“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Dickens could have written about the United States today. Some 46 million Americans – 15 percent of the population – live below the poverty level, including one in four American children.
Meanwhile, since 2008 the stock market’s value has doubled, CEO salaries are at record highs, and according to the Commerce Department the after-tax profit of corporations topped $1.7 trillion last year, the highest ever (in both absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP).
Nick Hanauer, a successful Seattle venture capitalist, civic activist and self-described plutocrat, is raising the alarm about the economics of ever-rising inequality. Hanauer argues that capitalist economies only function with a virtuous cycle: Rising consumer demand requires businesses to hire workers and raise productivity; productivity leads to higher worker incomes; higher worker income leads back to more consumer demand. Break any part, and the cycle collapses.
Hanauer will present this year’s Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Lecture, sponsored by the Foley Institute at Washington State University. On Thursday he will speak at 2 p.m. on WSU’s Pullman campus and at 7:30 p.m. in the Fox Theater in Spokane. Both are free and open to the public.