FDL Book Salon Welcomes Benjamin Page, Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality

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 [Welcome author, Benjamin I. Page, Northwestern University, and host, David Watkins, Seattle University and blog – Lawyers, Guns and Money. – bev]

 Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality

By Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs 

Anyone unlucky enough to watch much Cable news in the weeks following the 2008 Presidential election was informed repeatedly by various talking heads that “America is (still) a center-right nation.” While the precise meaning of this claim remained somewhat vague, its deployment seemed desired to send a signal to the Democratic Party, who’d dramatically swept into power over the last two election cycles, that they should bear in mind the fundamental centrist conservatism as they govern, lest they go too far and suffer an electoral backlash for their overreach. This concern often appears alongside the claim that Obama’s tax plan, which raises the upper marginal tax rate to 1990’s levels (and well below average 20th century rates) along with small tax cuts for 95% of Americans, constitutes an act of ‘class warfare.’ 

Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs have written a short, straightforward book that goes a long way toward sorting out some of the fact and fiction in this and other claims about the political beliefs of American voters. Page and Jacobs’ methodology here is simple—they evaluate, over time, a wealth of public opinion data on the views of Americans regarding economic inequality, equality of opportunity, and taxation. In addition to existing data, they commissioned a major inequality survey of their own, which was conducted in 2007. The central finding is one that many who’ve followed public opinion closely have long known—that substantial majorities of American have favored a number of policies that reduce economic inequalities and threaten opportunities, and they express a willingness to pay for these policies as well. In addition to this startling and direct finding, their analysis of the data reveals three other significant features about American public opinion on economic inequality: (more…)