Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the other tribunes of today's Republican right aren't really conservatives. Their goal isn't to conserve what we have. It's to take us backwards.Nicholas Kristoff points out some facts:
They'd like to return to the 1920s -- before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety laws, the Environmental Protection Act, the Glass-Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Act, and the Voting Rights Act.
In the 1920s Wall Street was unfettered, the rich grew far richer and everyone else went deep into debt, and the nation closed its doors to immigrants….
In truth, if they had their way we'd be back in the late nineteenth century -- before the federal income tax, antitrust laws, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Federal Reserve. A time when robber barons -- railroad, financial, and oil titans -- ran the country. A time of wrenching squalor for the many and mind-numbing wealth for the few.
- The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
- The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
- In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.
Here are some actual data
More broadly, there’s a growing sense that lopsided outcomes are a result of tycoons’ manipulating the system, lobbying for loopholes and getting away with murder. Of the 100 highest-paid chief executives in the United States in 2010, 25 took home more pay than their company paid in federal corporate income taxes, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. …And far from helping us, this inequality is a hindrance. The IMF, hardly a socialist bastion, reports that increased inequality impedes growth
I believe that over the last couple of centuries banks have enormously raised living standards in the West by allocating capital to more efficient uses. But anyone who believes in markets should be outraged that banks rig the system so that they enjoy profits in good years and bailouts in bad years.
In fact equality appears to be an important ingredient in promoting and sustaining growth. The difference between countries that can sustain rapid growth for many years or even decades and the many others that see growth spurts fade quickly may be the level of inequality. Countries may find that improving equality may also improve efficiency, understood as more sustainable long-run growth.This is the context in which to view Occupy Wall Street (OWS)., Sally Kohn opines at Fox News:
The key isn’t what protesters are for but rather what they’re against -- the gaping inequality that has poisoned our economy, our politics and our nation.Why is this so hard for us to understand?
In America today, 400 people have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. That’s not because 150 million Americans are pathetically lazy or even unlucky. In fact, Americans have been working harder than ever -- productivity has risen in the last several decades. Big business profits and CEO bonuses have also gone up. Worker salaries, however, have declined.
Most of the Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t opposed to free market capitalism. In fact, what they want is an end to the crony capitalist system now in place, that makes it easier for the rich and powerful to get even more rich and powerful while making it increasingly hard for the rest of us to get by. The protesters are not anti-American radicals. They are the defenders of the American Dream, the decision from the birth of our nation that success should be determined by hard work not royal bloodlines.
Update: Dr Primrose highlights this table, from the article I cited above on Wealth, Income, and Power (This is from a sociologist at UCSC). Those at the top rank = less inequality. (GINI coeff of 1 means everyone makes the same; GINI coeff of 100 means one person gets everything.)
|Table 7: Income equality in selected countries|
|Country/Overall Rank||Gini Coefficient|
|43. United Kingdom||34.0|
|93. United States||45.0|
|133. South Africa||65.0|
|Note: These figures reflect family/household income, not individual income.|
|Source: Central Intelligence Agency (2010).|