Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Does Inequality Mean?

Here is a graphic from an article in Mother Jones magazine to give you an idea of just how extreme the income inequality is in America:
A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

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The graphic is colourful and its proportions show the underlying data, but it is hard for most people to "take in" the enormity of the discrepancy. You need to spend time looking at the graphic and think and think hard to appreciate the grotesque reality it is trying to communicate.

Think about living in a world where one person can "work hard" and earn $30,000 while another who is also "working hard" but gets $27 million for their effort. Can you think of any activity that justifies this huge a gap between two human beings? Sure those who work harder, those with more responsibility, those with more talents deserve more, but not to this outrageously distorted extent.

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When I watch films that are meticulous "period pieces" of aristocratic times (i.e. before the Great Depression which seemed to have killed off "personal servants" and conspicuous display of wealth), I am appalled. Beggars at the gate starve to death while the elite "party" at a banquet table tossing out gobs of food that is wonderfully edible with no though of sharing with those who are starving. That is a horrible world. But during my adult lifetime I've watched that disgusting world creep back and re-establish itself.

I first knew something bad was up when you had the stories of Wall Street and the logo "Greed is good!" along with the TV show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". At first this was a bit of a lark since it was so unreal. But the rich have gone from being peripheral to once again lording it over people. They now command the majority of income and it keeps growing. The economy is stagnant for the bottom 90% but the rich have the politicians dancing to their tune so the fight isn't over taxing the rich more, it is over taking away the "fat pensions" and the "extra pay" that public union employees get. The rich have turned the poor on each other and chuckle as they fight light cats and dogs over scraps while the great gobs of wealth keep being diverted to the obscenely rich. Sick.

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What I find so outrageous about current US politics is that all the talk about cutting deficits never considers the fact that the budget problem springs from too many tax cuts for the rich! The original justification for tax cuts was that they would stimulate the economy and "trickle down" benefits to all. But looking at 30 years of hard times for the bottom 90% of the population puts the lie to "trickle down". The US needs to raise taxes on the rich!

Go read the Mother Jones article.

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