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We progressives in America are failing at our most fundamental responsibility–getting out the message that income and wealth inequality are ruining our economy, the lives of our people, and our nation itself. You can blame a remarkably shallow, self-absorbed, biased-toward-the-rich mainstream news media, or the evisceration of progressive organization, or too little organizing, or the maddening bickering of progressives amongst one another.

But the United States is the only western industrialized country in which its people underestimate the amount of inequality in their country. And agitating around inequality, then organizing against it is our responsibility, the responsibility of our progressive or Left community.

In the last few days Portside carried an article by Sam Pizzigati about two different economic conferences. There was the worthless conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and a very interesting and, hopefully, important conference with half the world’s Nobel laureates and 450 young economists in Lindau, Germany.

At Lindau, Judith Niehues of Germany’s Cologne Institute for Economic Research presented her research that the people of the United States are the only westerners who underestimate the inequality in their country–a damning fact that makes adequate solutions impossible to enact.

American Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz titled his talk “Inequality, wealth, and growth: why capitalism is failing.”

Stiglitz went on to say what many of us know, that wages for American workers have fallen over the last 40 years while our productivity has doubled.

“Any economic system that doesn’t deliver for a majority of its citizens is failing,” Stiglitz said.

Scotland’s Sir James Mirrlees, another Nobel laureate, went so far as to suggest a 100 percent top tax rate, in effect a maximum wage. He said people in Europe are already considering limiting bankers’ pay.

While such an idea may seem unrealistic in America, 40 years ago in America few would or could have seen falling wages while the productivity of workers doubled.

Change as fundamental as we need in America today will not come from the top down, but from a rising of the people from the bottom up.

Capitalism is failing, indeed. It’s past time that question were asked by all of us and not just to folks who see the world the way we do.

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