This horror story starts in the 1970s when the economic policy establishment, led by Milton Friedman, thought they were a whole lot smarter than the New Dealers who had put a lid on the financial sector and forced high taxes on the super-rich – all designed to prevent the gamblers from again wrecking our economy like they did in 1929.
Blinded by ideology, the 1970s gang were certain the economy would run much better if free markets were allowed to function without government interference. This meant deregulation of airlines, telecommunications, trucking industry and most importantly, the deregulation of finance. At the same time they called for tax cuts for the rich because these elites were the source of investment capital needed to make the economy grow.
When the Reagan Revolution arrived, both political parties were tripping all over themselves to cut taxes for the rich and to unleash the financial sector so that it could “innovate” This combo was supposed to produce a massive investment boom that would make all boats rise. Free markets, not government, would run the economy.
And so they did. The combination of upper-end tax cuts, deregulation, globalization and anti-union policies led to a dramatic change in our income distribution. The top one percent jumped from taking in 8 percent of all income in 1970 to 23 percent in 2006 — the same as on the eve of the Great Depression, and that’s no coincidence.
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|Les Leopold is the author of The Looting of America.|