The Growing Income Gap
Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center. He also acts as director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (formerly the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press) and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He was President of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. In 1989, he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, an attitude and opinion research firm specializing in media, politics, and public policy studies. He served as founding director of surveys for the Times Mirror Center 1990-1992, and was named its Director in 1993. He is a past president of American Association of Public Opinion Research and the National Council on Public Polls. In 2005, he received the American Association of Public Opinion Research's highest honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement. He is a frequent press commentator on the meaning and interpretation of opinion poll results and the co-author of four books, including, mostly recently, America Against the World (Times Books). He received an A.B. degree from Seton Hall University in 1964 and studied graduate sociology at Rutgers, the State University, from 1964 to 1966.
Andrew Kohut: Yeah. I mean there have always been two Americas. And haves and have nots per se is not a bad thing. I mean one of the ways in which capitalism works is hopefully a rising tide lifts all boats, and rich people are rich . . . there are some people who are rich and some people who are poor. But the way it should work is that when the rich get richer, the poor should get a little richer too. And the concern is that that . . . that . . . that that is not happening. And I’m not an economist. I’m not an expert on these sorts of things, but I do see . . . You just have to look at the . . . You just have to look at the real wage gains, and they haven’t been coming. You have to also look at the fact that, you know, the bottom quartile, the bottom quintile remains pretty poor. Now to put that into some perspectives, the bottom quintile in the United States still owns a lot of stuff and still does relatively well to the bottom quintile of most parts of the world. But given who we are, and given what this country is, and given what the wealth is at the top end, it would be great if . . . if . . . if . . . if that . . . if that were . . . that would not be the case.
Question: How to the American people see the income gap?
Andrew Kohut: Well I mean on these issues there is a great deal of concern about haves and have nots. There’s a larger percentage now than in the 1980s – a much larger percentage saying that this is a have-have not society. When we first did this survey, we compared it with public opinion in Britain in the late 1980s. And 70 percent of the Brits said, yeah, that describes Britain. And only about 40 percent or 30 percent of the United States . . . of the public in the United States said that. Now it’s up to close to 50 percent. So I think there is a fair agreement and a fair assessment on many of these issues.
Recorded on: 9/14/07
Capitalism should let the rich get rich and let the poor get a little richer too, Kohut says.
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