“The problem was not that Americans lived beyond their means but that their means had not kept up with what the larger economy could and should have been able to provide. The American economy had been growing briskly … but a larger portion of the economy’s winnings had gone to people at the top…. The central challenge is to rebalance the American economy so that its benefits are shared more widely.” – Robert Reich: AFTERSHOCK (Alfred A. Knopf – 2010)
Brescia:The Cost of Inequality substantiates this lack of balance. Inequality in NJ can be viewed in terms of 1) our poverty rate: 8.7%; 2) differences in our median household income: Whites: $47,036, Black: $29,293 and Latino: $35,744; and 3) the difference between the median income of the three above groups and the State median income of $64,470, suggesting a number of individuals with a disproportionately high income. In comparison with other states NJ fares worse, but not significantly so because these disparities have become widespread throughout the U.S.
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A Rutgers study American Workers Assess An Economic Disaster states,”The only consensus among policymakers is that the Great Recession will not be fixed until unemployment declines and private-sector job growth is strong and sustained.” The study points out that just 7% of American workers believe that now is a good time to find a job and more than half (56%) think the U.S. economy has undergone a fundamental and lasting change. The Star Ledger reported that a woman from Lyndhurst who participated in the survey said she was laid off from her information technology job in mid-2007 and has been out of work since then. “We’re selling our house and we’ve almost completely given up hope. My husband and I have nothing and we believe our kids are going to have nothing.”
So what can be done in NJ? From the tax point of view there should be a renewed effort to implement the millionaire’s tax, which Christie rejected, and a condemnation of his announced plan to lower income taxes with a focus on the top marginal rates. The Homebuyer Tax Credit legislation (A-1678) which Christie vetoed, should be brought up for an override vote. The State should in parallel with the federal government make loans available to prevent foreclosures. As many jobs are not going to return when the economy eventually improves the State should redouble its expenditures in job retraining programs. The state should also seek out those industries with strong growth potential and facilitate loans and tax rebates.
“Glory days well they’ll pass you by. Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye.” The “Glory Days” in Springsteen’s seemingly upbeat song played at so many sporting and political events is really a melancholy lament for happier days in our past. To recapture that balance and fairness which we prize in America will require not just federal efforts but a recommitment by the State to programs that reduce inequality and provide opportunity for a much broader segment of our population.