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not by those at the bottom of the inverted pyramid of income, but of policies of governments.

In this Opinionator blog piece from the New York Times, the Nobel economic laureate takes us through the numbers.

He is exploring the work of World Bank economist Branko Milanovic and others, and starts with the development of the industrial revolution to provide historical context.

Consider this paragraph, focusing on the work of Milanovic:  

From 1988 to 2008, Mr. Milanovic found, people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income. And while median incomes have greatly improved in recent decades, there are still enormous imbalances: 8 percent of humanity takes home 50 percent of global income; the top 1 percent alone takes home 15 percent. Income gains have been greatest among the global elite — financial and corporate executives in rich countries — and the great “emerging middle classes” of China, India, Indonesia and Brazil. Who lost out? Africans, some Latin Americans, and people in post-Communist Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Mr. Milanovic found.
Please keep reading.

The pattern is world-wide, but especially and increasingly acute in the United States.

It is worth noting, as Stiglitz does, that increasing inequality is not foreordained -  in recent years,

countries like Chile, Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Hungary managed to reduce (in some cases very high) income inequality significantly, suggesting that inequality is a product of political and not merely macroeconomic forces. It is not true that inequality is an inevitable byproduct of globalization, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services, and technological change that favors better-skilled and better-educated employees.
note carefully, that inequality is a product of political and not merely macroeconomic forces.

It does not have to be this way.

Unfortunately, in the US it is increasingly so.  As Stiglitz notes:

The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top — and increasingly to the very, very top.

Last year, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 22 percent of the nation’s income; the top 0.1 percent, 11 percent. Ninety-five percent of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. Recently released census figures show that median income in America hasn’t budged in almost a quarter-century.

I am already pushing the limits of fair use.  

This is an important posting.

It is well worth reading, especially for the final paragraph.

What I want to know is this:  when will we in the United States honestly address the issue of inequality, of how it is getting worse?

When will we have a political party that is willing to take it on, to recognize that our tax policies make it even worse?

Or are we willing to continue a pattern that destroys democracy, and which will also ultimately undermine the very production of wealth that is so benefiting the already wealthy?  Or are they too blind to see that they are eating their own seed corn?

Read the Stiglitz.

Then perhaps offer your thoughts on the thread?


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (33+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:32:50 PM PDT

  •  sorry it went up with html error on link (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, Lujane, Betty Pinson, sfbob

    I am tired

    now fixed

    do with it what you will

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:45:49 PM PDT

  •  Typo in the link, Ken, pls edit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, Lujane, sfbob

    when you get a chance so that folks can read the original.

    (Also best thoughts for Leaves.)


    by Uncle Cosmo on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:46:18 PM PDT

  •  The People! How Many Divisions Have They Got? (5+ / 0-)

    We have been addressing the issue of inequality since the Progressive Era. We briefly tried to reduce it, held a world war and pandemic then decided to advance it once again, then with that choice having quickly caused global Depression we spent 40-50 years working to minimize it, then heeding the call of our owners of the incalculable injustice of equality, returned to the historic norm for virtually all of civilization worked to restore inequality.

    If you don't like this, read your objections next week on the CBS Nightly News.

    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 Oct 13, 2013 at 08:46:27 PM PDT

  •  A very Stormy Monday ahead in the markets... (15+ / 0-)

    ...where it's going to hit the fan.

    Things are about to get real ugly outside the Beltway (never mind all of the destruction that's going on inside the Beltway for a moment) on Monday...where far greater problems have bubbled to the "surface" in the past few hours.

    First off...The New York Federal Reserve Branch and the Bank of International Settlements trading desks have both been called in for an emergency overnight session.

    And, I believe it has at least much to do with what's being reported below, than what's going on in D.C. However, I'm SURE that there will be plenty of MSM bullshit out there in the upcoming news cycle which will misreport and conflate that greater truth. For instance...two developments/nightmares in last few hrs...

    Europe's about to announce that the Italian and Spanish banks, ALONE, are well over $300 billion into insolvency-land. Part of their solution includes the raiding of citizens' bank accounts, which didn't exactly go over too well in Cyprus, not too long ago.

    Reuters: "Europe prepares to come clean on hidden bank losses"

    Additionally, U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve are still heavily-invested and/or supporting the European banks, although much of this reality won't receive too much coverage in the MSM (of course). (U.S. banks have most of their money in British, German, French and Scandinavian banks; it's those banks that have their money in Spain and Italy, etc. Perhaps in hours. The derivatives/swaps market's where this deal's going to get real toxic, real fast. And, the U.S. firms are up to their necks in those contracts.)  I've published many pieces here (and Stiglitz, and many others have commented upon it extensively, too) on this obfuscated reality over the years.

    In China, the Xinhua news agency (basically, the official mouthpiece for the Chinese government), has issued a major/milestone statement calling for global (the inevitable) hegemony that will, for all intents and purposes (at some point over the next 5+/- years, if not a lot sooner; and, yes, they've done this in the past, but the mere TIMING of this makes it much more notable, IMHO), do more to undermine the U.S. economy than anything that's happened in a long, long, long time. (Like: "forever.")

    Xinhua: "U.S. fiscal failure warrants a de-Americanized world"

    (All should read the article linked in this last link, IMHO. It's pretty stunning, considering its source.)

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 08:54:30 PM PDT

    •  I agree with the Chinese, we need to deAmericanize (0+ / 0-)

      the world.  It will allow us to cut our military by 2/3's so we can focus on more important things.  

      If we want to reduce income inequality, reduce the size of the financial sector in this country.  We started to go off track in the 80's with the rise of Wall Street.

  •  As I tell my students (11+ / 0-) my Latin American Societies class, not long ago social scientists from the US used to flock to Brazil to study inequality; today they can save the travel money and study it right here at home.

    And if recent trends in both countries continue (always a big "if"!), a couple of decades from now we'll have social scientists from Brazil coming to the US to study inequality.

    •  And in fact they can now travel to Brazil to study (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, KJG52, David Michigan

      how to reduce inequality, Brazil being one of the few countries that has made great gains in that area.

    •  In many respects a graph of a number of such (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, David Michigan

      characteristics in the two nations would indicate a crossing sometime in the next few years. We are heading for where Brazil was when I traveled there decades ago and they were at least climbing toward where we were then.

      There are still vast problems there, and some indications a fixation on image with hosting world events is a glitch causing real problems, but of late my travels there and elsewhere tend invoke thoughts on the reversal of the feel of "homecoming." Once, no matter how much I enjoyed Brazil or Europe or parts of Asia it was "returning to first world." Not so much now and even thoughts of "I've left first world" arriving back to dysfunction, crumbling infrastructure and often far less advanced and well implemented technology.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 04:58:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Of course it's a choice! (10+ / 0-)

    The problem is getting the people to quit accepting this as normal and to quit voting in people who continue the policies that bring inequality to the table.

    There are so many things we could be doing that would turn this ship around but people are heeding the siren call of right wing flamdoozelry. Deficit Deficit Taxes Taxes Bullshit!

    I try to stay optimistic and I hope that we can improve on every step that we have taken in the right direction, but sometimes it's damn hard.

    PS I'm sending my best wishes for Leaves and for you.

    Good night all.

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. John Prine

    by high uintas on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 09:25:02 PM PDT

  •  I dont know that inequality is a choice (0+ / 0-)

    I dont think it's possible to not have stratification for a whole host of reasons.

    I do agree that gross inequality is a choice.

    •  Of course, it's a choice. People who want to be (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, KJG52, Egalitare, a2nite

      superior need someone else to be inferior and the uneven distribution of money makes it so. But, money is a figment of the imagination and so is the whole arrangement. Where problems arise is when deprivation of money is used to nearly starve the subject population.
      The use of money to enslave a population is really nothing more than the abuse of a tool. The appropriate response is not to get rid of the tool, but to stop the abuser.

      •  it's a reality (0+ / 0-)

        there will always be folks who have more than other folks.  It has nothing to do with money.  It's human nature.  Some folks will "want" more than other folks, some will take, some will work harder, some will work just as hard but be unlucky, some will be lucky, some will be lazy, some will be greedy, and some will be altruistic and less focused on things.

        Thus, stratification for a whole host of reasons, some good, some bad, some random/neutral.  The goal should not be to eliminate all but to make it fair so that everyone who wants to move up the ladder can, with help where necessary (because of bad luck or to protect against the greed or taking of others).

        •  Humans are unique. Social stratification is an (0+ / 0-)

          artificial construct, having little or no connection to natural inclinations or talents.
          Mostly, the strate serve to make some people feel important than someone else, to compensate for an inferiority complex.

          •  clearly that's your belief (0+ / 0-)

            but it reflects nothing of the reality I see or history.

            Humans are not really unique in the literal sense of the word except in very narrow or minute ways.  I guarantee you that I can find two people on this planet out of 7 billion who think almost identically on just about everything under the sun...who'd react very similarly to most of the same situations.

            Furthermore, humans have predictable patterns for the most part except for a few outliers.  They can be anticipated, it's WHY we do so well in communicating with each other because we have enough similarities to understand body language, silent cues, and why empathy works.

            You can't have empathy unless you can successfully place yourself in the shoes of another to a substantial degree.

            Second of all, the strata exists because it exists.  Some folks are going to be dominant and lead, others are going to be more submissive and take an ancillary role.  Everyone can't be a chief and everyone can't be a worker bee.

            Humans are social beings and the idea that they social stratification doesn't flow from that when we see it all over the natural world in our closest relatives is mind-boggling blind.

    •  size matters: human scale (0+ / 0-)

      You might be thinking about cultures like ours, attempting to operate at the scale of continents and hundreds of millions of participants. That's far beyond our evolutionary human scale, and so a number of distortions have appeared.

      Cultures that operate at our evolved human scale — dozens or hundreds in physical proximity — tend to be egalitarian. (Not always, but tend to.)


      •  I'm thinking about humans (0+ / 0-)

        and you've given no proof for your last statement.

        And yes, thinking about cultures like ours is kinda what I like to call reality.  Because the idea of dozens/hundreds in close proximity went out quite awhile tens of thousands of years ago, and it isn't coming back.

  •  I'll check it out, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Shut down due to Republican intransigence.

    by blueoregon on Sun Oct 13, 2013 at 09:34:38 PM PDT

  •  Income inequality and the destruction of social (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, teacherken

    programs to cushion people from it, are the goals of the oligarchy now ruling America. As has been noted before, it is impossible to vote against the interests of the globalized corporate state that we now find ourselves in. However, the Republicans are now at the point that their "monster," has now taken over the party and is contemplating the destruction of its master. The neoliberal economic policies  of the "Washington Consensus" coupled with the failure of the "liberal class," to stop this insanity have now brought America to the point of impending economic and political chaos.

    The coffee shop and barroom discussions in the Beltway of the crowing T-publican idiots may now signal the end of the America we once knew and usher in an age of governmental/economic/social collapse, want and violence unlike anything seen in the US since the Civil War.

    Will the rotting hulk of coporatists, careerists, Wall Street lackeys and technocrats in the Democratic Party leadership step up and finally start to represent the working classes, poor, young and old that we once did? Or will the Party elites once again betray the legacy of FDR, JFK and LBJ? Will they once again turn to the wealthy donor class, Wall Street bankers and K Street lobbyists to construct another effigy of spin and propaganda to sell us a smoke screen of "Democratic" victory, while doing the work of the 1% and "compromise" with the lunatic fringe of the Republican wing of the oligarchy in order to  "reform" the "entitlements" that so bother the wealthy? Will there be a push for flattening the tax system, trimming Social Security, deconstructing MediCare, while pushing the economic costs of the "deficit" onto the shoulders of the working people of America in order to save us from the Republican menace? Will the "Grand Bargain" arise from the ashes and rear its ugly head?

    Pardon me for my cynicism, I have grown weary of the language of Democratic concern being uttered, while the actions of oligarchical manipulation are implemented as necessary policy under the banner of political necessity.


    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:02:40 AM PDT

  •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 01:13:10 AM PDT

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