Declare Your Independence From Fear

For some time now, reports of the growing income gap between rich assholes and everybody else in the United States surface in news sources from blogs to the mainstream. Outrage is expressed for a few days. Then the obsequious cow-towing to rich assholes, with light bitching thrown in for good measure, begins anew.

In the last few months several astonishing articles were published about the widening income gap and related issues.

In the Mother Jones, March-April 2011 issue, check out the article, “It’s the Inequality, Stupid,” by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot. The subtitle is apt: Eleven charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America. I am reproducing two of them here:

How Rich Are the Super-rich?

A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn’t reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

 

 

 

Winners Take All

The super-rich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.

A couple of weeks ago the UK Daily Mail published this article: “America’s pay gap shame: Inequality between rich and poor is worse than Cameroon, Ivory Coast and revolutionary Egypt,” by Paul Bentley.

Mr. Bentley used the CIA’s World Fact Book to show, “The situation is so extreme the land of the free falls behind countries such as Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and revolutionary Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen – and only just in front of Uganda and Jamaica.” WTF?

The article also provides a list of America’s Ten Richest Assholes.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that executive pay is up 23% over last year, despite the weak economy and high unemployment in “We Knew They Got Raises. But This?” by Pradnya Joshi.

“The final figures show that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million. That works out to a 23 percent gain from 2009.”

Did you get a 23% raise this year?

David Cay Johnston has been writing about this topic for years. His books, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With The Bill. His books have been best sellers for years.

The income disparity between rich assholes and the rest of us has been a matter of public record for years.  I have a friend from East Germany who tells me in the 1980s the Communists taught her that the income gap in the United States  was like the tips of scissor blades opening wider and wider.

Why does income disparity matter? The Daily Mail article suggests that for many it doesn’t. “Those who defend executive pay say they are worth more than they used to be because companies have grown and become more difficult to manage. ‘You’re king of the hill, and you get paid for that,’ worker Ray Kavanaugh, 61, said of Engles. ‘He’s worth it if he keep the company making money.'” Mr. Kavanaugh doesn’t seem to understand that a company doesn’t exist to  make money for its employees unless they happen to be executives.

If  the income gap does matter, why aren’t Americans protesting in the streets like the Egyptians? Has our self-determination disintegrated to nothing more than a shoulder shrug and and a sigh? “Oh well, the rich get richer…just as inevitable as death and taxes…”

There is an apt parable here, but first watch this video, one of the first scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, to get into the right frame of mind.

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