Friday, April 8, 2011

Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%

Comes to me from bloggers Bill Harryman via Steve Curless
Illustration by Stephen Doyle - THE FAT AND THE FURIOUS: The top 1 percent may have the best houses, educations, and lifestyles, says Stiglitz, but “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.”
There has been a wave of blog interest in an article by Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia professor and 2001 Nobel winner in Economic Science [Economics is a science!?], on the grotesque, obscene disparity of wealth that now exists in America and its ruinous effect on our future.

The article in the May issue of Vanity Fair is titled "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%," a play on the phrase from Lincoln's Gettysberg Address, which was "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  Stiglitz is suggesting that the lower 99 percent of those people [i.e., us] have been pushed out of our one-time democracy.

The article begins with this stern warning: "Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret."

And this sobering statistic gives you some idea of the radical change that has quickly taken place in our was-middle-class nation:  "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." That is, the Top 1%'s percentage of nation income has gone from 12% of all that is to 25%; and their percentage of all the wealth in this country has increased from 33% to 40% of all that there is. At this rate, we, The Bottom 99%, will be left as the wealthy's raggity serfs.

Welcome to Homeless World, all of you in the middle 98%! Pull up a broken bench and sit with us.

Basically -- though Stiglitz doesn't say it this harshly -- the uber-filthy rich are dipping their world in gold and killing off the rest of us like we were cockroaches.

For job-seekers, like so many of us in the homeless class, there is this in our futures:

First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.

Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
And there's this which should make all of us in the lower-99 mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore:
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that.

Read the whole article -- and while you're doing it think of the new Admin offices soon to be occupied at Loaves & Fishes, built to cater to the very very rich so they can give their pocket change to Libby and not have to view the poor.

Thank you, Libby, for your vanity-filled contribution to misery. Here, 25 cents.

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