Tag Archives | income inequality

The United States’ Capitals Of Inequality

inequalityPueblo Lands on the areas of the U.S. pushing economic disparities to new extremes:

Welcome to the San Francisco Bay Area. The epicenter of the tech industry. The global vortex of venture capital. One of the most brutally unequal places in America, indeed the world.

In the distribution of income and wealth, California more resembles the neocolonial territories of rapacious resource extraction than it does Western Europe. The only states that compare to California’s harsh inequalities are deep southern states structured by centuries of racist fortune building by pseudo-aristocratic ruling classes, and the East Coast capitals of the financial sector.

It’s a strange club, the super-inequitable states of the U.S. This list pairs the bluest coastal enclaves of liberal power with the reddest Southern conservative states. In terms of wages and wealth these places have a lot in common.

The economies of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama remain bound by racial inequalities founded in slavery and plantation agriculture; the wealthy elite of all three states remain a handful of white families who control the largest holdings of fertile land, and own the extractive mineral and timber industries, and the regional banks.

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Why The “Financial Literacy” Push Is A Sham

financial literacyApril was national financial literacy month, promoted heavily by major banks and other debt-producing institutions who want you to believe that poverty, the financial crisis, and mounting student debt are the result of ordinary people’s ignorant refusal to discipline themselves and budget properly. Via the Guardian, Helaine Olen writes:

Companies and colleges say that if we all understand our finances, financial crises won’t happen. This is simply untrue.

April is National Financial Capability Month. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says: “Among the lessons of the recent financial crisis is the need for virtually everyone – both young and old – to acquire a basic knowledge of finance and economics.” Sounds great.

But it promotes the false equivalence that the victims of the financial shenanigans of the past several years are as responsible for the financial crisis as the financial services sector, the ultimate creator of all those financial products of mass destruction.

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When Does Democracy Turn Into Despotism?

Created by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films in 1946, the still-thought-provoking short PSA Despotism & Democracy doesn't exactly paint our current prospects in a positive light:
Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales?
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The Forgotten History Of A Canadian Town’s Experiment With Guaranteed Income

A town in Canada tried the simplest method to end the ills associated with poverty: give everyone a minimum sum of money. Via the Dominion:

Try to imagine a town where the government paid each of the residents a living income, regardless of who they were and what they did. For a four-year period in the ’70s, the poorest families in Dauphin, Manitoba, were granted a guaranteed minimum income by the federal and provincial governments.

Until now little has been known about what unfolded over those years in the small rural town, since the government locked away the data that had been collected and prevented it from being analyzed.

But after a five year struggle, Evelyn Forget, a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba, secured access to those boxes in 2009. Forget has begun to piece together the story by using the census, health records, and the testimony of the program’s participants.

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Hurricane Sandy Robin Hoods Steal From NYC Luxury Sites To Aid The Poor

Last month’s hurricane further widened the massive economic inequality of New York City — Manhattan has recovered, while poorer outer-borough areas affected remain seriously damaged. Via Grist, an anonymous civic group has taken it upon themselves to correct matters, as their press release explains:

Over the past two weeks, a group of concerned New Yorkers has been expropriating thousands of dollars worth of tools and materials from luxury residential developments across Manhattan and delivering them to neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Confiscated materials, some of them never even used, include: shovels, wheelbarrows, hand trucks, hard bristle brooms, industrial rope, contractor trash bags, work lights, work gloves, flashlights, heat lamps, and gasoline.

Liberated from their role in building multimillion-dollar pieds-à-terre for wealthy CEOs and Hollywood celebrities, these tools are now in the collective hands of some of the hardest-hit communities in the city where they are now being allocated and shared among the people who need them most.

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Are We Headed Toward An Economy Based Around Serving Rich People?

Via Alternet, Sam Pizzigati ponders the jobs of the future, with masses clamoring for the opportunity to cater to the rich:

We’re well on the way to becoming a full-fledged “servant economy.” Most Americans no longer make things. They provide services.

Young people can become engineers and programmers and spend their careers in pitiless competition with people all over the world just as smart and trained but willing to work for much less. Or they can join the servant economy and “service those few at the top who have successfully joined the global elite.”

In this new “servant economy,” we’re not talking just nannies and chauffeurs. We’re talking, as journalist Camilla Long notes, “pilots, publicists, art dealers, and bodyguards” — a “newer, brighter phalanx of personal helpers.”

Want to see the world? In the new servant economy, you can become a “jewelry curator” and voyage to foreign lands to pick up gems for wealthy clients.

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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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