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As noted below in Lunch Links, Robert Reich is everywhere these days with the release of his new movie, Inequality for All. If you’d like to read the gist of his message in a succinct column, check out this new essay from his website:

The Myth of the Free Market and How to Make the Economy Work for Us

By Robert Reich

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. 

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn’t intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the “free market” knows best.

In reality, Read More

lunch

Here are some of the important policy matters we’re watching at mid-week:

Wos Watch: Reporters Laura Leslie of WRAL, Joe Neff and Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer have the scoop on the latest wacky hire at the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, Travis Fain of the Greensboro News & Record has compiled a list of what might be termed Aldona’s Greatest Hits (or Misses).

Greed and inequality watch: There’s another report out panning the so-called “Trans-Pacific Partnership.” According to researcher David Rosnick of the Center for Economic Policy Research, most U.S. workers would actually experience a net negative impact from the proposed trade deal that’s currently under negotiation And, of course, you can learn lots more about this critical but underreported story at next Thursday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon with global trade expert Lori Wallach of the group Public Citizen. Some seats still remain – click here for more info.

Greed and inequality watch – Part II: National Common Cause chairperson and veteran economic justice advocate Robert Reich appears to be garnering quite a bit of well-deserved attention for his new flick: “Inequality for All.” You can watch the official trailer here and an extended interview with Jon Stewart here.  

Knuckleheaded bigot watch: Read More

Political contributionsAs this amazing graph from a new report in the Journal of Economic Perspectives shows, there is a pretty straightforward reason that big money has become so unassailable in modern American politics.

Sam Pizzigatti has more at Too Much online and Maureen Dowd touches on the same sobering theme in her weekend broadside at the Clinton wealth machine.

There’s new confirmation today that it’s time, once and for all, for North Carolina politicians to ditch their absurd obsession with being “competitive” with neighboring southeastern states.

According to a new report described here, the Southeast is the nation’s backwater for economic mobility.

“The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.”

The basic premise behind the various conservative tax plans advancing at the General Assembly is the same old trickledown economic argument we’ve heard for decades: If we tax rich people and profitable corportations less, they’ll hire more workers and everything will be be hunky dory.

The only problem with this theory, of course, is that it’s a fantasy. For the latest confirmation of this hard truth, check out this report from the Economic Policy Institute which shows that CEO pay continues to skyrocket.

And also, check out the following remarkable graph based on the report from Too Much, an online newsletter from the good folks at Inequality.org:

CEO pay

The bottom line: You simply can’t give rich people and large corporations enough. No matter how much government slashes their taxes, inequality only gets worse.