D Clarity

What Is This Weird Balloon For

inequality

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Robert Reich discusses the underlying problem with the US economy:

America’s median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class could boost its purchasing power was to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATMs. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn’t pay their bills, and banks couldn’t collect.

Each of America’s two biggest economic downturns over the last century has followed the same pattern. Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation’s total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America’s total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.

Where does he think this is heading?

When virtually all the gains from growth go to a small minority at the top — and the broad middle class can no longer pretend it’s richer than it is by using homes as collateral for deepening indebtedness — the result is deep-seated anxiety and frustration. This is an open invitation to demagogues who misconnect the dots and direct the anger toward immigrants, the poor, foreign nations, big government, “socialists,” “intellectual elites,” or even big business and Wall Street. The major fault line in American politics is no longer between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, but between the “establishment” and an increasingly mad-as-hell populace determined to “take back America” from it.

When they understand where this is heading, powerful interests that have so far resisted fundamental reform may come to see that the alternative is far worse.

The economic status of the median American worker has been getting worse for decades. It is hard for me to imagine those workers doing anything about the situation, and hard for me to imagine that the powerful interests mentioned worry for a second that they will.

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Written by geek

14/07/2010 at 2:06 am

Posted in economy

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