A Truly American Idea: An Economy That Works For Everyone
“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.”
“The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.”
President Obama gave a major speech on the economy and economic inequality today, but those aren’t his words. They are the words of two Republican presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively.
Today’s speech by the president paid particular homage to Roosevelt’s famous 1910 “New Nationalism” speech, which like President Obama’s speech today was also delivered in Osawatomie, Kansas. In his speech, Roosevelt attacked the power of corporate special interests and the wealthy few and called for a Square Deal for everyone. Today, President Obama laid out his own vision of a fair shot and an America with economy that works for everyone, just as it did in the past when “hard work paid off, responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried — no matter who you were, where you came from, or how you started out.”
What Conservatives Believe In: You’re-On-Your-Own Economics
“Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.”
“Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.”
“It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.”
What Progressives Believe In: An Economy That Works For Everyone
“We are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.”
“Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s been about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together, we pitch in, and we do our part, believing that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on.”
FACTS: America Isn’t Supposed to Work for the Top 1 Percent Alone
- The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of our country’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent.
- The richest 1 percent earned $1 out of every $4 in 2007. Thirty years earlier the richest only made one out of every $11.
- The top 1 percent is taking in more of the nation’s income than at any time since the 1920s.
- The average income in the top .01 percent is now $27 MILLION.
- A typical CEO used to earn 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more.
- Millionaires are making more money and paying fewer taxes – their taxes declined from about 31 percent in 1995 to about 22 percent in 2009.
- One in four millionaires pays a lower tax rate than 10 MILLION middle-class Americans.
- Tax rates for the richest 400 Americans were sliced in half as their income quadrupled. Now they’re paying just 16.6 percent.
- Nearly 1,500 millionaires paid NO income taxes in 2009.
FACTS: When the Economy Isn’t Working for Everyone, It’s Not Working
- Fourteen million Americans are unemployed.
- Nearly one in two young adults are not employed. This is the lowest rate since the end of World War II.
- Corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash—more cash than at any time in nearly a half century—instead of hiring more employees.
- While the richest 1 percent saw their incomes triple between 1974 and 2007, most Americans’ incomes didn’t grow at all.
- The bottom 90 percent are responsible for paying 73 percent of all credit card and mortgage debt.
- One in four homeowners are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth.
- College tuition and fees increased 274.7 percent from 1990 to 2009. That’s faster than any other goods or services besides cigarettes.
- Almost one in four American children are growing up in poverty.
“This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get to the middle class, and the economy as a whole.”
From Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech:
“If that remark was original with me, I should be even more strongly denounced as a Communist agitator than I shall be anyhow. It is Lincoln’s. I am only quoting it; and that is one side; that is the side the capitalist should hear. Now, let the working man hear his side.”
From President Obama’s speech today, a passage which elicited knowing laughter from the audience:
“For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.”
Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed
10 percent of American billionaires have donated to Romney.
TV’s irrational fear of politics.
Right wing seize on inaccurate quote to falsely accuse U.S. ambassador to Belgium of downplaying anti-Semitism.
Hillary Clinton to U.N.: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
By contrast, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) issued a nasty press release attacking the Obama administration for “promoting a lifestyle many Americas of faith find so deeply objectionable.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) suggests Walter Reed banned bibles to please President Obama.
Bowing to the right, Jon Huntsman now questions climate change because of “one university in Scotland.”
David Roberts explains the brutal logic of climate change.
Caught on video: Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) flees from his constituents to avoid meeting with the 99 Percent
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.