November 15, 2006
-- by Dave Johnson
America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.
... Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.
Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.It is OUR economy. Does it work for US? Corporations are ENTIRELY a creation of OUR laws, so why do we let them operate the way they do? Of course the answer is because the very rich use the corporations to their own benefit and pay the legislators to keep it that way.
... A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.
Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society.... With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. ...
In Europe workers average six weeks paid vacation. They get health care. The get generous pensions. ...
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This is an age-old question: does the economy work for us or do we work for it? Does all the wealth-generation and manufacturing output raise everyone's standard of living or just a few? Rhetorical questions, more's the pity.
As long as everyone is sufficiently delusional as to think he or she will be rich some day, we will continue to have a tax structure and economic policies that benefit those people we think we're going to be. As long as inherited or unearned (ie, investment) income is valued as highly as the sweat of the brow, nothing will change.
The founders came from a culture and society that offered the same limited mobility as we are starting to see in this one: is the experiment over? Have we come full-circle?
Posted by: paul at November 15, 2006 6:25 PM
Yes, it's even worse than under Reagan, While the administration is miffed because people don't seem to grasp how well the economy's doing, everybody I know is struggling. Maybe I just don't know enough rich people? But I do know people who would have been considered rich a few years ago, and they're not happy with the economy either, struggling to pay for their kids' incredibly high college expenses, etc. it's only the super-rich who are really getting any benefit from this economy.
I consider anyone who is "struggling" to pay kids' college expenses to be rich. If I didn't pay my rent, didn't eat -- didn't spend a dime on anything -- I could not afford to send one kid to college.
Richard I know what you mean of course. I live in NYC, with the homeless constantly around. This is a city in which "middle class" in need of financial help to pay for housing is considered to be those now earning between $60,000 and $140,000! That's what I mean by "used to be considered rich." The mayor is planning a new city financed housing development for them. Breaks my heart, she said sobbing! Especially considering that those I've always considered solidly "middle class," like teachers, professors, police, etc. don't make anywhere near that much. They're too poor to qualify for this housing unless it's a family with both adults working.
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