Sunday, August 16, 2009
Wealth inequality has always been with us. Sometimes it is pronounced and sometimes much less so. Right now, it's as bad as it has been in over one hundred years.
The top 10% of the richest people in the country control about 49.7% of the nation's wealth. This would mean that there are about 30,000,000 people in the top bracket who are on average about nine times richer than the the average person in the bottom 270,000,000.
But as Chris Rock puts it, there's rich and then there's wealthy. While the top 10% has about half the nation's wealth, the top 0.01% controls 6% of the wealth. That's 30,000 people out of 300,000,000 with about one dollar out of every sixteen in circulation. These ultra-rich people have on average over $1,000 for every dollar a person in the bottom 90% have. If we add in everybody who isn't in the top ten thousandth, the income discrepancy is still over $600 per super-rich person for every dollar controlled by people in the bottom 99.99%.
These are the people who are truly behind the lower tax policies of the Republicans, using "small business owners" as human shields for any attempt to raise taxes on the higher income brackets. Given the American belief that anyone can strike it rich, they will always be able to find useful idiots like Joe The Plumber who has never been able to sniff the higher income bracket, but still thinks he needs protection from any upper income tax hike.
Tax policies are only a small part of massive wealth re-distribution of the past twenty years. Deregulation has also been a big part of the money being squeezed out of the hands of working people and into the hands of the producers of products that the public is addicted to. Whether it's cable TV or gas or financial services or prescription drugs, industries can be sure their campaign contributions will get them a "fair hearing" from politicians on both sides of the aisle. The prices of these commodities far outstrip the Consumer Price Index, and much of the money in the hands of the 30,000 people sitting on one sixteenth of this great nation's wealth is due to them controlling not only the product, but the government who could regulate the commodity if it saw fit, though it rarely does.
Socialist is the favorite angry epithet fit for mixed company that the Republican "base" throws around at Obama. Seriously, they have no clue. Bernie Sanders is a Socialist. Dennis Kucinich, my congressperson Barbara Lee, maybe a few other Democrats could be fairly called socialists. Obama and his crowd are moderates. I'm not much on predicting, but I would be very surprised to see the wealth controlled by the top .01% of the people shrink down to the levels we saw in the 1980's. The game is way too complicated and way too rigged to be made fair by this crowd of appeasers to the interests who brought the financial system crashing down last year.