Thursday, August 04, 2011

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

There is an article in Vanity Fair by Nobel Economics Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz that all Americans should read. I quote:
The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent...........While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride.
The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.
From what little I know of history, it seems to me that such inequality and the disregard of the rich and powerful for the poor and middle class leads to very bad results. It is one of the differences between colonial Latin America and colonial North America that led to the greater economic growth and I believe more just societies in Canada and the United States as compared with those of Latin America today. It is one of the things that led to a history of war and revolt in Europe's past.

And it is getting worse, as the rich grab more power, to increase their domination of the economy still more! We the people have the potential political power to take back the political processes in this country and restore opportunity to the society, but I don't see it happening. We seem willing to make the plutocrats a gift of still more money and power!

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