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Why I'm an unapologetic Progressive:

I've been poor, and I've been not so Poor

Not so Poor, is better ...  

Although, it took a LOT of Hard Work, and a LOT of Years, to claw my way from Poverty, into the Middle Class.

Why I'm an unapologetic Progressive:

I've been without Health Care, and I've been with Care

With Care, is better ...  

Although, it took a LOT of commitment, to stick with No Career-track Jobs -- to get some meager amount of Health Care, sometimes.

Why I'm an unapologetic Progressive:

I've been without Hope and Opportunity, and I've been with Some Hope

Being with Hope, is better ...  

Although, it took a LOT of Student Loans, self-determination, and YEARS of paying back Student Debts -- to escape the soul-weary Traps of Poverty -- and the limited Opportunities, that are the hallmarks of that dreary demographic ...

And things are NOT getting any easier in that work-a-day world of the ever Shrinking Paychecks, otherwise known as, drawing the "Poor Card", in the Lottery of Life.

Personal Progress should depend on your hard work, initiative, drive, skills and knowledge -- not on which side of the tracks, your were raised;  or which Social Contacts you have in your Economic circle.

"Equality of Opportunity" should be more than an Ideal in Life ... especially in America

-- It should be the Reality.   It should be a given.

But sadly those Wealthy Few at the top of the Economic Scales,  STILL keep managing to tilt most of those Opportunities, most of the Income, and with it most of the Hope -- into their Favor ... into their Pockets;  and into the Favor of their friends and benefactors too.  Those at the Bottom, well we just need to KEEP pulling up on those Boot-straps, I guess.  

Progressives, especially those who focus on a Tax Fairness, a Living Wage, dignity and Safety in the Workplace, Fair Trade, Education, and Security in Health and Retirement -- they speak for me.  They speak to the troubles, that I and millions of others have faced, in the daily struggle to find the means, to find the will to survive ... survive to pay yet another round of bills, in an endless chain of bills.

I've been without Hope and Opportunity, and I've been with Some Hope

Being with Hope, is better ...  

Yet for Millions (or 20% of the Population, about 60 million Americans) "Hope and Opportunity" become more out of reach everyday, every year ...

(one thing all those debt-ridden years at the University taught me however, was how to research a topic, and how to crunch those oh-so-important Economic numbers ...)

NOTE:  Quintile is a fancy word for 20% of something, [in this case Americans' Income] ranked in order, from the least to the most.

In 1968

In 1978

In 1988

In 1998

In 2004

In 2008

In 2009

and ... IF "Equality of Income Opportunities" were indeed the Reality in America -- those Pie Charts SHOULD really look more like this:

In an Ideal World

Kind of looks like the "gold" segments of Society have been taking MORE than their "fair share" of the Economic Pie, for at least several decades -- at the expense of those who have far too few slices of "opportunity" to begin with --

And the long-run trends indicate that this Income Inequality, has been only getting worse.

These charts tell us that those at the top of scale, those with the Gold, those with the breaks in life -- They just keep getting more, while those at the bottom of the Income/Opportunity scale, they just keep getting less and less ...

Here are the increasing rate of Poverty stats:

U.S. CENSUS BUREAU -- Current Population Reports - Issued September 2010
Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009  (pdf)
[Page 14]


-- The official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent -- up from 13.2 percent in 2008. This was the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004 (Table 4 and Figure 4).

-- In 2009, 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008—the third consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty (Table 4 and Figure 4).

-- Between 2008 and 2009, the poverty rate increased
for non-Hispanic Whites (from 8.6 percent to 9.4 %),
for Blacks (from 24.7 percent to 25.8 % ), and
for Hispanics (from 23.2 percent to 25.3 % ).
For Asians, the 2009 poverty rate ( 12.5 % ) was not statistically different from the 2008 poverty rate (Table 4).

What does the long-run trend look like -- in the battle between the Wealthy Few and the weary Working Class Many ?  ...  Lop-sided battle that it is.

Here are those Wealth Distribution numbers crunched, once again -- breaking up the Population into 5 income bracket groups (Quintiles) and the US Govt too often does.  Actual counts of Families effected, would probably be TOO Stark a metric, SO Quintiles it is.

Trend from 1967 to 2009 -- Bar Chart


Trend from 1967 to 2009 -- "Equivalent" Areas Chart

larger -- fewer percentages
larger -- no percentages

and ... IF "Equality of Income Opportunities" were the Reality in America -- those longitudinal Trends Charts SHOULD look more like this:

In an Ideal World


But alas we don't live in such a world -- where all humans are born into Equal Opportunities --  some of us are MORE Equal than others, in Life's Wheel of Fortune Lottery.

THAT'S WHY I'm an unapologetic Progressive ...

I've been poor, and I've been not so Poor

Not so Poor, is better ...  

Although, it took a LOT of Hard Work, and a LOT of Years, to claw my way from Poverty, into a very shaky the Middle Class perch.

And yet there are Millions, of Americans, STILL trapped in that Land without Hope, without Opportunity, WITHOUT WORK,  many without homes, and too many without health care too.  (otherwise known as the ranks of Poverty and the Unemployed and the bilked.)

THEY STILL need the Help of those More Fortunate in Society ... and much, much less of Society's scorn.

THEY STILL need Progressives to Stand up and be heard, to be counted, and to be "factored into Congressional Deals" ... that is IF ever, the "Tables of Equality", are to be Tilted back in favor of ...

the Unfortunate Many.    The Workers-bees in life.

America IS better than, what we've been getting ...

or at least WE should be.   We believe that all People are created equal ... and that ...

Some day all that Pursuing of Happiness,  should actually lead there,

Don't you think?

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:04 PM PST.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good stuff. . . (8+ / 0-)

    except for one major problem.  You show a flat income distribution pie chart (every quintile with exactly the same share of income), and then say

    and ... IF "Equality of Opportunity" were indeed the Reality in America -- those Pie Charts SHOULD really look more like this:

    But that's equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.  A society can have perfectly equitable opportunity and still have a strongly skewed income distribution.  

    It's an extremely important distinction because scholars have long documented a clear pattern in American public opinion -- almost everyone claims to support equality of opportunity, whereas only a tiny proportion of citizens support total equality of outcome.  

    In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

    by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:16:26 PM PST

    •  good point cardinal (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cardinal, blueyedace2, MTmofo

      thanks for making that subtle, but important, distinction.

      Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

      by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:18:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've revised the text ... nt (0+ / 0-)

      Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

      by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:22:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wayoutinthestix, jamess

        being attentive to the comments.  

        I teach this very topic, and I've used these charts many times in my lectures.  I'm not at all trying to tell you how to write the diary -- but this is simply my opinion:  I would be careful about how you frame the flat charts, because most people wouldn't consider them the "ideal."  Again, a society in which everybody makes exactly the same amount of money is "equality of outcome."  Whether called communism or whatever, it's just not something that is supported in America.  However, you have a great case to make with the trajectory of the charts from the 1960s through today.  I always say to my students:  

        Look, no one thinks that the government should forcefully redistribute income so that everyone has exactly the same amount.  However, look at the trend.  The rich are getting richer, and taking a much larger share of the pie than 40 years ago.  Can anyone really say that it's because rich Americans are working harder than they did 40 years ago?  Of course not.  So, even if you think that the CEOs, etc., deserve to have more than their employees [and it's a conservative university, so of course they do], is it really fair that, as the pie grows, only one subset of citizens is benefitting from that growth?

        In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

        by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:34:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cardinal, wayoutinthestix

          I'm not advocating Communism or even Socialism,
          or Wealth Re-distribution (except in terms of Tax Policy).

          I hesitated using those "Ideal World" charts -- and really didn't know how to "frame them"  -- that's why I initally called it "equal opportunity" --

          But I wanted to include those "Ideal World" charts  -- for context -- to show "how out of whack" everything is now,

          in terms of social fairness, and Income disparity.

          ie. that we should Tax the Rich more -- they can afford it.

          thanks for the feedback and insight,
          and your perspective cardinal

          Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

          by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:42:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Instead of using completely (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hyperstation, jamess

            flat charts as an ideal, you might find use in comparing the income distribution of America to those of our economic and cultural peers (i.e., Western Europe).  The Gini Coefficient is a standard measure of wealth concentration in society, and ours is far out of whack with all of the other most prosperous countries in the world.

            In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

            by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 04:10:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  You Can NOT Permit Certain Skewed Outcomes (5+ / 0-)

      The top end has to be constrained within a few times the median, and it cannot gain relative to the median on a steady basis.

      Support, shmort, an excessively rich American top class that's gaining more than the median is unsafe to the entire world. Twice it's plunged the world into or to the brink of global depression because when it's doing too well, too unconstrained, it turns the economy into a casino and bankrupts everyone.

      In fact in the only 50 year non-panic large-middle-class economy we ever had, we began compressing income aggressively only a few times above the median. The 50% top marginal rate cut in at what would be about a quarter million today.

      This has all kinds of important benefits for society, for example keeping many sectors of the economy essential for either culture or economy competitive, by making it more or less pointless for a few high return potential activities to dominate as finance has come to do.

      The industrial and information economies are inherently disastrous for healthy societies, by virtues of the extreme efficiencies they can create in very limited activities, without a lot of government brakes on skewing of outcomes.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:32:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  See my reply (0+ / 0-)

        above -- I agree with all of that.  But I think you would agree (maybe?) with the narrow point I was addressing, which is that the flat charts (everybody in America makes exactly the same amount of money) represent an ideal that simply would not be supported, even by the left.

        In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

        by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:36:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  should we use Tax Policy (0+ / 0-)

        to re-balance the scales?

        Or at least base Tax Credits for the Rich
        on Actual Job Creation in America --
        or on Capital Investments, made locally.

        Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

        by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:46:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This canard is false. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You cannot have equality of opportunity and still have a highly skewed income distribution. It's just not true. Where there is equal opportunity, there will be more equal results.

      •  I don't agree. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, jamess, Blueslide

        Equality of opportunity, as commonly understood, means that everyone starts from the same starting line.  Everyone, regardless of the socio-economic circumstances in to which they're born, has an equal chance to get ahead with hard work, etc.  But I don't see how that's directly related to how we end up.  

        Now let's be clear: we do NOT have anything resembling equality of opportunity in contemporary America.  And, as I argued above, the extreme skew to our income distribution is immoral and dangerous.  But I don't see the direct link between the distribution and the extent to which we do (or don't) have equality of opportunity.

        In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

        by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 04:07:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  my opportunities to "succeed" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cardinal, Azazello

          were very iffy indeed.

          Student Loans were hard to get and skimpy.

          A college degree doesn't always translate into good income.

          I'm still scrapping away, trying to reach my "true potential" --

          and have realized lately -- Odds are, I will never get there,

          given my still tough lot in life.

          I'm just "working for living" ... I guess ... taking what they're giving ...

          Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

          by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 04:15:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Suppose we define (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cardinal, jamess, tardis10

          equality of opportunity as social mobility ? Here's how they relate :

          My point is that highly unequal results are prima facie evidence of highly unequal opportunity.

          •  Good point. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jamess, Blueslide, Azazello

            First, thanks for posting that chart.  I just downloaded the original study and will give it a careful read.  Mobility is extremely hard to measure, and so I'll reserve judgment on whether they did it satisfactorily until I read it.  But obviously, the London School of Economics generally produces high-quality scholarship; and I had missed it, despite specifically looking for such studies last month.

            I still think it's useful to keep equality of opportunity, mobility, and income inequality as distinct concepts (so, for example, I don't define equality of opportunity as social mobility, since neither one is a necessary or sufficient condition for the other) -- but that chart, if it's right, certainly does provide compelling evidence of a connection.  So thanks again for the info.

            In Rand McNally, they wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people!

            by cardinal on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 04:38:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Quintiles! I like that word. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, jethrock

    I have never heard it before. Thanks for your diary.

    I have been less poor than I am now, and I liked it a lot better! :)

    Also navigating my life without health insurance has been, uh interesting.

    must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.

    by Krush on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:18:02 PM PST

    •  thanks Krush (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and Quartile are 25% of something -- in ranked order

      for the Quintiles in the charts above

      the bottom 20% of Income earners are in the Purple band
      (which shows their share of income)

      the Top 20% of Income earners are in the Gold band
      (showing their lions share of all American Income, nearly 50%)

      thx for the feedback.

      Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

      by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:28:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I teach low income immigrant kids (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, jethrock

    and their future does not look bright. They are not getting an education that will move them into the middle class. I am hoping that enough middle class remains for my kids to at least have a comfortable future.

    •  thanks for that insight nokomis (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jethrock, nokomis

      opportunity often hinges on such training --

      you are doing a great service.

      But still the jobs have to be there,
      for the Opportunities to pan out.

      I worry for the younger gens myself.

      and I pray I don't get laid off,
      with Age-discrimination, being what it is lately.

      Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

      by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:31:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Those who are interested in this topic, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, jethrock, tardis10

         might want to look in on Income Inequality Kos, Thursdays, 9 Eastern.    

  •  Fuck The People (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "An exact science is one that admits loss" -- Genesis P-Orridge

    by jethrock on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 03:45:39 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Tipped and rec'd. You put a lot of work and thought into this critical topic.

    -7.5 -7.28, Democratic Socialism...It's not just for Europeans.

    by Blueslide on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 05:25:22 PM PST

    •  thanks Blueslide (0+ / 0-)

      appreciate the feedback,

      glad you liked it.

      yeah, I spent about 4-5 hours putting this together,
      making those charts was a pain,
      especially when Photobucket started resizing
      my largest images. Oy!

      Where's the Note?    -- SEIU

      by jamess on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 05:31:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great tool for the fight (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Okay, one of many tools, but this one is worth serious consideration by the entire progressive community:

    (Warning: both the Catholic World Report and Playboy magazine are referenced in this piece.  If you feel this could cause the Internet to implode into a black hole, read no further))

    In the 1970's, Saul Alinsky worked with an amazing and effective tactic for confrontic corporate power.  He worked to get concerned citizens to assign their shareholder's proxy votes to organizers who then would demand votes on issues at annual meetings with the force of those votes behind them. These actions were not expected to change policy directly, because a few powerful sharholders would hold a majority of vote, but the resultin gdisruption and publicity was able to force change.

    This can still work.  The simple proof?  Right wingers like Proof that this  Andrew Briebart are scared of it:

    These tactic is being used now.

    Learning from Alinsky  October 2010 issue of Catholic World Report

    See also

    Nuns vs. Bankers: The Shareholder Proxy Wars Time Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2010:

    and more from Triple Pundit: People Planet Profit December 10th, 2010:

    Here's Alinksy describing the potential from a March 1972 Playboy Interview(yes, believe it or not, the magazine actually has done some journalism)

    Soooo, seems to me that with all the conservative talk of an ownership society, we ought to take advantage of that ownership.  This is one way to do it.


    Recommended reading/listening/viewing  for radicals:

    The incomparable Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Online preview here .  This is a practical guide to how to take power away from those who have it.  The essential premise is that the Have’s advantage is a lot of money; their disadvantage is few people.  The Have=Not’s are in the opposite situations.  So Alinsky provides examples and guides on how to use the advantages of people over money.  Most are easy to do, many absolutely hysterical, and all effective.  See the O’Hare Airport Shit-In.  (yes, you read that right. No spoilers here though, you’ll have to read the book)

    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. by Robert Cialdini. This is the single most valuable book I have read on how to persuade and how to avoid being persuaded.

    Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives, by George Lakoff. See also: Cognitive Policy Wonks and The Progressive Strategy Handbook Project

    Frank Luntz: everything he’s written.  He's a conservative message master, and you have to know the enemy.    Remember the great scene in Patton, when the victorious general shouted: “Rommel! You magnificent son of a bitch!  I READ YOUR BOOK!”

    Making the News: A Guide for Activists and Nonprofits, By Jason Salzman

    The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections, By Catherine Shaw

    How To Win A Local Election,by Lawrence Grey

    The Opposition Research Handbook: Guide to Political Investigations

    Guerrilla Marketing

    Chompsky.Info  Many of Noam Chompsky’s insightful and frightening analyses

    Robert Newman’s History of Oil Thanks to GreyHawk for recommending this.


    To see how the combined direct costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars affects you see the National Priorities Project's and select your state and city.  


    Build Infrastructure:  Volunteer!  List of State and Local Democratic Parties

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

    by TheGrandWazoo on Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 05:32:32 PM PST

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