Tag Archives | income inequality

Can Debt Spark A Revolution?

Via the Nation, David Graeber on rebellion against indebtedness:

The rise of [Occupy Wall Street] allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad. Internally, it has become a matter of manipulating the country’s legal structure to ensure that more and more people fall deeper and deeper into debt.

Financialization, securitization and militarization are all different aspects of the same process. And the endless multiplication, in cities across America, of gleaming bank offices—
spotless stores selling nothing while armed security guards stand by—is just the most immediate and visceral symbol for what we, as a nation, have become.

As I write, roughly three out of four Americans are in some form of debt, and a whopping one in seven is being pursued by debt collectors. There’s no way to know just what percentage of the average household’s income is now directly expropriated by the financial services industry in the form of interest payments, fees and penalties…[data] suggests it is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

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U.S. Income Inequality Worse Today Than During The Slavery Era

Historical perspective via the Huffington Post:

Believe it or not, income inequality in the United States is worse today than it was back in 1774. That’s what a recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found.

In “American Incomes 1774 to 1860,” authors Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson argue that the American colonies were exceptionally egalitarian, compared to both other nations at the time and the U.S. today. And their data even factors in slavery.

NBER’s is not the first study to contend that income inequality today is worse than before. A 2009 study looking at data stretching back to 1917 found that American income inequality was at an all-time high. Likewise, two historians concluded last year that income inequality today is worse even than it was during the Roman Empire [when] the top 1 percent of Ancient Roman earners controlled 16 percent of the Empire’s riches, compared to the top 1 percent of American earners today who control 40 percent of the country’s wealth.

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The Walmart Heirs Now Have As Much Wealth As The Bottom 40 Percent Of Americans

Welcome to our sharecropper economy. A couple of years ago, eyebrows were raised by the news that the Walton family’s wealth was equal to that of the bottom 30 percent of U.S. families. In little time that figure has ballooned to 40 percent, the Economic Policy Institute notes:

We have argued previously that Walmart is a useful archetype for trends in the larger American economy over the past three decades. Its enormous size and bargaining power has led to fabulous wealth for its owners, while the compensation it pays its employees is generally low, even by retail standards; and the ubiquity of Walmart stores means that it is effectively the marginal employer in many U.S. counties.

In 2007, it was reported that the Walton family wealth was as large as the bottom 35 million families in the wealth distribution combined, or 30.5 percent of all American families. And in 2010, as the Walton’s wealth has risen and most other Americans’ wealth declined, it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined.

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Russian Millionaire Hurls Money Paper Planes From Office Window, Starts Riot

Midday summer sport for the 1 percent? Gawker writes:

Pavel Durov, founder of the popular Russian Facebook-alike VKontakte, took a bread-and-circuses approach to generosity over the weekend, spending time with VK’s vice president tossing paper airplanes made of money out of the company’s St. Petersburg offices.

A crowd soon formed outside the building, eager to catch every 5,000-rouble ($160) bill. As tends to happen in these situations, the scene quickly devolved into an all-out brawl. “People turned into dogs as they were literally attacking the notes,” said one eyewitness. “They broke each other’s noses, climbed the traffic lights with their prey – just like monkeys.”

For his part, the 27-year-old, whose net worth is valued at some $260 million, appeared to be enjoying the commotion, reportedly “laughing and filming” as people trampled over each other in desperation. He later claimed he was simply hoping to create “a festive atmosphere,” and stopped as soon as “people turned into animals.”

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The (Not) Censored TED Talk on Income Inequality

TEDYou can read all the hubbub about this from Noah Kristula-Green on Daily Beast. And here a small bit of TED curator Chris Anderson's reason (see full explanation here) on why the video was not initially posted:
At TED this year, an attendee pitched a 3-minute audience talk on inequality. The talk tapped into a really important and timely issue. But it framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan. And it included a number of arguments that were unconvincing, even to those of us who supported his overall stance. The audience at TED who heard it live (and who are often accused of being overly enthusiastic about left-leaning ideas) gave it, on average, mediocre ratings ... Our policy is to post only talks that are truly special. And we try to steer clear of talks that are bound to descend into the same dismal partisan head-butting people can find every day elsewhere in the media.
Judge for yourself here:
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Some Advice For The 1%

Douglas Rushkoff has some advice for our overlords, writing at CNN:
A whole lot of us are stuck with credit-card debt that goes up each month, mortgages worth more than our homes and student loans that extend into infinity. So it's only natural that we look at the debt crisis from the bottom up: from the perspective of the 99% who are getting screwed. But what if we instead looked at this whole mess from the top down, from the point of view of the 1%: the billionaires and venture capitalists in Mitt Romney's world? Maybe, just maybe, their problem is our problem. In fact, as I have come to see it, short of civilization-ending revolution, solving the debt crisis might actually mean saving the 1%. They have the power and the money, they own our government, and they won't go down without taking everyone and everything else with them...
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The Oligarchy We Live In, Charted

Politics isn’t for everyone. Via Andrew Sullivan:

It just costs too much to run for Congress today for anyone who’s not fairly well off to do it. And that’s no coincidence. As income inequality goes up, campaign funding from rich donors also goes up. This creates an arms race that effectively precludes anyone who doesn’t have either money of their own or access to wealthy donors from running. And that means that Congress has fewer and fewer members with any real connection to the working world.

chart

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The First Major Electoral Victory For The Occupy Wall Street Movement?

p10b…In South Korea, not the United States. The newly elected mayor of Seoul is Park Won Soon, a longtime activist and human rights lawyer who ran on an explicit “Occupy Wall Street platform” of challenging social inequality. Could this happen here as well? Via New Left Project:

Park Won Soon, the newly elected mayor of Seoul, is “perhaps the first politician to win with an Occupy Wall Street platform”.

Park Won Soon ran on a platform of social justice. The previous mayor of Seoul had resigned over the issue of school lunches, Park pushed for the universal provision of lunches to all Seoul school children. He also promised to direct social services to helping the poor and disadvantaged. Korea has become increasingly divided in terms of rich and poor, and Seoul has some of the richest and some of the poorest people in the country. Park pledged to be the mayor of all of Seoul and not just the wealthy.

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Israel’s Occupy Movement Achieves Victories

israel-protests-dissent-15-20110903We usually associate the terms “occupy” and “Israel” in a different political context…But, this summer the country saw massive demonstrations (including tent cities) to draw attention to social inequality, in what was arguably a blueprint for Occupy Wall Street. And there have been encouraging results: the conservative Israeli government is shifting more of the tax burden onto corporations and the super-rich. Could this happen in the United States, also? Via GlobalPost:

Israel’s summertime protest movement, which was occupying “Wall Street” before it was cool, can now celebrate their first major tangible success.

At a Sunday cabinet meeting the government approved the restructuring of Israel’s tax system, shifting a few degrees of the social burden onto corporations and the very rich.

On Monday, legislators received the new tax plan for approval, alongside a lengthy list of demands for financial reform and social justice that were nonexistent when the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was last in session and which have been catapulted to the forefront of a pre-electoral year.

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