Bill de Blasio touches upon stagnant wages, income disparities
THE SANTA CLARA
May 21 , 2015
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used dad jokes and his signature progressive zeal to tackle income inequality at an on-campus talk May 14.
“This phenomenon is touching so many Americans so profoundly,” de Blasio said. “It’s going to have lasting effects on us. It has to come to the front of the agenda. Real change doesn’t come from the top down. It comes from the grassroots up and it’s starting to happen.”
The tall mayor of New York City flattered both his family and Santa Clara before crafting his cynically optimistic comparison of this era to the Great Depression.
“We’re starting down a path towards that cliff we had once gone over,” de Blasio said. “And now, we have the level of income inequality that we had in 1929. The only difference is it’s getting worse. This year is the first time in a long expanse of time, the average American is literally going backwards economically.”
Though de Blasio’s power has a limited scope, his hypervisibility as mayor of New York City enables him to reach an audience even broader than the 8.4 million of his city.
Like Al Gore in the early 2000s, he is one of few lone prophets for an overlooked catastrophe.
“We should feel some outrage at this moment,” he said. “Outrage, honest outrage, is one of the things that moves social change. There has not been a recognition that a growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few could seriously set us back as a nation.”
With chagrin, de Blasio noted 46 percent of people live at or below the poverty line in New York, while at the same time an apartment in Manhattan just sold for 100 million dollars.
To combat this issue and set an example for other states, he established free all-day Pre-Kindergarten care, started a public housing campaign for 500,000 people and called for an increase in state minimum wage to a livable $15 an hour.
“There’s a lot of people in this country working three jobs and still they wonder if they’ll be able to pay the bills next week,” he said. “They feel the game is rigged for those who are already at the top. They want a just nation again. They want an economy that provides for everyone. They’re demanding all of us find a way out of it, and a way forward.”
To de Blasio, the key to the future lies in the past.
He saw post-WWII to early 70s America as “the America that worked.”
During that time, he said, the working-class could hike, rather than claw their way into the middle class. In addition, the wealthy were taxed enough to allow the government to properly invest in education, infrastructure and innovation.
“The greatest nation on Earth took its formula for success and threw it away,” de Blasio said. “And that is the moment you’re inheriting. You didn’t create this, but you can help solve it.”
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