Friday, October 12, 2007

Rich Getting Richer

Is this supposed to be a surprise?
The richest one percent of Americans earned a postwar record of 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, up from 19 percent a year earlier, reflecting a widening income disparity among different classes in the nation, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing new Internal Revenue Service data.

The data showed that the fortunes of the bottom 50 percent of Americans are worsening, with that group earning 12.8 percent of all income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent the year before, the paper said.

It said that while the IRS data goes back only to 1986, academic research suggests that the last time wealthy Americans had such a high percentage of the national income pie was in the 1920s.
Is history about to repeat itself? The 1920's was referred to as the roaring 20's and it was the era of the Robber Barons. This era ushered in the great depression. Whether we are seeing history repeat itself isn't clear but what is clear is that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer with the middle class being killed in the process.

Is this the type of society you want to live in? If you are not sure you should arrange a trip to Brazil and see what income inequality looks like in real time. It is time for the middle and lower classes to stand up and say enough is enough. The only way to fight back is to elect those that understand that a large and stable middle class is essential to protecting democracy. What we have right now is a government that is bordering on fascism. If you don't believe me then look at this list of the warning signs of fascism:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people's attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute.

5. Domestic spying. Secret surveillance of and gathering dossiers on its own citizens.

6. A controlled mass media. Whether directly or indirectly, these regimes exercised power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite.

7. Obsession with national security. National security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting "national security," and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the "godless."

9. Power of corporations protected. The corporate structure was a way to not only ensure military production, but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of "have-not" citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal.

12. "Normal" and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or "traitors" was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism.

14. Fraudulent elections. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
If you can't see parallels to today's America then you simply are not paying attention.

59 comments:

John said...

Good post, Jeff.
About those "gaps in skill levels:" what exactly are the skills necessary to be rich? What skills made George W rich? If it's a matter of skill, there must be a way to teach and test for it.

Do the rich have higher test scores? What's the TEST FOR THE SKILLS TO MAKE PEOPLE RICH? Let's get that out on the table so the schools can get retooled to teach to THE TEST and make everybody multimilloionaires.

This is silly.

Making big money is usually a pyramid scheme of one sort or another. It's about buying cheap and selling high. and, it's about winning the rich family lottery. Most people underastand this, but unfortunately, they accept it.

It doesn't help when those in power (and we helped put them there) keep tell us we're just not smart or skilled enough to have money.

Jeff Autero said...

If there is a skill gap why aren't we asking how to close it? I have recently been in the job market and you would be surprised how often my choice of college was not acceptable. Now you must go to the correct school as well. The playing field is far from level and the rich will continue to get richer while the poor will become poorer until we level the playing field by publicly financing campaigns and removing corporate money from the political process.

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