In the News
February 21, 2024

Many Americans Believe the Economy Is Rigged

New York Times

Guest Essay in the New York Times

When asked what drives the economy, many Americans have a simple, single answer that comes to mind immediately: “greed.” They believe the rich and powerful have designed the economy to benefit themselves and have left others with too little or with nothing at all.

We know Americans feel this way because we asked them. Over the past two years, as part of a project with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, we and a team of people conducted over 30 small-group conversations with Americans from almost every corner of the country. While national indicators may suggest that the economy is strong, the Americans we listened to are mostly not thriving. They do not see the economy as nourishing or supporting them. Instead, they tend to see it as an obstacle, a set of external forces out of their control that nonetheless seems to hold sway over their lives.

Take the perceived prevalence of greed. This is hardly a new feeling, but it has been exacerbated recently by inflation and higher housing costs. Americans experience these phenomena not as abstract concepts or political talking points but rather as grocery stores and landlords demanding more money.

Income inequality has been in decline over the last few years. But try explaining that to someone struggling to pay the rent. “I just feel like the underdog can’t get ahead, and it’s all about greed and profit,” one Kentucky participant noted. It is not necessarily the actual distribution of wealth that troubles people. It is the feeling that the economy is rigged against them. . . .

View full story: New York Times



Commission on Reimagining Our Economy

Katherine J. Cramer, Ann M. Fudge, and Nicholas B. Lemann