The Most Disturbing Paragraph of the Week
Jesus would hate you all — and you didn’t build that: The truth about the ultra-rich and their New York Times apologists – Salon.com
IRS data compiled by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saenz and their colleagues at the top incomes database shows how stark America’s shift from a broad-based prosperity model has been. From 1947 to 1973, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent increased 99.2 percent, compared to 88.9 percent for the top 10 percent, and a mere 7.4 percent for the top 0.1 percent. But from 1973 to 2008, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent fell 6.1 percent, while the average incomes of the top 10 percent continued rising by another 70.8 percent, and average incomes of the top 0.1 percent skyrocketed an astronomical 706.4 percent.
My Comments on this –
I’m told from time to time that the slow destruction of the middle class and the de-professionalization of faculty at colleges and universities are the result of globalization. This globalization process is often described like a natural phenomenon like an earthquake or a tidal wave.
But the economic changes over the last fifty years are not the result of “natural” market forces. First and foremost, the market is an artificial construct. It seems to me that the idea of a complex structure with buying, selling, currency, the problems of shipping and safety, and a vast system of law can hardly be described as a natural process in the manner of lions hunting wildebeests. Second, this is policy – cold, deliberate policy. I can list them beginning with the Reagan tax cuts that eliminated the upper brackets. I would probably end with “Citizens United,” a decision that makes sense only through the prism of the Wall Street Journal. The idea that money is a form of speech is ridiculous but worse is the idea directly expressed in the decision that the resulting enormous rise of money in politics would not give the appearance of corruption.
Let’s have a look at the “appearance of corruption.” How about this, or this (Look at the chart of spending on the last election cycles!), or this, or this, or this? How many do you want? Maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court got it wrong? Maybe incredible sums of money and the ubiquity of the Koch brothers commercials give the appearance that you can buy any election in the United States any time you want if you’re willing to shell out enough money?
Where’s the business ethics here? It’s very simple. You build a better product. You compete in the marketplace and sell your better product. Capitalism in action! But wait, why do that when you can give several million dollars to Congress or better yet a much cheaper State or local government and be subsidized? Building a better product is hard, purchasing influence is easy. Thus the NFL pays no taxes, the oil industry in spite of being immensely profitable gets government subsidies, factory farms produce food paid for in advance by the federal government. None of these is a better product. Can there be any doubt that multiple leagues would produce more and better sports? Does it seem likely to you that oil companies would founder if left to suffer multi-billion dollar profits without government subsidy? And would farming disappear without government aid?
Where’s is innovation in all this? Is football improving? Does the oil industry compete by making a better product or is it committed to an increasingly obsolete business model? How come we subsidize certain agriculural products but don’t subsidize more healthy products?
We can adopt policies which favor a strong, vibrant middle class. We don’t have to give in to every industry demand even if it is backed by enormous political contributions. Sometimes we may fell and justly that this country is being sold out from under us. We live in society becoming more and more an oligarchy of corporate power and the wealthy. But this is not an inevitable process. Other nations have moved in this direction and yet have the soul democracy once again. The American people are a great and good people. I believe in time that a great people will realize that unrestrained greed is still one of the deadly sins to be shunned like the others.