Green Honors Chair discusses economic inequality, American politics

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    Jacob Hacker, the 2013 Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair, presented a lecture Tuesday on the rise of economic inequality and how it is affecting American politics and policy.

    Hacker’s lecture “Is American Politics Undermining the American Dream?” focused on how the increase of political power among very wealthy Americans is negatively affecting society.

    Hacker said in his lecture that a decrease in the translation of money into power as well as major filibuster reforms could be ways to solve the problem of economic inequality.

    He also stressed the importance of having a true democracy that empowers voting and the majority rather than the very wealthy who have taken control of politics as lobbyists.

    Hacker cited a Pew Research Center report showing most Americans believe there is a clear class conflict that exists today between the rich and poor. He also explained how social conflict based on demographics and political orientations are directly affected by economic inequality.

    Becky Schiffer, a senior environmental science major who attended the lecture, said she was surprised by the statistics that showed the dramatic rise in economic inequality over time.

    “It’s something that I’d like to give more thought to now, and do more research on my own and perhaps look into [Hacker’s] book,” Schiffer said.

    Following the lecture, Hacker answered several questions from the audience before signing copies of his newest book, “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.”

    Hacker is the director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and a Stanley B. Resor professor of political science at Yale University. He has written works on social policy, health care reform and economic inequality in the United States.

    He is considered a leading expert on the growing gap between the rich and poor and is recognized as one of the chief influences on the crafting of the Affordable Care Act, which provides people with new health care coverage options.

    Despite the economic and political inequalities that Hacker acknowledged during the lecture, he is still optimistic that reform is possible.

    “I do see hope for political reforms that can reduce the negative consequences of polarization, create greater capacity for government to act with majority public support and weaken the sway of money in politics,” Hacker said.