Economist Sachs tackles America's unhappiness

Fri Oct 7, 2011 4:55pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - World renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, best known for advocating for the elimination of poverty in the world's poorest countries, has turned his attention to America's jobs crisis with his new book.

In "The Price of Civilization" he contends that as Democrats and Republicans bicker over how to reignite the faltering U.S. jobs market, both sides have it wrong and that what is needed is greater investment in education, better health care, more civility and fewer Gulfstream jets.

"There is a tremendous amount of pent-up unhappiness in America," Sachs told Reuters. "People are disgusted."

His latest book lands at a time when protests against the U.S. financial system -- under the banner Occupy Wall Street -- have gained nationwide attention and expanded from New York to more than a dozen other cities.

Sachs, twice named one of the 100 most influential leaders in the world by Time magazine, said the protests draw on intense frustration over the bleak jobs picture and the power wielded by the big banks. The U.S. unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1 percent.

"They are tapping into an economic truth and widespread sentiment reflecting a society that has become remarkably divided by income and wealth," said Sachs, a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In "The Price of Civilization," Sachs rails against that divide, pointing out that by 2000 the average pay for the top 100 U.S. chief executives was about 1,000 times that of the average worker. Compare that, he says, to the early 1970s when they made about 40 times more than average workers.

"The wealthy have basically had a free run for the past 30 years," Sachs said in an interview. That could soon change, he said, as the country enters "a new progressive era," where the "super-rich can't walk off with the prize."   Continued...