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On Monday, June 2, 2014, MoveOn.org members gathered online to watch a special conversation on income inequality with Senator Elizabeth Warren and acclaimed economist Thomas Piketty — and the event was a resounding hit. With talk of progressive populism and the richest 1% now a deeper part of the national debate in America, the pairing of these two leaders was a moment whose time had come. Nearly 13,000 MoveOn.org members RSVPed to witness just that on our website and join the conversation. If you missed it the first time, catch it again here.
Those who came early got an opportunity to hear a shout-out to MoveOn.org members directly from Sen. Warren and Dr. Piketty:
Those who stayed late got to hear Sen. Warren’s exclusive message at the end to MoveOn.org members:
Dr. Piketty, who authored Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and Sen. Warren, who authored A Fighting Chance, are two of the leading figures on economic inequality today. Their joint interview was moderated by Ryan Grim of the event host The Huffington Post and sponsored by the Patriotic Millionaires.
Throughout the discussion, Sen. Warren and Dr. Piketty answered questions from MoveOn.org members to compelling effect. They included questions like how the costs of climate change will interplay with inequality, submitted by Diane W. in Florida, and how to deal with the growing problem of student lending, submitted by Barbara A. in Arkansas and Robert B. in Oregon.
In all, more than 3,300 MoveOn members submitted questions touching on income inequality’s connection to every issue from Medicaid and the fossil billionaires David and Charles Koch to big money in politics and the wealthiest few embracing higher taxes as a reflection of their patriotism. Here are a few quotes:
On Dr. Piketty’s findings: “Wealth does not trickle down. It trickles up. It trickles from everyone else to those who are rich.” –Sen. Warren
“The problem is rising inequality, the fact that top wealth holders have been rising three times faster than the size of the economy.” –Dr. Piketty
“The game right now in America is rigged. It is rigged so that those at the top keep doing better and better, and everyone else is under increasing pressure, is under increasing economic strain. The rules don’t get better for America’s middle class. The rules are getting better for those who are a thin slice at the top. And that is the profound danger that we see from great inequality.” –Sen. Warren
Another common thread in MoveOn.org members’ questions was what they can do to fight back. As Irma in California asked, “What can I do as an ordinary citizen to make a difference?”
One thing was clear from their questions and their enthusiastic reception of Sen. Warren and Dr. Piketty’s ideas: there is a tremendous hunger and energy to tackle the challenges posed by and the corrosive causes of income inequality in America. It’s a drive that Sen. Warren recognized at the end of her message to MoveOn.org members:
“I’m so grateful to everybody at MoveOn. We make each other stronger, so let’s get out there.”
In the weeks and months ahead, that’s exactly what MoveOn.org members will be doing. Stay tuned.