As Economic Inequality has become more and more a topic of discussion here in the US Conservatives have grasped desperately for easy slogans and simple talking points to make it go away. That's been critical for them, because the modern Conservative Movement EXISTS to increase inequality. It is, in fact, the purpose behind the corrupt SCOTUS decision in McCutcheon v FEC. Further increasing the voice of the already powerful while dramatically curtailing the ability of hard working Americans to have a say in their own government is intended to produce policies which will further the already radical upward wealth redistribution that has become the norm over the last 35 years.
One of the arguments most common here is actually one of the least honest...that "emotionalism" drives the push for less economic inequality. In fact exactly the opposite is true. The data shows the extremes of inequality that we're experiencing have damaged the economy and are producing reduced economic growth and an unstable economy. There's nothing emotional about that...those are facts. It isn't even difficult to understand why.
When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that help itself in the short term rather than help society as a whole over the long term. This is what has happened in America when it comes to tax policy, regulatory policy, and public investment. The consequence of channeling gains in income and wealth in one direction only is easy to see when it comes to ordinary household spending, which is one of the engines of the American economy.
It is no accident that the periods in which the broadest cross sections of Americans have reported higher net incomes—when inequality has been reduced, partly as a result of progressive taxation—have been the periods in which the U.S. economy has grown the fastest. It is likewise no accident that the current recession, like the Great Depression, was preceded by large increases in inequality. When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced—or at least it will be in the absence of some artificial prop. Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.
In our imaginations, it doesn’t always seem as if this is the case, because spending by the wealthy is so conspicuous. Just look at the color photographs in the back pages of the weekend Wall Street Journal of houses for sale. But the phenomenon makes sense when you do the math. Consider someone like Mitt Romney, whose income in 2010 was $21.7 million. Even if Romney chose to live a much more indulgent lifestyle, he would spend only a fraction of that sum in a typical year to support himself and his wife in their several homes. But take the same amount of money and divide it among 500 people—say, in the form of jobs paying $43,400 apiece—and you’ll find that almost all of the money gets spent.
The relationship is straightforward and ironclad: as more money becomes concentrated at the top, aggregate demand goes into a decline. Unless something else happens by way of intervention, total demand in the economy will be less than what the economy is capable of supplying—and that means that there will be growing unemployment, which will dampen demand even further. In the 1990s that “something else” was the tech bubble. In the first decade of the 21st century, it was the housing bubble. Today, the only recourse, amid deep recession, is government spending—which is exactly what those at the top are now hoping to curb.