New Survey Shows Bernie Is Right: Young Americans Want To Reverse Runaway Inequality

We decided to test the mainstream Democratic Party phobias.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

A new survey conducted by the Educational Network shows that younger Americans (ages 18-40) overwhelmingly support bold proposals to reverse inequality―- Sanders-type policies such as Medicare for all, free higher education, ending mass incarceration, wealth taxes on multi-millionaires, financial speculation taxes on Wall Street, public banks, immigrants rights, worker rights, a guaranteed job at a living wage, campaign finance reform, and a sustainable environment.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is accelerating inequality. The billionaire appointees, the Goldman Sachs economic advisors, the hollow healthcare and tax proposals all are designed to move more money into the hands of the few.

Unfortunately, the mainstream Democrats are hardly better when in comes to runaway inequality.

  • Over the last 37 years, America’s top 10 percent saw their incomes rise by 115 percent and the top 1 percent saw an incredible rise of 198 percent. Meanwhile, the bottom half of all American earners not only failed to see any gain at all, but their incomes actually declined by 1 percent from 1978 to 2015, according to research by Thomas Piketty.
  • During the Obama years “the top 1 percent of families captured 52 percent of total real income growth per family from 2009 to 2015 while the bottom 99 percent of families got only 48 percent of total real income growth,” reports inequality expert, Emanuel Saez

Most politicians and pundits throw their hands up in despair. They argue there is really nothing we can do about rising inequality because of the powerful impacts of global competition and automation. Those who are falling behind just don’t have the skills needed to prosper in the modern world. Life is unfair. Get used to it.

But these fatalists are dead wrong. There is ample evidence to show that many other nations have far less inequality but also deploy the most advanced technologies, and are even more open to foreign competition. (See here.)

Furthermore, the mainstream Democrats have convinced themselves, that despite the Sanders surge, most Americans do not support bold policies to reverse runaway inequality — too “socialistic.”

Does a social democratic program appeal to most Americans?

We decided to test the mainstream Democratic Party phobias by asking 200 randomly selected 18 to 40 year-olds to evaluate a strong platform aimed at reversing runaway inequality.

(The response choices were “Strongly Agree”, “Neutral,” “Disagree,” “Strongly Disagree.” The results below combine the “Strongly Agree/Agree” categories, and the “Strongly Disagree/Disagree” categories. Given the sample size the margin of error is a 7 percent. The survey was conducted April 20-22 via SurveyMonkey.)

The results clearly demonstrate that these younger people are more than willing to embrace bold proposals. (Please keep in mind that approximately 30 to 40 percent of these respondents were likely Trump voters.)

  • Money and Politics: The right to fair and equal representation, free from voter suppression and the influence of big money. For our democracy to endure, we must overturn Citizens United, enact public campaign financing and enforce the Voting Rights Act. Agree: 65.8%, Disagree: 5.0%
  • Medicare for All: The right to universal health care. Expand and improve Medicare (for All) to provide every American with access to quality, affordable healthcare. Agree: 75.6%, Disagree: 12.7%
  • Environmental Protection: To prevent catastrophic damage to our planet’s life support systems, we must accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy; protect our water and air from pollution; and prevent companies from moving to countries with weaker health, safety and environmental standards. Agree: 84.5%, Disagree: 4.0%
  • Job at a living wage: Everyone who is willing and able to work is entitled to a decent paying job in a safe and healthy workplace. If the private sector can’t provide such jobs, then the public sector should. Agree: 65.0%, Disagree: 20.5%
  • Free Public Education: The right to free public education from pre-K through college or trade school. Pre-K for 2- to 5-year olds should be available free of charge for all families. And everyone who qualifies for entrance to higher education should be able to attend tuition free. Agree: 72.0%, Disagree: 13.0%
  • Impartial criminal justice: Biased law enforcement in poor urban and rural communities must be ended, and we must stop using mass incarceration as a substitute for decent employment and educational opportunities. Agree: 75.1%, Disagree: 16.9%
  • Pathway to citizenship: Every resident of the US should have a comprehensive pathway to citizenship, and be afforded the rights to due process and a fair hearing that the Constitution guarantees to all. Agree: 68.2%, Disagree: 10.4%
  • Worker Rights: To protect and enhance worker rights and fairness on the job, the freedom to unionize, free from employer coercion, must be promoted. Agree: 58.6%, Disagree: 10.5%
  • Public Banks: As an alternative to Wall Street’s predatory lending, every state should charter a public bank, modeled on the Bank of North Dakota, whose first and only goal is to serve its people. Also, like many other developed nations, the US should charter a national postal bank to provide fair and accessible financial services in all our communities. Agree: 59.0%, Disagree: 9.5%
  • Taxing Wall Street: To move money to Main Street, a small sales tax should be imposed on stocks, bonds and derivatives. This also would discourage high frequency computer trades which make up the majority of all stock market activity. Agree: 49.0, Disagree: 10.7%
  • End Stock Manipulation: CEOs and their Wall Street partners should not be permitted to enrich themselves by using corporate funds to buy back their own shares in order to artificially raise share prices. This was illegal before 1982 and should be again. Agree: 71.5%, Disagree: 6.5%
  • Wealth Tax of 1% on those whose net worth is over $10 million: Those who have grown super-rich in our financialized economy must pay their fair share of taxes. A wealth tax, currently used by Spain, France, Switzerland and Norway, is an excellent way to recoup those losses. Agree: 72.1%, Disagree: 10.1%

What will it take to wake up the Corporate Democrats?

The Democratic Party is trying to move “economic issues” into their core message. That’s not good enough. As we see from our survey, younger Americans in particular are hungry for more than platitudes about economic opportunity, public-private partnerships, reduced tuition loans and other half measures.

What the Democrats are offering can be co-opted by Trump’s faux populism. But a strong agenda to reverse runaway inequality cannot.

Rather than embrace these proposals mainstream Democrats are likely to reject our survey because it doesn’t jive with the milquetoast questions posed by their high-priced pollsters, and because it challenges their cozy relationships with Wall Street and corporate elites.

But we can’t afford to sit around and moan this sorry state of affairs. Millions are in motion and eager to get more involved. We need to break through the false narratives and continue to prove that Americans want a much fairer society.

For starters, we could turn this agenda into a circulating petition, get 20 million or so to sign it, and then shove it in the face of every politician. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see growing support for real policies to reverse runaway inequality.

If you’re interested in helping out, check out We need you. We need each other.

(In honor of Trump’s first 100 days, we’re having a week-long e-book sale for Runaway Inequality: An Activist Guide to Economic Justice. ― $4.99 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple. All proceeds go to support these educational efforts.)

This article originally appeared on

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure of a new “reversing runaway inequality” movement. For more information, contact

Popular in the Community


What's Hot