On the News With Thom Hartmann: Extreme Inequality Is Dragging Down Our Economy, and More

In today’s On the News segment: According to a new paper from the International Monetary Fund, countries with a large wealth divide have less economic growth than nations with more evenly distributed incomes; a Gallup poll shows that about one in four Americans think that unemployment is our nation’s biggest problem; our representatives have been shut out of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiation; and more.


I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the best of the rest of Economics and Labor News

You need to know this. Extreme inequality is dragging down our economy. According to a new discussion paper from the International Monetary Fund, countries with a large wealth divide have less economic growth than nations with more evenly distributed incomes. In their paper, the IMF backed Keynesian economist Joseph Stiglitz, and the organization warned that, “inequality can also make growth more volatile, and create the unstable conditions for a sudden slowdown in GDP growth.” In other words, we can’t have long-term, stable economic growth when the system is rigged to benefit those at the top. In fact, the IMF paper flat out dismissed right-wing talking points about so-called “wealth distribution” as self-defeating. The anti-poverty charity organization Oxfam cheered this IMF report, and said, “The IMF has debunked the old myth that redistribution is bad for growth and demolished the case for austerity. That redistribution efforts – essential to fight inequality – are good for growth is a welcome finding. Low tax and low public spending are clearly no the route to prosperity.” As we’ve been saying all along, no nation, in the history of the world, has ever cut their way to prosperity. It’s time to put an end to Republican austerity measures, and start investing in our nation with stronger social programs, new infrastructure, and good-paying American jobs.

Oh – and by the way – Americans want our government to focus on jobs and the economy in general. According to a recent Gallup poll, about one in four Americans think that unemployment is our nation’s biggest problem. And, working to improve our economy in general is the second-highest priority to one-fifth of Americans. Considering that real unemployment is over 20 percent, it should be no surprise that Americans want lawmakers to stop playing politics, and start putting people back to work. Our nation used to lead the world in manufacturing, but so-called “free trade” has shipped millions of jobs overseas. Today, less than half of our economic output comes from manufacturing. So-called “free trade” has only ensured that huge multinational corporations rake in the profits, while more and more Americans have to compete for a shrinking number of jobs. Americans know what they want – lawmakers to stop putting their corporate donors ahead of everyday workers.

Workers at Chicago-area McDonald’s want longer hours. Restaurant employees have teemed up with the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago to ask McDonald’s for more full-time work. Most employees are only give between 10 and 25 hours per week, despite their willingness and ability to work full time. The part-time hours and low wages leave workers with no choice but to turn to government assistance in order to survive. Last week, thirty McDonald’s workers at a Chicago Avenue location delivered a petition to management asking for longer hours. It isn’t enough to pay workers more per hour, if their schedules are cut back to keep them in poverty. These Chicago-area McDonald’s workers are just the latest low-wage workers to stand up for their rights, and join a growing movement to demand higher pay. Fast-Food is a $200 billion-dollar-a-year industry, and they can afford to pay workers a living wage.

Can our roads and bridges be saved? Last Wednesday, President Obama introduced a big plan to pump $300 billion dollars into our failing infrastructure, however some experts say that won’t even begin to cover the cost of repairs and upgrades that our nation needs. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our roads, bridges, transit, and tunnel systems will need about $3.6 trillion dollars of investment by 2020. That’s more than ten times the amount being proposed by the White House, yet Republicans will probably still block the President’s meager infrastructure plan. The President’s plan may not go as far as some of us would like, but it could be a great step towards modernizing our infrastructure and putting many Americans back to work. We must continue to call for the type of investments our nation really needs, and we must pressure our lawmakers to support the President’s plan for upgrading our infrastructure.

And finally… Our representatives have been shut out of trade negotiation. According to Economy in Crisis, Americans should be concerned about the lack of transparency around the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Although some sections of the TPP have been leaked, even our members of Congress have to jump through hoops to get a peak at this massive trade deal. To make matters worse, Economy in Crisis says that the big wigs in the finance industry are “giving huge bonuses to lobbyists involved in the TPP negotiation.” You have to ask yourself, what’s in it for the banksters that’s worth dishing out multimillion dollar bonses? From the leaked chapters, it’s clear that the TPP has been written to benefit corporate interests, not Americans, yet trade officials want Congress to hand over their right to change anything in the deal. So-called “free trade” has destroyed the middle class in our country, and forced too many Americans into “do-you-want-fries-with-that” jobs. This deal is too massive, and too dangerous to proceed without public debate. Tell your lawmakers and tell them to say “no” to Fast-Track, and “no-more” to so-called “free trade.”

And that’s the way it is – I’m Jim Javinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on Finance and Labor news for the week of March 3, 2014.