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.
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.
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 Their schools don’t have enough teachers or staff, their textbooks are outdated, they lack science labs, their school buildings are falling apart.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.
So don’t listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.