Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maxwell Strachan on U.S. Income Inequality: Higher Than Any Time Since 1917

A quick note about an article well worth reading, as Paul Ryan brings the Republican budget proposal to the table: Maxwell Strachan's "15 Facts about U.S. Income Inequality That Everyone Should Know." Pertinent quote:

"Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America," Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in a new piece for Vanity Fair this week. "But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way."

While it's unclear whether Stiglitz is correct about the intentions of the super-wealthy, what's certain is that the rich have emerged from the rubble of the last 30 years as indisputable winners. Since 1980, middle-class wages have largely stagnated and lower-class wages have declined, while the upper echelons of American society have seen a windfall. A study by University of California, Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez found that, as of 2007, the top decile of American earners pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that's "higher than any other year since 1917."

I'm not an economist.  I'm just a plain, ordinary citizen without much of a head for figures, but with a master's and doctorate in the history of Christian thought and social ethics.  Still, I think I might be able to 'splain to Joseph Stiglitz and the economists why the gap between rich and poor is growing so rapidly in this nation: its not only because the top 1 percent want it that way.  It's because they've fixed it that way, with several decades of neocon governmental leaders who have given them obscene tax cuts unprecedented in American history.

And they intend to keep it that way and buy each and every election they can succeed in buying for the foreseeable future. 

And I'm not in the least bit of doubt about the "intentions of the super wealthy": the rich want to remain rich and to become richer.  At the expense of the rest of us.  Hence the tax cuts and the ludicrous talk of balancing a budget that is out of kilter for one primary reason no one (in the beltway echo chamber) wants to bring to the table: the unprecedented and growing gap between rich and poor in American society at this point in history.  And the intent of the rich to keep it that way.  And the captivity of both major political parties to the wealthy.  And their ability now to buy any election that comes along, and almost anyone in office.

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