Income disparity and U.S. political economy

November 9, 2011

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(AP/Josh Reynolds)
Occupy Boston protesters draw attention to the convergence of economic and political power in America.

At the heart of the growing Occupy movement is a frustration that economic elites dominate public policy and don’t contribute their fair share to society.

Last month, we sat down with Jeffrey Winters, a political science professor at Northwestern University, to talk about wealth in America and his book Oligarchy. Jeffrey talked to us about the root causes of income disparity, and how America’s super-rich have an entire ‘wealth defense industry” at their disposal to evade paying taxes proportional to what the rest of the country pays. The interview provoked a compelling discussion about the nature of wealth in America. He returns to the program to take calls from listeners.

We're also joined by John McCormick, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and author of Machiavellian Democracy. He proposes a new branch of government, a "people’s council," that could try government officials for war crimes and abuse, veto and propose legislation, and ultimately keep government accountable to the masses. His ideas stem from research into ancient systems such as Rome and Athens, where plebeians held high positions in government alongside elites.