JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: WHY WE FIGHT. TAP talks to political scientist Nolan McCarty, co-author of the new book Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. McCarty points to economic inequality as the culprit for rising political polarization in the United States:
What�s happened in the past 25 to 40 years or so is that as economic inequality has increased, there�s been a polarization of the parties on economic issues -- mostly due to the Republicans moving to the right. In the �70s and the �80s there was a rapid increase in incomes at the top without the commensurate increase of incomes at the bottom. And economic policies that Republicans had promoted and lost elections on in the �60s they began to win elections on in the �70s and �80s with the support of this new wealthier vote. So, there�s a direct relationship between the polarization of the parties on economic issues and the increased economic inequality that took place, primarily because these new, wealthier voters gave an impetus to a set of policy priorities -- lower taxes, a more libertarian set of economic prescriptions -- that reinforced inequality.
The question is, why hasn�t this increased economic inequality produced more redistribution?
Typically economists, political economists, and political scientists think that economic inequality is self-correcting: If inequality increases there will be a mobilization of lower-income voters in a push toward greater redistribution of wealth to offset that inequality. Here�s where immigration is a big part of the story, though, because at the same time as economic inequality in America was increasing, immigration was increasing, too. There were increasing numbers of low-wage workers, but an increasing proportion of those were immigrants who were not yet naturalized and therefore not able to vote for redistributionist policies. And so there�s a reinforcing effect from the composition of the work force being more immigrant and less citizen, because these low-income workers can�t vote.
Read the whole interview.
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