Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC contributor who guest-hosted for Rachel Maddow on Tuesday, broke down the so-called "wealth gap" for her viewers in a lengthy segment.
On Tuesday morning, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that the gap between the median wealth of white households and those in communities of color was at historic highs. Harris-Perry used the report to dismiss a favored Washington concept: that the government should act like an average family when it deals with its budget.
"Just today, we got a really clear picture of what American household budgets actually do look like, and it is not good," she said. "So, OK, Republicans, let's do it. Let's take a look at what an American household kitchen table budget looks like and let's stop with the make believe." Harris-Perry pointed out that, far from being a model for D.C., many Americans' budgets are in deep trouble due to their level of debt. That debt, and the severe lack of wealth in many black and Latino families, is a direct result of government policy and American history, she said.
"Initially, many black people in America could not own property because they were property," she said, taking viewers through the various means of legal segregation and discrimination that prevented black people from amassing wealth throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
"If you are shut out at the beginning, it is nearly impossible to catch up later on," Harris-Perry said. She concluded:
"As people of color become a proportionally bigger part of the American population, our national coffers will rely on them even more. We cannot pay off the national debt if households cannot pay off their personal debt, and if they are in debt, then you can't cut enough to ever make it possible to fix our government’s debt problems, and particularly not if you refuse to tax that one group whose wealth is still tick, tick, ticking up."
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