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"Absurd, insane deficit obsession" making U.S. income inequality worse: Jim Steele

Daily Ticker

It seems that everyone from the most conservative members of Congress to the most liberal as well as President Obama is concerned with rising inequality.  The president says it's the “the defining challenge of our time” and he's expected to focus on that challenge in tonight's State of the Union speech. Even conservative Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are offering their own plans to reduce poverty.

Related: Income inequality explosion: Top 85 = Bottom 3.5 billion

But despite all the talk in Washington, "things actually have gotten worse," says Jim Steele, an investigator reporter and co-author of The Betrayal of the American Dream.  He cites a recent Pew survey that found 47% of Americans now consider themselves lower class and a St. Louis Fed study that found two-thirds of Americans haven't yet recovered the wealth they lost during the financial crisis.

"The problem is accelerating, but it's something that's been going on decades" due to changes in policies on taxes, regulation and trade, Steele tells The Daily Ticker.

And he doesn't expect much progress to solve it unless the government abandons its "absurd, insane deficit obsession" which "has made it impossible to even have a good conversation about the kind of money we need to invest in this country."

Related: Here's how to win the war on poverty

Steele says, "You don't just need a short-term stimulus now. We need a program planned out over a period of time, not just roads and highways but money pumped into technology, science ... that will be a positive for years to come. Nobody is even thinking about that now unfortunately."

But he believes that they should since it's worked before. He explains in the video above that the government's ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), created in 1958 to link defense program computers, led to the creation of the Internet. And the interstate highway program, also created in the 1950s, "put engineers to work and had a spinoff effect throughout the economies of the cities, towns and states where they were built."

Related: Minimum wage hike: Good policy or good politics?

In the meantime, President Obama in his state of the Union address tonight is expected to announce an executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to a minimum $10.10 an hour.

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