You can have wealth concentrated in the
hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both." - Louis Brandeis
"... inequality does not affect only the poor, but can be
detrimental to growth, stability and well-being in general."
UN Report: Inequality Matters (pdf).
It was always a mirage to imagine that you could have
a political democracy expressed in elections and not also have an
economic democracy. It's really simple. If you allow an economic
system in which 1 percent of the people have more than half the
wealth and the other 99 percent have to share the other half, then
the 1 percent are not going to be so stupid as to not realise that
one of the ways you secure yourself is to control the political
the Economy, Challenging Capitalism: Richard Wolff pg
"The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24
percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As
Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality,
the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of
wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela,
and Guyana." Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times
"American inequality didn't just happen. It was created." Joseph E. Stiglitz
“The American oligarchy spares no pains in
promoting the belief that it does not exist, but the success of its
disappearing act depends on equally strenuous efforts on the part
of an American public anxious to believe in egalitarian fictions
and unwilling to see what is hidden in plain sight.” —
Michael Lind, To Have and to
"We now see ourselves ruled by a remote class. They may not
wear flowing robes, or carry miters, but they are marked
in their own way as separate and distinct. The distance between those
who will be bailed out and those who will not is the ultimate
social distance, and it has grown so vast it now strains the bonds
or representation that hold the republic together." Chris
Hayes: Twilight of the Elites, America After Meritocracy
"Income inequality in America really is about oligarchs
versus everyone else. When the Occupy Wall Street people talk about the
99 percent, they're actually aiming too low." Paul
"Pretending that the distribution of income and
wealth that results from a long set of policy decisions is somehow the
natural workings of the market is not a serious position. It might be
politically convenient for conservatives who want to lock inequality in
place." Dean Baker's book Rigged (download the free
The distribution of wealth is not determined by nature. It
is determined by public policy. Eric Schneiderman, New York State
"Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per
cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone
else -particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder." Jeremy
Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam
"Throughout my twelve years in Congress, alarming figures
about the economic stagnation of middle and lower income Americans were
readily available. The figures are worse today. From 1979 to 2005
the top 1 percent of American earners received more than one-third
of all gains in national income, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent
recieved over one-fifth of all after-tax income gains during that
period. By contrast, the bottom 60 percent received only 13.5
percent of all gains in national income. As Hacker and Pierson
point ou in their Winner-Take-All Politics." Tom
Allen: Dangerous Convictions.
"... high levels of inequality strain the bonds that hold us
together as a society. There has been a long-term downward trend in
the extent to which Americans trust either the government or one
another. In the sixties, most Americans agreed with the proposition
that “most people can be trusted”; today most
disagree.’ In the sixties, most Americans believed that the
government is run “for the benefit of all”; today, most
believe that it’s run for “a few big interests.”
And there’s convincing evidence that growing inequality is
behind our growing cynicism, which is making the United States seem
increasingly like a Latin American country. As the political
scientists Eric Uslaner and Mitchell Brown point out (and support
with extensive data), “In a world of haves and have-nots,
those at either end of the economic spectrum have little reason to
believe that ‘most people can be trusted’ . ..social
trust rests on a foundation of economic equality.” Paul
Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal pg 251
Economists who say we should relegate questions about
inequality to philosophers often advocate policies, like tax cuts for
the wealthy, that increase inequality substantially. That greater
inequality causes real harm is beyond doubt. Robert H. Frank, New
York Times, 10/17/2010
"Aristotle, who saw extreme inequality as the fundamental cause of revolution,
argues in Politics that the rise of an oligarchic state leads to one of
two scenarios. The impoverished underclass can revolt and overthrow
the oligarchs to rectify the imbalance of wealth and power, or it can
submit to the tyranny of oligarchic rule." Chris Hedges, Wages of
Rebellion pg 82
In the history of the modern world, inequality has only been
ended through Communist revolution, war or deflationary economic collapse ...
It's a disturbing question which of these three is going to happen
today, or if there's a fourth way out." Peter
Income inequality is created by government policy, naturally
tends to increase over time, and is much more extreme than most people
realize. As it rises world-wide, democracy
is in retreat. It is at the
root of many problems: campaign finance, rigged elections,
bought government, policy error, media distortion, market failure,
social pathology, corruption, systemic malfunction, class warfare. As
the wealthy game the system for
themselves, the economy becomes unstable, unfair, and unsustainable. Government controlled by the
funders, not the people, often does the wrong thing.
Democracy withers, a strong-man dictator takes over, police
are militarized to keep the people down, military adventures continue the forever war.
Government should limit it, otherwise in the extreme there is
little social mobility, sham democracy,
and wide discontent. Nordic countries are better at keeping it
under control and that is why they have a strong social safety net.
A strong safety net can
help to limit it and stabilize the economy:
Welfare, Social security,
health care, public education, child care,
paid leave, secure retirement are all effective, humane policies. Universal voting rights,
range voting, strong unions, worker representation in management,
progressive taxation, inheritance taxes are all helpful. Republicans,
fixated on money, oppose them all, and actually exacerbate the problem
with austerity and massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The billionaires,
like Trump, will get huge windfalls if they
can repeal the inheritance tax.
When corporations consolidate, it is usually to reduce
payrolls, and limit competition. They lobby for deregulation so that
they are free to pollute. Oligarchs are created and paid astronomical
sums. It was always a mistake for corporations to take on social
responsibility. They bust unions,reduce wages and benefits like
pensions, health care. Without effective anti-trust, whole industries,
such as media, become dysfunctional or even predatory.
A weak economy moves people to right-wing (Republican) politics.
When corporations control government that, by definition, is Fascism.
Racism, nativism, and other discrimination are blamed for problems. A
strong man becomes head of state declaring the nation is exceptional.
The military and police are expanded to match rising paranoia. Money is
no object to renew and expand the nuclear
arsenal. Provocative actions are evident on the far-flung borders of
the empire. Corporations ramp up arms
production for assured profit from their one customer, the
government(s). Don't think it is for the protection of the people.
This could be a Weimar moment.
Of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) only Turkey and Mexico have more unequal societies than the United
Extinction: Anthony D. Barnosky
Income inequality is at the root of many problems: campaign
finance, bought government, media distortion,
market failure, social pathology, corruption, systemic
malfunction, class warfare, policy error. It's why government often
does the wrong thing. It has a natural tendency to increase, and, as it
does, renders most people powerless. It results in an economy that is unstable, unfair, and
unsustainable; a political system that is corrupt and undemocratic; media that is untrustworthy; justice only for the
wealthy, elections that can be purchased.
The Constitution rightly attempted to block concentration of
public power, but not private. But wealth
is power, and both have become extremely concentrated.
The U.S. is an oligopoly.
The US Congress creates the environment that breeds oligarchs, and is now run by oligarchs. Media
moguls control pretty much everything broadcast. Bankers get
unlimited bailouts of taxpayer money without strings. The Congress often gets it wrong because it is money
driven. Anti-trust enforcement is a forgotten relic. Democracy withers when income
disparities are extreme. We have a strong-man Presidency,
but, thanks to the Supreme Court, Corporations rule, not the people.
That is a powerful force for Fascism.
Concentration of wealth is a
major cause of our difficulties and as it increased, which it
undoubtedly has, we become less able to
deal with our problems: Demand weakens, social mobility disappears,
market volatility increases, large amounts of money game the system, government
becomes dysfunctional because it is hooked on campaign money. Democracy withers away. Plutocracy
rules. With Citizen's United, corruption is assured.
Large disparities in income are bad for democracy, bad for the
general welfare, bad for the economy. They
lead to social pathologies, inequity in the Courts, destroy domestic tranquility,
suppress economic activity, and because we have ignored it, we experienced yet another economic collapse.
Republicans ignore this problem
because they are on the wealthy side of the class struggle. Their religious hypocrisy is on full display with
their harsh policies for the poor. (See the Ryan budget.) The
end result of relentless concentration is extreme inequality followed by financial collapse, in which
everyone is a loser.
James Gilligan, formerly at the Harvard Medical School,
Director of Mental Health Services for Massachusetts prisons, and now
Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University has written a book "Why
Some Politicians are more Dangerous that Others”. In it, he finds
that violent deaths (murder and suicides) are strongly correlated with Republican Presidencies.
evidence that high levels of income inequality, as in the US, are
highly correlated with corruption. (1, 2)
Republicans brought on the financial crisis with deregulation
that allowed markets to go out of control, privatization that
removed the public from the process, tax
cuts that in effect directed massive public debt into deep
private pockets (banana republic), civil service destruction and
cronyism placed incompetents in public office; regressive, anti-labor policies led to a general
decline in consumption; a determination to build an empire for world domination requires unlimited
budget for the military; a contempt for international
law covered up illegal
activities including torture, renditions,
secret prisons Congress did no oversight during the Bush
years; regulatory agencies were captives of the industries they
were supposed to regulate; industry migrated to low wage countries
and not much was done to mitigate the damage; but there was war
enough for everyone. War is profitable, and in its chaos pallet
loads of shrink wrapped money just disappeared. Civil liberties here in the good old US
of A were cut down to size by chicken hawks who built the profitable national security state. PayGo
There is a relatively simple way damp down obscene compensation,
to pay our bills (which we are not), to reduce inequality and to
keep up our infrastructure, and that is to restore a stiff graduated income tax. Continue the estate
tax to be sure that we do not create an aristocracy,
and to break up extreme concentrations of wealth with a renewal of anti-trust oversight.
Anti-trust should preserve competition where it can.
The Constitution has an
inherent warning about concentrated power, but it has little to say about
private power. Anti-trust efforts faded away. We are seeing media that is too concentrated, banks
that should be broken up, insurance companies that can kill health care reforms, oil companies that
successfully deny climate change. We
have allowed the military to become too large and it now threatens
our civil liberties. You no longer
have fourth or sixth amendment rights.
When corporations run government, that is the very definition of fascism.
Do we not have that ?
In 1929 inequality reached new heights, the market crashed, and
there was widespread misery. It has happened again and we have not
yet recovered. Worse, those banks that were too big to fail got
bailed out by taxpayers. As Larry Lessig
pointed out, this is the stupidest form of socialism ever
Wide income inequality leads to market volatility, lack of
demand, little competition among big corporations, widespread
misery, anti-social behavior, environment devastating, corporate
behavior. Institutional racial bias keeps
minorities in prisons in much larger
proportions, which in turn excludes them from voting.
Concentrated wealth becomes aristocracy
when there is low social
mobility. Wages go down, necessities become more expensive,
education out of reach for most, and wealthy build gated communities to
protect themselves from growing chaos. Students and many others are
driven into debt servitude. Republican
policy is hastening the
Through history, economic cycles are strongly correlated with
levels of concentrated wealth. There are at least 3
known ways to fix it:
FDR proposed a Second Bill of Rights, which would have
provided a social safety net for everyone. This is the mildest and most
humane way to damp down inequality, but Republicans would never favor
it. They are in control and the military
state is ascendant. Most likely, we are doomed.
Economic turmoil can easily produce
a fascist state as the Germans learned.
The Bush family helped finance the Nazis. Republicans
seem to crave a Fascist State. At the extreme, like Rome,
we become an empire, which requires a large
standing military. That is the direct cause
of the loss of civil liberties, and ultimately results in a dictatorship, because
representative government cannot deal with an empire. Since empire is ruinously expensive, people's
standard of living must necessarily fall. The elite
game the system for themselves driving the majority into servitude.
Official activity must be carried out in secret. Media
cannot reveal the truth. In history, every empire
collapses. A World War devastates the country, as happened in Germany,
and reduces income inequality.
The other way, as seen in France, Russia, early America
and other countries, is revolution. When people become sufficiently
dissatisfied and desperate, they will throw off the ruling elite.
A World War will also do
the job, but another will most likely be nuclear and may destroy us
“Chances of achieving the ‘American Dream’ are almost
times higher in Canada than the United States,” showing slide with data
to back up the claim." Raj
Chetty (Boston Globe)
UN: Financial Inequality Rapidly Grows in US
A United Nations report has revealed major US cities,
including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans, have levels of
economic inequality that rival cities in Africa. The report found
that the United States had the highest inequality and poverty after
Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000.
The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is
about the same as that of people living in China and some states of