January 30, 2006
Making Inequality Matter
How to Talk About America’s Growing Economic Divide
The United States is a spectacularly rich country by any standard, but after nearly three decades of rising inequality, our wealth and income are more concentrated than at any time since the start of the Great Depression. Inequality here is also greater than in any of the world’s other developed nations. These realities have profound implications for health, education, opportunity and democracy. Yet even progressive politicians often raise the issue of rising inequality only obliquely. Few policy prescriptions would tackle the challenge head on.
Why is that?
Is it that Americans are more concerned about opportunity than equality — that they are fundamentally indifferent to the increasing concentration of wealth? Or is it that Americans do not yet fully grasp the magnitude of the recent trend, the range of its consequences, or the role of economic policy in bringing it about? Should progressives seek to find other ways to talk about inequality that will make the issue more relevant to Americans?
A distinguished and diverse group of speakers will address these questions and offer specific ideas for moving forward.
Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4) format.
Robert M. Franklin, Jr., Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Mickey Kaus, kausfiles columnist, Slate.com
Celinda Lake, President, Lake Research Partners
Jim Lardner, Senior Fellow, Demos; Co-Editor, Inequality Matters
Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, Co-Author, Foxes in the Henhouse
Derek Douglas, Associate Director for Economic Policy, Center for American Progress
Derek Douglas is the Associate Director for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining the Center, Derek was a Counsel in the Strategic Counseling Practice Group at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where he advised clients on matters with a close nexus to politics, legislation or regulation. In this capacity, Derek worked with members of Congress, administration officials, and their respective staffs in advising clients on matters involving congressional hearings and investigations, federal and state legislative developments, and international and federal regulatory enforcement issues. Before joining O’Melveny, Derek was an Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where he specialized in the area of education. At LDF, Derek litigated an array of educational issues, including: educational equity, public school choice, affirmative action, high stakes testing, and the reduction of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic isolation in public schools. Derek also developed and directed legislative and community outreach efforts in support of his litigation. Derek joined LDF by way of a Skadden Fellowship, which is a public interest fellowship given each year to 25 law school graduates throughout the country. Derek graduated from the University of Michigan with Highest Honors in Economics, and from the Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale, Derek clerked for The Honorable Timothy K. Lewis on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Derek also worked in the Economic Studies Program at The Brookings Institution as a Research Assistant to Dr. Charles Schultze.
Robert M. Franklin is Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. The former President of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Professor Franklin was Visiting Professor at the Harvard Divinity School prior to joining Emory. He also has served as Dean of Black Church Studies at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Director of Black Church Studies at Emory, and as a Program Officer in Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation. Professor Franklin is the author of two books, Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought and Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis, and a co-author with Don S. Browning and others of From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
Mickey Kaus is the author of The End of Equality (Basic Books, 1992). He has written about public policy for Newsweek, The New Republic, and The Washington Monthly, among other publications. He has also been an Editor at Harper’s and the American Lawyer. In July, 1986, The New Republic featured Kaus’ article, “The Work Ethic State,” which called for tying most government benefits to work, and for replacing cash welfare (AFDC and food stamps) with a WPA-like job. The End of Equality discusses the larger issue of how to pursue the traditional American ideal of social equality when incomes are growing inexorably more unequal. The book was co-winner of the 1992 Washington Monthly Political Book Award. In the summer of 1999, Kaus started his own Web site, kausfiles, and later that year began what we now know as a blog on the site. In 2002, he switched to publishing the kausfiles blog on Slate. More recently he’s joined author Robert Wright in starting a videoblog site, bloggingheads.tv, featuring dialogues between bloggers. Kaus was born and raised in Southern California. He was a clerk for the late Justice Stanley Mosk of the California Supreme Court and a speechwriter to Sen. Ernest Hollings in the 1984 presidential campaign. At Newsweek, he covered the 1988 presidential campaign. He currently lives in Venice, California.
Celinda Lake is President of Lake Research Partners, and aleading political strategist who has advised dozens of Democratic incumbents and challengers at all levels of the electoral process. She has also worked with fledgling democratic parties in sseveral post-war Eastern European countries, including Bosnia, and South Africa. Lake and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on issues of the economy, health care, the environment and education. Her other clients include the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), The White House Project, America Coming Together, AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, IAFF, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Emily’s List and the Kaiser Foundation.
James Lardner, a Senior Fellow at Demos, is the co-editor and a co-author of Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences. He is also the author, with Thomas Reppetto, of NYPD: A City and Its Police. As a journalist, he has written for the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Nation, and the New York Review of Books . He is also the founder of Inequality.org, an online resource for writers, scholars, and activists seeking to create wider understanding and concern over the growing concentration of wealth, income, and economic and political power in America.
Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a long-time veteran of rural politics in Virginia, made a name for himself when he first partnered with Steve Jarding during Mark Warner’s successful rural campaign for Governor of Virginia in 2001. Since then he has served in the capacity of rural liaison for Sens. Bob Graham and John Edwards. Saunders is well-known among Democrats, Republicans, and the national press for his colorful, no sacred ground, tell it like it is approach to the problems of rural America. Saunders’ politics are well aligned with the country culture. Besides working for many years with the legendary Wood Brothers racing team of NASCAR’s Nextel Cup, Saunders is well-known among the Nashville Bluegrass crowd as well as in national hunting and fishing circles. A native of the Southern Appalachians, Saunders still resides in his beloved southwest Virginia mountains in Roanoke, Virginia.