One number says it all when it comes to the giant income and wealth inequality in America today: $210 million dollars. That's the exit pay package Home Depot announced yesterday for its departing CEO Robert Nardelli, and Nardelli is widely seen as an already highly-paid failure.
210 million more dollars for blowing it in the corner office, while most Americans have barely seen their wages budge for years. Today, Democrats take over Congress with economic insecurity and inequality standing as tall issues for the upper middle class right on down. So, what will the Democrats do?
This hour On Point: Robert Rubin, Will Marshal and Jacob Hacker on inequality, insecurity and the Democrats way ahead.
Quotes from the Show:
"One of the first things [the House Democrats] will be doing, next week in fact, is raising the minimum wage. ... They're talking a lot about transferring the money from one pot to another. They want to take on big oil which should have popularity in the middle, lower middle classes and they want to slash student loan interest rates. And there is also a push to try to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare." Jonathan Weisman
"It's a good thing that we're seeing this recent uptake [in 2006] in middle class wages but if we look at recovery overall, it's been a very weak recovery for middle class wages and salaries, very week recovery for employment, indeed a very weak recovery on almost every measure except for corporate profits. ... Middle class Americans are simultaneously feeling a squeeze in their lives but also worried about a larger shift over time in their economic circumstances that has made them feel insure." Jacob S. Hacker
"We're not back in the '90s. The whole economic context has changed since then. Now, we are concerned with the spreading inequality and the pervasive insecurity that was really the sleeper issue of this midterm election. ...There's a broad consensus among Democrats that inequality, insecurity are at the center now, we have to confront them. At the same time Democrats understand that we've got to clean up the fiscal mess that Bush Republicans have created over the last 6 years." Will Marshall
"I think what we should do is construct a path, going forward, with respect to which deficits are brought down. The debt relative to the economy... — that line comes down rather than going up as currently would be projected to be the case. At the same time we make room for critical public investments that will promote productivity and help address the stagnant real wages which unfortunately has been the reality for most Americans." Robert Rubin
Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post congressional reporter
Jacob S. Hacker, Yale political science professor and author of "The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Familes, Health Care and Retirement And How You Can Fight Back"
Will Marshall, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute
Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, presently director and chairman of the Executive Committee at Citigroup
This program aired on January 4, 2007.