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Jimmy Carter Slams Growing Inequality, Crumbling Middle Class

“The middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago," said the former president

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

(Photo: Commonwealth Club/cc/flickr)Former President Jimmy Carter slammed the nation's growing inequality and lack of affordable housing on Monday, and said that greater equality "would pay rich dividends for Americans" of all income levels, statements one analyst says offer a stark contrast to policies during his administration.

The 89-year-old former president made the statements to the Associated Press in an interview in Oakland, California, the first of five cities in the country where the Carter Work Project, a project Carter and his wife have lead for Habitat for Humanity International for the past 30 years, will be constructing and repairing homes this week.

“The disparity between rich people and poor people in America has increased dramatically since when we started,” Carter told the news agency, and decried the downward mobilization of the middle class.

“The middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago. So I don’t think it’s getting any better,” he said.

Carter also condemned the federal government's lack of investment in affordable housing, and told AP that what the nation needs is a more equitable tax system, which would ultimately benefit everyone.

"The Carter White House years saw a major crumbling of our defenses against plutocracy."
-Sam Pizzigati
“The richest people in America would be better off if everybody lived in a decent home and had a chance to pay for it, and if everyone had enough income even if they had a daily job to be good buyers for the products that are produced,” Carter said.

“Equity of taxation and treating the middle class with a great deal of attention, providing funding for people in true need, like for affordable housing, those are the sort of things that would pay rich dividends for Americans no matter what kind of income they have,” he added.

While Carter denounced tax breaks for the wealthy in the interview, Sam Pizzigati, an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of Too Much, a weekly newsletter on excess and inequality, said, "You can't read what Jimmy Carter is saying now about inequality without wondering how things might be different if he understood then—back when he sat in the White House—what he so clearly understands now."

"The Carter White House years saw a major crumbling of our defenses against plutocracy," Pizzigati told Common Dreams in an email.  "In 1978, Congress slashed the capital gains tax rate and refused to pass badly needed labor law reforms that would have protected working Americans' right to organize and bargain collectively."

"President Carter never went the extra mile politically to block that tax giveaway and guarantee Americans basic labor rights. That failure still haunts us today," stated Pizzigati.

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