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The Foley Institute Coffee & Politics Series



Leslie McCall : The Undeserving Rich


LeslieMonday August 31 | 12 – 1pm | Foley Speaker’s Room, 308 Bryan Hall, WSU Pullman

On August 31st Leslie McCall discussed attitudes throughout the U.S. about inequality. She shifted the traditional discussion about inequality to the political dimension and incorporated her research on the topic.

She discussed the three main perspectives about inequality, the first is the tolerance perspective where American believe that economic outcomes are fairly distributed because people believe everyone has equal opportunities. The second perspective is the ignorance perspective where Americans do not know how extreme economic inequality or that it exists at all. The final perspective she mentioned is the ambivalence perspective which is that Americans are aware of inequality but do not trust government to do anything about it.

McCall suggested her own alternate model that is the opportunity model. Throughout her research she found that Americans agree across partisan lines that the income gap in the US should be reduced. She also found that concerns of economic inequality tended to decreased in times of economic prosperity.

McCall looked at how political parties differ in the approach to try to dissolve economic inequality. Republicans or conservatives tend to put more emphasis on the equalization of opportunities not on outcomes, they put more emphasis on education and economic opportunities as opposed to equalizing outcomes. On the other hand Democrats or liberals tend to put more emphasis on equalizing outcomes through taxing and social spending. The downside to equalizing just outcomes or just opportunities is that neither of them get to the root of the problem. McCall proposed a different method of how look at economic inequality and that is to equalize outcomes to equalize opportunities. This would be done through affirmative action programs and civil rights agendas.

In some states there are initiatives and ballot measures that have been passed that help to equalize outcomes to equalize opportunities. McCall believes that these types of initiatives would be most helpful in trying to address the problem of inequality.

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