Monday, July 20, 2009

US Income Inequality Finally UNBELIEVABLE?

How much does this intro remind you of "W?" And, no, Joni would not have gone home with him.

And yes, the rich are quite a bit richer as a result of the last eight years - especially after the taxpayer bailouts! And they aren't rich because they are smart: although smart-assed is close.

Speaking of "smart-assed," did you hear that Dr. David Kelly may have been one of the victims (yes, no matter how they all pretend to great incompetence at murder today) of Dick Cheney's assassination ring? Someone said long ago that "you just can't make this stuff up!" That has not changed. From the Brad Blog we hear some good news in "Small Victory for Long-Term Single-Payer Strategy;" however, it raises more questions about our representation on these issues than it resolves.

On Friday the House Labor and Education Committee voted 27 - 19 to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to HR 3200 [PDF] [1], the hybrid "public option" health care legislation that leaves in place the current multi-payer system. The Kucinich amendment was supported by 13 of the Committee's Republicans. It was opposed by the Committee's chairman, George Miller (D-CA). If it survives a House floor vote and a House/Senate Conference Committee, the Kucinich amendment would insure that efforts to secure single-payer systems at the state level would not be preempted by federal law.

As explained by Donna Smith, co-chair of Progressive Democrats of America's "Healthcare NOT Warfare" campaign during a July 15, 2009 conference call [audio] [2] amongst single-payer activists, the Kucinich amendment does not reflect an abandonment of the effort to enact the national single-payer system embodied in HR 676 [PDF] [3]. As Smith sees it, the right to basic health care is a civil right, and like the earlier civil rights movement, its advocates must be flexible, yet relentless in pressing various strategies to put an end to what I described in "Single-Payer and the 'Democracy Deficit'" [4] as a corrupt, dysfunctional and deadly system which places the obscene wealth of the few over the health and very lives of our citizens.

The Kucinich amendment would permit single-payer advocates in the U.S. to pursue the same strategy used in Canada where a single-payer system was first adopted at the province level, eventually placing pressure on Canada's federal government to adopt a national health care system.

This, by no means, suggests that HR 3200 comes even close to representing meaningful reform . . .

As I noted in "Single Payer and the 'Democracy Deficit'," quoting Dr. David Himmelstein of Physicians for a National Health Program, a hybrid system with a "public option" plan will not solve the basic problem:

The proposed plan would realize only a small fraction – at most 16% – of the administrative cost savings that could be achieved through single-payer. That’s because insurance overhead – which might well be lower in a public option plan – accounts for a small part of the overall administrative costs of the current system. The need for hospitals and physicians to continue to bill dozens of different insurance plans would mean that their internal cost accounting and billing apparatus that causes most of the excess paperwork at present would continue.

H.R. 3200 could actually make matters worse.

Dr. Howard Dean, the former VT governor, DNC chairman and presidential candidate, favors the "public option" plan over "single-payer," though he also supports the Kucinich amendment. Dean told Amy Goodman [5] that the U.S. already spends 70% more on health care than single-payer nations.

As Marcy Winograd, a progressive Democratic candidate [6] for the Congressional seat now held by Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA), notes in "Single Payers Crashing the Gates" [7], the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that the "hybrid" public option plan advanced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would increase federal outlays by a trillion dollars over ten years because most of taxpayer monies under the plan would go not to health care but to what I have called the unnecessary "parasites" - for-profit insurance carriers and HMOs. According to Wendell Potter [8], a former CIGNA communications director turned whistleblower, the culprit includes Wall Street which demands a high return on its insurance company investments.

Winograd reports that this trillion dollar deficit "could only be offset by increased taxes, payment penalties for the uninsured, and cuts in Medicaid" and that at the "end of the decade, in 2019, under a private insurance/public option proposal, 36,000,000 Americans, as opposed to the current 45,000,000, would still be uninsured, according to the CBO."

Read the rest here. Try not to weep until the end.

Did you know that "US Income Inequality Continues to Grow?"

Although this statement is not really news, the actual decline of wealth at the bottom of the pyramid is startling (to some knowledgeable Rethugs in the Congress at least - who hope we don't read booooorrring articles with lots of statistics like this one right here). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

In June 2009, the U.S. economy saw its second steepest decline in 27 years. New jobless claims increased, business inventories fell and exports plunged as bad economic news persisted.Will the once high-flying American wealth machine continue to produce the vast inequalities of the past? Only two years ago, Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes magazine, declared 2007 "the richest year ever in human history." During eight years of the Bush administration, the 400 richest Americans, who now own more than the bottom 150 million Americans, increased their net worth by $700 billion. In 2005, the top 1 percent claimed 22 percent of the national income, while the top 10 percent took half of the total income, the largest share since 1928.

In June 2009, the Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Report estimated the number of the world's wealthiest people declined by 15 percent, the steepest decline in the report's 13-year history. The number of millionaires in the U.S. fell by 19 percent to 2.5 million people.

Analysts tell us the economy is being restructured, but how will the disparities in wealth between the rich and the poor play out?"

The source of wealth has changed over the past 30 years; corporations have become the engine of inequality in the U.S.," says Sam Pizzigati, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. "In the past, wealth came from ownership: Today it comes increasingly from income.

"The highest incomes come from executive pay at top corporations. In 2007, the ratio of CEO pay to the average paycheck was 344 to 1, lower than the record 525 to 1 ratio set in 2001, but substantial.

This year's ratio is estimated to decrease to 317 to 1. In the '60s, '70s and '80s, the average ratio fluctuated between 30 and 40 to 1.

Over 40 percent of GNP comes from Fortune 500 companies. According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research, the 500 largest conglomerates in the U.S. "control over two-thirds of the business resources, employ two-thirds of the industrial workers, account for 60 percent of the sales, and collect over 70 percent of the profits.

"Corporations systematically created a wealth gap over the last 30 years. In 1955, IRS records indicated the 400 richest people in the country were worth an average $12.6 million, adjusted for inflation.

In 2006, the 400 richest increased their average to $263 million, representing an epochal shift of wealth upward in the U.S.

In 1955, the richest tier paid an average 51.2 percent of their income in taxes under a progressive federal income tax that included loopholes. By 2006, the richest paid only 17.2 percent of their income in taxes.

In 1955, the proportion of federal income from corporate taxes was 33 percent; by 2003, it decreased to 7.4 percent. Today, the top taxpayers pay the same percentage of their incomes in taxes as those making $50,000 to $75,000, although they doubled their share of total U.S. income.

"Over the past 30 years, the income of the top 1 percent, adjusted for inflation, doubled: the top one-tenth of 1 percent tripled, and the top one-one-hundredth quadrupled," says Pizzigati.

"Meanwhile, the average income of the bottom 90 percent has gone down slightly. This is a stunning transformation."

Meanwhile, wages for most Americans didn't improve from 1979 to 1998, and the median male wage in 2000 was below the 1979 level, despite productivity increases of 44.5 percent. Between 2002 and 2004, inflation-adjusted median household income declined $1,669 a year. To make up for lost income, credit card debt soared 315 percent between 1989 and 2006, representing 138 percent of disposable income in 2007.

According to Pizzigati, the wealth disparity is the result of corporations squeezing more profits from workers.

"In the past corporations laid off workers because business was bad," Pizzigati says. "But over the past few decades, downsizing has been a corporate wealth generating strategy. Today, CEOs don't spend their time trying to make better products: they maneuver to take over other companies, steal their customers and fire their workers.

"Progressive taxation used to prevent the rich from capturing a disproportionate share of national compensation, and the labor movement, which represented 35 percent of private sector employees and today represents 8 percent, once served as a political force to limit excessive executive pay.

The Reagan backlash cut the top income tax rates, and saw the creation of right-wing think tanks that spent $30 billion over the past 30 years propagandizing for deregulation, privatization and wealth worship.

Bubble economies over the past 30 years helped CEOs pump up their income, and efforts to corral their pay are weak and ineffective. CEO pay may fall during these economic hard times, but disparity isn't going away. Without a strong movement for change, the wealth gap will only increase in this downturn."There won't be a restructuring of the economy unless we take on executive compensation," concludes Pizzigati. "Outrageously large rewards give executives an incentive to behave outrageously. If we allow these incentives to continue, we will just see more of the reckless behavior that has driven the global economy into the ditch."

The comments at the bottom of this essay are priceless.

The bastards will not stop until all working class people are in poverty.


Actually Cad, that's only a phase. You see under the mantra of carbon taxes your existence is a form of pollution. The polluter must be forced to pay for the damage he/she is doing to the climate. If you are breathing in their air and stinking their world up with your foul carbon ridden output and unable to pay compensation you are a form of vermin.Now if the moneyless useless eaters were less selfish and self centered and committed suicide there would be no need for the mass extermination but as usual the stinking useless mass who are causing the problem just don't get it.

If they weren't such a defective gene pool which has clearly limited their analytical abilities they would see the truth staring them in the face. Their existence is inhaling our clean air and giving us degraded filthy air back. It us who are the victims and suffering a despoilment of our very environment by a pest population that has bred out of control.

It's almost funny, but quite comprehensible when you think of the confusion this catastrophe has wreaked in the minds of the rightwingnuts who see themselves as victims. Suzan _________________

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