With news of record corporate profits and increased bonuses for those at the top of the financial heap — and on-going income stagnation, job loss, and rising poverty for those in the middle and bottom of the ladder—it’s maddening for progressives to hear our political elites continuing to promote austerity as a means for growth.
Just a year and half ago, Occupy Wall Street was all anyone could talk about. President Obama won a historic second term running on these themes and announced a new era of liberal governance in his recent Inaugural address. Yet, even with strong evidence out of Europe that austerity is failing, and public opinion polls in the U.S. showing clear opposition to rising inequality, the political class in Washington is collectively trying to convince itself that America can cut its way to prosperity and economic opportunity for the middle class.
What happened? And why aren’t we seeing more social protests against an economic and political order that sanctions these outcomes?
There are many culprits in this development, chief of which is the intersection of libertarian economic theory with control of one political party that has strong minority voting power in our constitutional system. The long term decline of the labor movement and the corporate ownership of media provide additional institutional explanations for why there is not more pushback.
But a more painful explanation might be closer to home.