Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, said economic inequality is “one of the most pressing issues of our day” that is “tearing our society apart.”
She was speaking at a Committee hearing she organized on measuring economic inequality in the United States. The hearing focused on the alarming rise in income inequality and the need for better government data to measure and track progress on this issue.
Click here to access the Vice Chair’s prepared statement and witness testimony. Here are key excerpts from the hearing:
“Inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our day. It is tearing our society apart and undermining much of what we stand for,” Congresswoman Maloney said in her opening statement.
“In order to understand inequality, we must have better ways to measure it – ways that are accepted by those on both sides of the aisle,” the Congresswoman said. “With that information in hand, we can begin to restore our country to the land of opportunity.”
“Skyrocketing inequality undermines our middle-class society, in which anyone who works hard has a chance to succeed,” the Vice Chair said. “It means that for millions of Americans, the American dream may be a myth.”
Here are excerpts from Democratic witnesses at the hearing:
“By working together, we can arrive at the best possible estimates and reach the stage where the publication of inequality statistics will be just like the publication of GDP,” UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Economics Gabriel Zucman said in opening remarks. “When GDP grows 3% in a given year, we want to be able to know how income is growing for each social group, in a way that’s consistent with the official rate of GDP growth.”
“In 1980, the top 1% earned 10% of total pre-tax national income. Today it earns close to 20% of total pre-tax national income, according to these data,” Dr. Zucman said. “In 1980, the average pre-tax income of adults in the bottom 50% of the income distribution was $18,000, adjusted for inflation. Today, it is almost the same number—$18,500.”
“By any measure, income inequality in the United States has increased significantly over the past 40 years. This increase in inequality has constricted the growth of our economy and had an insidious effect on our political institutions,” Heather Boushey, President & CEO and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, said in her opening statement.
“One of the most important things we can do to fight inequality in the United States right now is to start keeping track of it,” she said. “Government statistics—Gross Domestic Product growth, inflation, jobs added, wage increases—drive economic policymaking in Congress, the Federal Reserve, and executive agencies. Better measurements of inequality are overdue additions to this list.”