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Obey Outlines Policies Driving Income Inequality

Economic realities like the widening wealth gap and growing income inequality aren’t terribly popular topics on Capitol Hill, where most lawmakers still prefer to spout claims that merit and hard work – not family wealth and connections — are the surest dictators of success in this country. But don’t tell that to Rep. David Obey. The Wisconsin Democrat, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, shot out a statement this afternoon that points to the growing income divide as the driving force behind the voter discontent that’s threatening to unseat incumbents from both parties this November.

“Income for the middle fifth of American families rose only 15 percent from 1979 to 2006, and most of that growth came about because women are working much longer hours each year than three decades ago,” the statement says. “In contrast, those with incomes in the top ten percent saw their income grow 133%. Those in the top ten percent now receive half of all income in America.”

It gets more pointed.

Those even higher on the income ladder have had mindboggling income gains. In 2007, the average income of the top one hundredth of one percent reached $35 million, up almost ten-fold over the last three decades. Meanwhile the rest of society was getting table scraps.

Obey goes on to outline the specific policy areas that have allowed that gap to grow, blaming “bad trade deals, unfair tax policy, toothless oversight of the loose financial activities of large corporations, and a systematic disinvestment in energy, science, education and other investment crucial to long term economic growth that benefits all Americans.”

“In the midst of all of that,” Obey adds, “why shouldn’t middle income taxpayers be angry?”

It’s a question worth asking this tax season, as most Americans are paying a higher income tax rate than the billionaire hedge fund managers of Wall Street.

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