Wilhelmine China and the ECSADIZ
Nelson Mandela (April 20, 1964): I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society.... It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Barack Obama: "The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream"

Barack Obama:

The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in the American story.  And while we don’t promise equal outcomes, we have strived to deliver equal opportunity--the idea that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. And with every chapter we’ve added to that story, we’ve worked hard to put those words into practice....

Starting in the late ‘70s, this social compact began to unravel.... As values of community broke down, and competitive pressure increased, businesses lobbied Washington to weaken unions and the value of the minimum wage. As a trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither.... The result is an economy that’s become profoundly unequal, and families that are more insecure.... Since 1979... productivity is up by more than 90 percent, but the income of the typical family has increased by less than eight percent.... The top 10 percent no longer takes in one-third of our income--it now takes half.  Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, today’s CEO now makes 273 times more.... This trend towards growing inequality is not unique to America’s market economy.... But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people....

As Lincoln once said, “While we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.” The problem is that alongside increased inequality, we’ve seen diminished levels of upward mobility in recent years. A child born in the top 20 percent has about a 2-in-3 chance of staying at or near the top.  A child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top.... Not only [is] our levels of income inequality rank near countries like Jamaica and Argentina, but... it is harder today for a child born here in America to improve her station in life than it is for children in most of our wealthy allies--countries like Canada or Germany or France.  They have greater mobility than we do, not less.

The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough.  But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.  We are a better country than this.

So let me repeat:  The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.  And it is not simply a moral claim that I’m making here.  There are practical consequences to rising inequality and reduced mobility. For one thing... growth is more fragile and recessions are more frequent in countries with greater inequality...