Across the country, thousands of people have registered their anger at a political and financial system that rewards the richest 1 percent at the expense of everyone else by joining the 99 Percent Movement. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office added fuel to the fire, releasing a major report showing that average household income for the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since 1979 while income growth for other groups was largely non-existent.
And it’s not just protesters who are concerned, as a new poll shows two-thirds of voters think the middle class is shrinking and 55 percent believe income inequality is a big problem for the country.
In response to the increasing attention on income inequality, many Republicans are trying to show they are committed to addressing the problem. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently planned a major speech on the subject, but abruptly canceled when he learned the speech would be open to the public. As Politico noted today, income inequality is “working its way into the discourse of Republicans on Capitol Hill,” even though their policy response has been to push the same old tax cuts they always suggest.
During an interview last week on Capitol Hill, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) cast doubt on the seriousness of Republican efforts to fight inequality. DeFazio blasted the GOP for signing onto the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” as all but six House Republicans have done, effectively binding them to the opinions of ATR leader and extreme anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist:
DEFAZIO: They’re saying, you know, unleashing the job creators, protecting their tax loopholes, you know, and their tax breaks, protecting the Bush tax cuts will somehow solve income inequality. Well, we’ve got ten years of experience now of tax cuts that don’t create jobs and they have exacerbated the income inequality of this country. So, they are chained, they are chained to Grover Norquist and they can’t do anything that he doesn’t like so they can’t deal meaningfully with it. [...]
They can pretend, they can change their rhetoric, they’re very good at that. They’re just really in a position with Grover Norquist over there and Wall Street over there. Where are they gonna go?