(The Center Square, Casey Harper) – The House Democrats’ new select committee on wealth inequality is sparking controversy already.
The select committee was created in January of this year, but its seats remained empty until last week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced eight members to make up the committee, which is officially called the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth.
“The past several decades have shown with devastating clarity the marked imbalance between the financial fortunes of CEOs and workers,” Pelosi said.
“The reverence of those who amass profits by stagnating wages has seriously undermined the lives and livelihoods of many Americans, while slowing economic growth in our country,” she continued. “This year, the disturbing, dangerous trend of economic disparity has also been accelerated by the coronavirus economic crisis.”
In fact, the growing list of economic concerns are largely due to Democrats’ own policies regarding spending, taxing and regulation of industries like the energy sector.
Yet, Pelosi appeared to pin recent economic turmoil—including low job creation and projected growth, rising prices and inflation—on the fact that businesses and corporations had not increased wages enough.
“The devaluing of work has had a negative impact on consumer confidence, job creation and economic growth,” she added. “And the situation of families no longer believing that their children will have a brighter future than they is seriously damaging and demoralizing to our society.”
Pelosi sparked backlash, though, for adding to the committee one of Congress’ more controversial members: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-N.Y.
The “Squad” leader has a history of incendiary comments that have drawn widespread opposition from Republicans.
Moreover, Ocasio–Cortez has openly embraced an anti-capitalist, Marxist model for the economy, and she proposed legislation along those lines, including a massive Green New Deal package that would pay those “unwilling to work.”
Recently, she took fire in the aftermath of fighting between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas for comments her critics called anti-semitic.
“What could go wrong?” conservative author and commentator David Harris Jr. wrote on Twitter.
The congresswoman is on the committee to address “generational disparities and increasing worker power in the economy.”
As part of her controversial advocacy of “modern monetary theory,” she has claimed that the government’s introduction of new currency into the economy did not devalue the existing currency as most experts have long assumed.
Although most economic models project that unlimited government spending would only reduce wealth inequality by driving more people into poverty, she has made it the cornerstone of her agenda.
“I think that one of the things that would be interesting for us to examine is that we should probably revisit some of the basic macroeconomic assumptions about the U.S. economy and not take for granted that inflation is due to one thing or another, or that full employment is impossible in the United States of America,” Ocasio–Cortez said.
“And I believe that’s been reiterated at the White House with very promising assertions and ambitious goals and trying to make sure that every American has a dignified job.”
Democratic leadership said the committee is modeled after the Temporary National Economic Committee founded in 1938 to study the cause of the Great Depression.
The decision also comes after many of the nation’s richest residents had their tax returns published by ProPublica, drawing scrutiny of how much billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos pay in taxes.
That article also drew scrutiny upon the IRS, which appears to have broken confidentiality laws to leak the documents in service of a partisan agenda, hearkening back to the agency’s weaponization during the Obama administration to harass conservative nonprofits.
The committee also comes as the Biden Administration pushes for higher taxes on wealthier Americans and an increase in the corporate tax rate.
Without naming names, Pelosi had harsh rhetoric for the wealthiest Americans, calling their high pay “immoral.”
“It’s very clear the widening chasm between CEOs—CEO compensation, worker pay has gone from unfair to immoral,” Pelosi said.
“The stagnation of worker pay: an historic picture of injustice,” she continued. “Maybe about 40 years ago, if you saw our economy, you would see if productivity rose, worker pay rose, CEO pay rose. Within the past 40, more like 35 years, it started to be, productivity rises, wages stagnate, CEO pay increases. I call it a ‘right angle going in the wrong direction.’ To the point where some CEOs make in a few weeks, what their entry-level employees make in a lifetime.”
Whether the committee spurs real policy change, though, remains to be seen.
“So, the question is, let us define the challenge and hear from those most affected by it, most in need, most concerned about the diminishing of the luster of the American Dream, because that has a very demoralizing effect on our country,” Pelosi said.
“Everybody has to think that they and their families will have a better future than their parents,” she continued. “And when that is dulled, again, not good for a country.”
Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.