The progressive movement talks incessantly about needing bold, revolutionary reforms to address poverty and inequality. Elizabeth Warren asks, “Who is our government going to work for? Is it going to just keep working for the rich and the powerful… or for everyone else?” Even before the recession, Bernie Sanders lamented the “national disgrace that 46.5 million Americans are living in poverty today.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asserts that “poverty… is the one thing that can bring this country down.”
But do progressive proposals really focus on redistributing from the wealthy to the poor? Distributional analyses show that many of their policies would mainly redistribute resources from the super-wealthy to the merely wealthy, upper-middle class, and professional class. They would redistribute from the top-earning 99th percentile to the 80th percentile.
This is a predictable result of a quiet political realignment. Much of the working class and middle portions of America have drifted to the GOP, while the far left increasingly consists of younger, educated, upwardly mobile professionals that primarily live in expensive cities and on the coasts. Democrats have also worked to make inroads with educated, professional suburbanites too.