Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wealthy Have Become Blinded To the Needs of the Lower Classes?

One danger that such wealth brings is that many who have it become blinded to those who don't. So, the news that most of our congress critters are now in the millionaire class speaks volumes about why this institution of American democracy is so undemocratic. It has been striving ceaselessly to provide more government giveaways to Wall Street bankers, corporate chieftains and other super-wealthy elites, while striving just as mightily to enact government takeaways to harm middle-class and poor families.
. . . Take, for example, Rep. Darrell Issa, with a net worth of $464 million last year. A far-right-wing California Republican, he has used his chairmanship of the powerful oversight committee to pound Obamacare's effort to provide health coverage for Americans who have been shut out of the system, even as he tried to unravel the new restraints to keep Wall Street bankers from wrecking our economy again. Issa and his ilk are proof that a lawmaker's net worth is strictly a financial measure, not any indication at all of one's actual value or "worthiness."

Scott Fitzgerald said that the rich are different from you and me.

If only he could see (and hear) how different they are today.

After all, in Scott's day, millionaires didn't have any reason to take over the U.S. Congress (and very few wealthy people wanted the boring life of even the pretense of "service" to others). The necessary self-serving machinations back then would have been embarrassing to them and their friends and families.

Not so much now.

I remember the first time (as a little girl) I thought about a Rockefeller "working" in the Senate instead of living the life of a millionaire and, asking my Dad what he thought about it, heard him state solemnly "Well, he must have some interests he can't ensure any other way."

My Dad was a soft-spoken, intelligent, droll guy.

he rich truly are different from you and me - they tend to hold seats in Congress.
Our nation purports to be a representative democracy, yet you don't find many plumbers, mineworkers, dirt farmers, Wal-Mart associates, roofers, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers, or other "get-the-job-done" Americans among the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate.
What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America's population: Millionaires. In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year - for the first time in history - more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.
In short, the world in which our "representatives" live is light years from where the majority of people live, and the divide between the governors and the governees is especially stark for the 40 percent of people whose net worth is zero (or, technically, less than zero, since their income and other assets are far exceeded by their debts). This widening chasm is not just a matter of wealth, but most significantly a literal separation of the privileged few from the experiences, needs and aspirations of the many who're struggling to make ends meet and worried that opportunities for their children to get ahead are no longer available to them.
The harsh reality is that most Americans are no longer represented in Washington.
Chances are that their own members of Congress don't know any struggling and worried people, share nothing in common with them and can't relate to their real-life needs. Thus, Congress is content to play ideological games with such basics as health care, minimum wage, joblessness, food stamps and Social Security. The wealth divide has created a looming social and political crisis for America.

The increased misery of their constituents must be smile-inducing for these sadists every day.

Oxfam’s new report, “Working for the Few,” is getting a lot of attention — mostly because of the newsworthy tidbit that the combined wealth of the world’s richest 85 people ($110 trillion) is equivalent to that of the poorest half of the world (3.5 billion people).
I mean, that’s striking. But here’s something else that’s shocking, though perhaps it shouldn’t be.
The wealth gap in the United States is greater than just about every other developed country (OECD says only ChileMexico and Turkey are worse).
The graphs Oxfam uses in its report not only substantiate that claim, but they also show that the wealth gap has grown more in the United States than in just about any other country over the last 30 years. The data used for the graphs was taken from The World Top Incomes Database.


It's much worse than what Oxfam shows. They show 20% of income for the top 1%. But they are obviously using BLS data, to be consistent with other countries. But these have flaws, because the income is self-reported, and studies show that the highest incomes underreport, plus very-high incomes are top-coded, i.e., anything above, say 1 million is reported as 1 million. Better  data is actual IRS tax return info, and Emmanuel Saez in Berkeley used IRS data and showed the 24% of income for the top 1%, and that was in 2007, and it has only gotten worse since.

@old tim 

And under Obama. He gives the Little People a rousing speech every once in a while, but look at what he actually does. Every proposal for new economic legislation comes with a "reaching out" which gives the rich almost everything they want followed by a "bipartisan compromise" that gives away the rest. Half the stimulus was tax cuts for the rich. The ACA served only to enrich the insurance companies. TPP is set to screw over workers in favor of capital, and Congress can't debate it or even tell us the details because the law - all 29 chapters - is classified.
Paul Krugman finds the fault to be the much-promulgated "myth of the deserving rich."

The reality of rising American inequality is stark. Since the late 1970s real wages for the bottom half of the work force have stagnated or fallen, while the incomes of the top 1 percent have nearly quadrupled (and the incomes of the top 0.1 percent have risen even more).
While we can and should have a serious debate about what to do about this situation, the simple fact — American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society — shouldn’t be up for argument.

But it is, of course. Partly this reflects Upton Sinclair’s famous dictum: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But it also, I think, reflects distaste for the implications of the numbers, which seem almost like an open invitation to class warfare — or, if you prefer, a demonstration that class warfare is already underway, with the plutocrats on offense.

The result has been a determined campaign of statistical obfuscation. At its cruder end this campaign comes close to outright falsification; at its more sophisticated end it involves using fancy footwork to propagate what I think of as the myth of the deserving rich.
Read it all here.

The wealth breakdown of Congress members as of 2013 can be viewed here.

Davos, anyone? The Global Plutocracy rolls on.

On the eve of the annual spectacle of parasitic wealth and power that is the World Economic Forum in the Alpine resort town of Davos, Switzerland, the Oxfam charity has issued a report warning of the unprecedented growth of social inequality throughout the world.
Describing a planet in the malevolent grip of a handful of plutocrats, the report states that the richest 85 people in the world control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world's population — 3.5 billion people! It notes that the richest 1 percent today controls 46 percent of the world’s wealth. Oxfam writes: “The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion… 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.”
The report includes a chart showing that since 2008, the United States has had the largest increase in social inequality of any developed country.

The impoverishment of the working class on the one side and further enrichment of the financial elite on the other have accelerated since the Wall Street crash of that year. While the wealth of the world’s billionaires has doubled, there are today over 1 billion people living on less than a dollar per day, and nearly half the world’s population, more than 3 billion people, subsist on less than $2.50 per day.
The same day Oxfam issued its study, the International Labor Organization reported that the number of unemployed people worldwide grew by 5 million in 2013, to 202 million. The ILO predicted that the ranks of the unemployed would continue to rise in 2014.
There is no parallel in human history to the immense concentration of wealth that exists today, nor to the extremes of parasitism and decadence that constitute the “new normal.” Contemporary capitalism — what the ruling class and its political and media flunkies call the “free enterprise system” — has created a world in which every policy decision is dictated by the need to protect and increase the wealth of an infinitesimal portion of the world’s population.

This global plutocracy — by definition, a society governed by the wealthy — generates a huge and ever-increasing portion of the ruling elite’s wealth not from the production of useful products and expansion of society’s productive capacities, but from the manipulation of money, speculation and outright swindling — essentially criminal activities that are destructive of the productive forces.
A few hundred people, backed by an army of bribed politicians, academic apologists, intelligence spooks, experts of all sorts and the repressive force of the military and police, hold civilization by the throat and threaten to destroy it to satisfy their insatiable greed.
This social — or, to be more precise, anti-social—element is virulently hostile to the people, contemptuous of democratic rights, and militaristic.
In its effort to expand its personal wealth, it relentlessly attacks the living standards of the working class — the vast majority of the population. All over the world, governments controlled by the plutocrats impose ever more painful austerity, cutting wages, slashing jobs, dismantling social programs, closing schools, gutting health care. State treasuries are emptied to provide bailouts to the banks and corporations and central banks pump trillions into the financial markets to drive up stock prices, corporate profits and CEO pay. All legal restrictions on profit-making are lifted.

To deal with the opposition of the workers, governments are systematically criminalizing organized resistance by the working class. In countries across Europe, every significant strike is met with legal bans and police violence.
Petrified at the prospect of social revolution, they are putting in place the infrastructure of a global totalitarian police state, as revealed by the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Competing cliques of plutocrats, using their national states as bases of operation, invade weaker countries and occupy and plunder them without mercy, inflicting death and destruction. In the struggle against their rivals for control of territories, markets, resources and cheap labor, they turn the planet into an armed camp and threaten to plunge mankind into a third world war, this time with the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
The rich and the super-rich will be on display this week at Davos, the yearly event at which government officials and leaders of global agencies such as the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund come to pay obeisance to billionaire bankers and corporate CEOs.
The global financial elite is preparing, in the words of one commentator, “to jet to the World Economic Forum 5,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps in their helicopters, mink-clad trophy wives in tow.” The cost of attending the conference, estimated by CNN at around $40,000 per person, is about 50 percent greater than what a typical worker in the US makes in a year.

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