It’s a stark message from a Nobel-prize winning economist.
‘We were a very different country 40 years ago’ he says.
‘The downhill slide has been pretty fast.
America I think should be an important warning to other countries not to take for granted their institutions.
I worry that things in the United States could get much worse’.
Joseph Stiglitz is coming to Australia next week.
The renowned economist and Columbia University professor has been awarded the 2018 Sydney peace prize for leading one of the defining public policy discussions of our age – the crisis caused by economic inequality.
Stiglitz is credited with pioneering the concept of the “1 per cent” – the idea that the upper 1% of Americans have accumulated so much political power and wealth in recent decades – through voter suppression – gerrymandering and the corrupting influence of money – that the country’s economy has suffered and its democracy has been undermined.
In 2011 barely two years into Barack Obama’s first presidential term he warned the political upheavals then roiling countries including Egypt – Tunisia – Libya – Yemen and Bahrain could one day be visited upon the US but in an American way.
Later that year the Occupy Wall Street protest emerged in Manhattan’s financial district.
His 2012 bestselling book The Price of Inequality explained in detail how America had been growing apart at an increasingly rapid rate.
He argued forcefully that the severe inequality in the US was a choice of the country’s leaders: a consequence of their policies – laws and regulations.
This month he plotted in Scientific American how inequality had worsened so much over the last 40 years that US democracy was imperilled.
‘Whereas the income share of the top 0.1% has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1% has almost doubled – that of the bottom 90% has declined’ he wrote.
‘Wages at the bottom – adjusted for inflation – are about the same as they were some 60 years ago.
Wealth is even less equally distributed with just three Americans having as much as the bottom 50%’.