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House forming select group to study wealth inequity

A fast food restaurant in Missoula is hiring workers for $10 a hour. (Missoula Current file photo)

WASHINGTON (CN) — In the image of a 1930s-era congressional caucus that examined the concentration of monopolies and American wealth, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday a new select committee to study similar inequalities.

Pelosi emphasized in her announcement that while the pandemic has wrought devastation on so many aspects of life — having now killed more than 335,000 in the U.S. — it has also peeled back the veneer “to reveal further disparities in our economy and our society.”

“Clearly the disparities in income and equity in our country are vast, we’ve known that, they’ve only gotten worse; and the pandemic, again, puts it in sharper focus,” she said.

Pelosi said Congress will tackle this in creating the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth through the House Rules Committee on Monday. The new group will be “a central force for the Congress to combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America,” she added.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are committed to this goal, Pelosi said, because they recognize “that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy.”

Enumerating some of the proposals they have made already to aid American families, Pelosi pointed to a bill from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to guarantee the wages of workers earning up to $100,000.

The new group to study economic inequalities will be based on a previous body, the Temporary National Economic Committee, which by President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed in 1938 to study lingering effects of the Great Depression.

The group’s missions will be extremely similar, Pelosi said, with the new group setting out to “study and combat the concentration of wealth in America and its role in triggering economic collapse.”

“This is what President Roosevelt said at the time. He said, ‘The liberty of a Democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power, to a point where it becomes stronger than their Democratic state itself,’” Pelosi said.

Congress similarly reached back in late April when it assembled the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis to examine government fraud and waste in response to federal spending due to Covid-19, modeling this body after the 1941 Truman Committee.

In a news release on the economic conference, Pelosi blamed the devaluation of work with deflating consumer confidence, job creation and economic growth. She said the select committee will focus on providing a greater access to education in the nation, along with providing greater foundation for workforce development.

“The past several decades have shown with devastating clarity the marked imbalance between the financial fortunes of CEOs and workers,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The reverence of those who amass profits by stagnating wages has seriously undermined the lives and livelihoods of many Americans, while slowing economic growth in our country.”

Rather than a legislative committee, the committee will be a resource to Congress, meaning members will report the findings of investigations to corresponding jurisdictional committees and make recommendations on how to cut into the nation’s wealth gaps.

“We need a bigger spotlight on the problem and on some of the solutions so that we can all participate in the very worthy suggestions that are made,” Pelosi said. “And again, we will empower American economic growth while ensuring that no one is left behind in the 21st century economy that we are putting forth.”