December 23rd, 2013
09:14 AM ET

Zakaria: Focus on America's forgotten 46 million

By Fareed Zakaria

Is income inequality the “defining challenge” of our time? President Obama's speech earlier this month on the topic has provoked a lively debate on this subject.

I think part of the confusion that some people have is that when we talk about inequality we’re often talking about three different things. First, the astonishing rise of the very rich. Second, the stagnant wages and poor prospects of the American middle class. And third, the large number of people at the very bottom of the ladder.

These are distinct phenomena. They may be related – the rise of the rich might be causing the stagnation of the middle class – but the research on that is mixed.

Of the three problems, the easiest to fix is the one we spend the least time talking about: the fate of the poor, who now number 46 million. Since the poor tend not to vote nor lobby nor petition politicians, they don't get much attention. And as a result, government does not devote much energy or resources to their problems, especially those of poor children who suffer from malnutrition, bad health, and poor education, which cripple their chances of escaping poverty. The resources needed to change this would be a fraction of what we spend on the middle class in this country.

We don't have all the answers but if you're looking for the policy that would likely have the biggest effect on raising social mobility and reducing inequality, let’s shift the attention from the rich and the middle class and focus for once on the 46 million Americans who are often forgotten.

Read the Washington Post column for more

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Topics: Fareed's Take

soundoff (339 Responses)
  1. Daniel Daronda

    And if these CEO's major and only reason, for giving 50 million American jobs away to Asia, over the last 20 years, was money........... meaning that they got richer by doing so......... then we need to ask them WHY they want to still live in America????? Why don't all of these traitor CEO's just move permanently to China and stay there and live there!!!!!!!!!! Ahaaaaaaaa........... then watch them whimper that they really really want to keep staying in America, because it is the greatest country on earth, that can give them a steady supply of drinking water at 100 psi pressure, clean air, clean well-maintained roads, rule of law, stable government, English is the main spoken language, freedom of speech, and a million other reasons and freedoms............. so then, once we have them whimpering on their knees, our leader should offer them 1 choice: work with the US government and the American people, to figure out how to bring all these 50 million jobs back, over the next 10 years........... jobs that you CEO's gave away........... plain and simple!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put the burden of bringing our jobs back right onto the backs of the greedy CEO's, that gave our jobs away in the first place........... and allow our government to keep a very close track of their progress (government is good at such things!)............. and if they are too slow or are slacking, fine them heavily or deport them to China.............. this is really the best way to handle this mess..........

    December 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  2. chrissy

    See @ Daniel, you dont even need a campaign manager because youve already won!!! Woohoo! Lol but one thing you need to add....they need to be fined heavily even if they agree to those terms. Child labor laws and all....pain and J/k well kidding as long as they bring the jobs back that is.

    December 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Daniel Daronda

      Thanks chrissy. I sure got a little carried away there........ trying my best to brainstorm some solutions to try to help to fix our mess........... I guess I just love America so much that I am torn apart with sadness to see this once great nation go down the tubes like this........

      December 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
  3. chrissy

    Well i sure hope SOMEONE notices the bar has been raised considerably! Idk what your area of expertise is in life but i must say you have just out foxed EVERY politician ive ever listened too! They are all gonna look like a bunch of dummies if they dont follow that plan! Lmao not that they look so smart now know what i mean!

    December 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  4. chrissy

    Ya know ive been reading all this info you laid out here @ Daniel and one thing just keeps jumping out at me. You've managed to accomplish in a few paragraphs more than Congress has accomplished in this whole past year! And quite possibly their whole past term! Thats just amazing and disgusting both! Lol if you know what i mean.

    December 27, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  5. Daniel Daronda

    And as if it wasn't bad enough that 8000 American CEO's gave 50 million jobs to Asia, over the last 20 years. Here is how they have slapped every American in their face, a second time. You see, when an American Corporation manufactures any product outside America, and when that product is sold, for example in Asia, the way the mercantile world is set up is that the money obtained from that sale must be deposited into an Asian bank. When that money is transferred to an American Bank, it becomes part of our "M1" money supply, and therefore must be treated as income, and taxes have to be paid on the operating profit. Well, it turns out that there was 2.7 trillion US $ sitting in Asian banks in early 2013. Our wonderful CEO's did not want to pay taxes on these funds when the money was transferred into the US banking system. So they formed a consortium (of the super-rich!) that quietly went to our government and "negotiated" a back door deal with our IRS, so that they could get a one time exception or "favor" to bring 2.7 trillion US $ into the US banking system without paying even one penny in taxes on these funds! And they got approval a few months ago! This was the second slap in the face of all the American people. And the IRS gave them this break, knowing fully well that the money coming into the GAO is far less than it needs to be, and that the Federal deficit is an embarrassment to all of us! Once again, the super rich found a way around the system!

    December 27, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • LiveFree

      So, the tax laws only apply to the middle class? Those who dont have the power to "lobby" and negotiate.

      December 28, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • Richard

      Dear Daniel – what you are referring to is a worldwide practice referred to as regional tax policy. With the exception of the United States the ENTIRE industrialized world practices regional tax policy which simply stated is, "if you pay corporte taxes in a country where the income is generated you don't repeat the tax in your "home" country. The US is the exception...not the rule. We are the loners...not the leaders. Our thinking is archaic. I look for the policy to be changed or modified as it is working against job creation in the US. By the way, the US has the HIGHEST corporate tax in the industrialized world at 40% with the exception of Ukraine at 55%. Corporate taxes and over regulations are killing US industry and job creation. Wake up, Congress.

      December 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • minnie mouse

        No. What is killing American jobs is corporations forcing American workers to compete with the slave wages of China Etcetera. This is obviously an impossible position and American corporations know this full well. Then, for the final corporate cherry on top of the corporate whipped cream LIE, corporations berate American workers for "asking for too much." IBM didn't allow labor unions. But they still abandoned huge landscaped attractive facilities, standing empty for multiple city blocks, and destroying thousands of American jobs while sending those jobs to slave-wage foreign facilities. And IBM was only one of a long line of corporations and their DestroyJobs decisions. Meanwhile "American" corporate public relations statements continued to blame workers for "asking for too much." As regarding the "Regulations" red-herring pretense, I prefer my children are not exposed to Chinese lead toys and questionable food products and unknown manufacturing practices. My sister currently resides in a state that is struggling to evaluate the safety of gas fracking; these corporate leaders managed to get a Previous Administration to exempt from public disclosure the toxic ingredients of the frack fluids being used. So now citizens can't even evaluate what is being inserted into their land and/or water supply. So you will need to sing your "Cry for Corporations, Argentina" song to someone else. I can no longer hear you.

        December 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • Allan Kinsman

      I did not know these facts but it does not surprise me. When America fails we can watch the ship go down including those who through either incompetence, mismanagement or just theft drilled holes in the hull. It would seem no one in Washington cares. Politics is now about how fast and how much money one can make. When I get emails from my representatives in congress they seem asleep at the wheel.

      December 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  6. chrissy

    Well i for one just cannot WAIT to hear tomorrow how some of these posters defend THAT action!! And trust me they will! Nothing like living in a country with human ostriches! Sheesh!

    December 27, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  7. chrissy

    And ya know @ Daniel, you have some damn good writing skills. Have you ever considered writing your own book? Im an avid fan of reading and have a vast collection. Well over 5000 books. I would buy a book written by you.

    December 28, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Daniel Daronda

      Thanks chrissy. God bless you.... 🙂

      December 28, 2013 at 12:52 am |
  8. chrissy

    Lmao you are entirely welcome @ Daniel. Gotta give credit where its due ya know.

    December 28, 2013 at 1:11 am |
  9. chrissy

    Actually they have the power, most just do not know it.

    December 28, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  10. chrissy

    EVERY citizen that can legally vote has the power to "lobby"! Representatives are voted in to REPRESENT "we the people"! And WE the people NEED to make ourselves be heard!

    December 28, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  11. chrissy

    If Congress wakes up as you say, it will cut into THEIR personal gains so thats not gonna happen! They are lookin out for themselves only!

    December 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  12. chrissy

    Lol no truer words @ Allan Kinsman!

    December 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
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