The reality of wealth inequality in America.

I’m a liberal so I’m supposed to be all about the socialism and wealth redistribution. The truth is that I’m more or less fine with the capitalist system and the idea that if you work hard and apply yourself you’ll be successful so long as there’s enough regulations to keep it fair. The problem is that it’s not fair and that hard work often doesn’t result in anything more than an early grave. The Republicans seem to think that if we just pay the rich more and the poor less it’ll somehow make both of them work harder.

Pretty much everyone knows that the distribution of wealth in this country is out of whack if you want a healthy economy for the country as a whole, but most folks don’t really understand just how fucked up it really is. I know I didn’t until I saw this:

How is this situation in any way fair? Do we really think the top 1% of the country work hard enough to justify having 40% of all the wealth in the country? Just how much fucking money do you really need before you can live comfortably? I know I could get by more than fine with less than 1% of what the top 1% earn, but I’m not even close to that. I’ve managed to make it to the middle class, like my parents before me, but things have declined so much that I’m not able to afford half the things they did at my age.

Here’s the thing I don’t think the upper classes, particularly the 1 percenters, realize. You can’t keep making money off of people if they can no longer afford to spend it on anything other than the basic necessities (and often, not even that). History shows us that long-term it’s only going to cause problems for you down the line. It’s in your interests as well as ours to try and make things more equitable before the whole thing comes crashing down.

Or maybe they do realize it and just don’t give a shit so long as they have theirs.

8 comments

  1. The problem is they also own the basic necessities . Food , medicine , housing ,the banks that you keep your money in.

  2. “…the capitalist system and the idea that if you work hard and apply yourself you’ll be successful so long as there’s enough regulations to keep it fair.”

    That isn’t the capitalist system.

  3. The problem, alas, is that the mind that is willing to drive itself to do what is necessary to accumulate great wealth doesn’t understand “enough.” It’s not a matter of what is sufficient, it’s the _process_ of increasing wealth that intoxicates and drives him or her forward.

    To the extent that a consideration of morality comes into it, in Galbraith’s words: “The modern conservative is in fact, not especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest pursuits, best financed and most applauded and, on the whole least successful exercises in moral philosophy. This is the search for a truly superior moral justification for selfishness.”

  4. Only part of the story. The rich(est) have rigged the way the “game” is played to such an extent that they own the the ball the referee the stadium and the hot dog stand too, to extend the metaphor.

    If you can watch Park Avenue: money, power and the American dream – Why Poverty? gives a good idea of the lengths that have been gone to to ensure the richest will continue to accrue wealth:

  5. This video is interesting. At face value it does looks like a grand conspiracy by a few “elite” to hold everyone else down.

    I have to as myself though; did Bill Gates cheat or steal from me (not counting Windows Millennium ed.)? What about the guy that started Facebook, or Steve Jobs?

    I also noticed that the video is referring to wealth, not yearly income. This is an important distinction. If the money is tied up in assets like a farm, or production facility (sole proprietorship), then it’s hard for me to say it’s being horded.

    As the video states, there is a big difference between the 1% and the 0.1%. Some people in my family that came from close to poverty, went 100s of thousand into non-subsidized education debt are probably be in the 1% now.

    If the government want’s to focus on the 0.1%, and have some sort of wealth cap, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. The important thing is to, as Les said, have regulations that make the system fair. Letting companies manufacture hardware overseas at a plant where people are jumping to their deaths needs to stop. It’s wrong to exploit people that that, and US workers can’t compete with someone living in prison-like conditions. Though most people that enjoy their new iphone, or Wal-Mart toy don’t want think about having to pay more for it.

    We’re not on the gold standard where there is a finite amount of wealth. However we do have a finite amount of economic capacity (peoples work). If someone were to invent a teleporter, and become a trillionaire, I think there would still be enough of our funny money to go around. Our economic capacity would have to determine how fast he became one though – that’s where wealth comes from – people work. Though the stock market seems to defy economics.

    Of course I’m no PHD economist that can’t agree with another PHD economist about how the economy works…..

  6. Depressing reading

    http://news.yahoo.com/unicef-u-second-highest-child-poverty-rate-developed-162500231.html

    Read the report itself.

    Paul, it isn’t just about distribution – Obviously the % controlled by the richest 1% is going to out weigh the amount controlled by the bottom 1%, but it about the proportion that they do control, and the multiplier between top and bottom. Additionally its the way that those below the top have pressure placed upon them. The rich will say Western workers have priced themselves out of the market through greed. At what point can they compete? Foxconn, who make iPads had to double its wages to shop floor staff after a spate of suicides in 2010. It doubled from approx $150 to $300 PER MONTH. How can the west ever compete. If they did who would buy the products they make?

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