the American public must know the facts.

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So don’t listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.


Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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