Things Could Be Worse

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 4:15  .  .  .

In a most accessible article in the November 10, 2014 Christian Science Monitor, author Henry Gass reviewed a fresh examination of wealth inequality, comparing 1929 America to today. Here are selections of Gass’ writing:

In the late 1920s, the top 10 percent of Americans possessed 84 percent of the country’s wealth. Since then, wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.

Professors Saez and Zucman found that the richest 0.1 percent of Americans [today] have as much of the country’s wealth as the poorest 90 percent. Both groups control roughly 22 percent of total wealth .  .  .

While the bottom 90 percent of Americans and the top 0.1 percent control about 22 percent of the country’s wealth each, the top 0.01 percent of Americans now control 11.2 percent of total wealth. That share of the wealth held by the country’s richest 0.01 percent .  .  .  is the largest share they’ve had since 1916, the highest on record, according to the study.

Wait a second: the study’s authors said that, ”  .  .  .  wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.” What do you suppose happened in the 1980s to cause that shift? Could it be trickle-down economics that really only trickles up? Could it also have something to do with blind faith in unregulated free markets, with Adam Smith’s invisible hand blessing only the already wealthy?

Perhaps it’s pleasant to have so much power that one can influence laws and regulations in order to continually expand one’s power and wealth. On the other hand, this is exactly why the Founders abhorred monopoly (it had been forced on them by the Crown) and it is why we passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. “Trust” was what monopolies were called then, and the last time that law was invoked was in 2000 in a case involving Microsoft and its bundling of apps that unfairly restricted competition (Read: put other companies out of business, kept prices unnaturally high and Americans lost jobs). The time it was invoked before that was before Reagan was elected. He refused to use the Act and that hands-off approach and absolute faith in “the market” has led to the enormous roll up of companies in industry after industry, with the result that competition is severely limited and, prices escalate and wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a very few Americans.

For example, we used to have seven major air carriers in the U.S. Due to mergers, we now have only three. American Airlines just completed the purchase of US Air, claiming that doing so would have no adverse effect on competition. But it is reported that they will be devaluing their Frequent Flyer program in the second half of 2016. And, in a January 29, 2016 conference call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained how American will be increasing revenues by charging more for things like room for your knees and things that they haven’t charged for before. That is to say, now that they own a former competitor, prices are going up.

That’s just one small example of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in today’s rigged economy.

Given enough economic jabs, people will become angry, and that Chinese water torture of wealth inequality expansion could lead to something ugly. It certainly has given us a crazy election season, the essence of which was captured by one South Carolina supporter of Donald Trump, who explained, “We’re voting with our middle fingers.”

Things could be worse. Unfortunately, we keep proving that to be true.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
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3 Responses to Things Could Be Worse
  1. dominick Reply

    We have many examples now of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but no effective solutions to address this problem. Republican politicians simply avoid talking about it, and focus on hate messages that have absolutely no relevance to it. On the other hand, Democrats cowering not to offend their limited business investors at least bring the subject up, and offer foolish ideas that ignore reality.

    Bernie is advocating repealing Citizens United, as if this law is responsible for more money in politics. Does he think a Constitutional Convention attended by politicians, who are taking bribes, will do anything to cut off the flow of money to themselves? Can’t he understand the obvious – that no one is holding a gun to the head of politicians to take money from anyone? All of them can stop this shameful behavior immediately, yet they willfully seek and willing accept money from people who may not even live in their voting districts every day they are in office.

    While Bernie appears to be a man with personal integrity and wants to do the right thing, it seems he does not know how to fix this problem. Like many American voters, he believes that elections and protesting will lead to political reform. He ignores our 21st century technologies to create transparency and accountability for political decisions made by our representatives. He proposes solutions that will rely on a corrupted Congress that will somehow reform itself. He keeps making promises, but is too timid to introduce a law that will fulfill them.Therefore, he continues to sound like a politician, instead of a representative of the people.

    Solving income and other inequality problems depends entirely on the moral character and accountability of those we elect to office. If we do not vet our candidates running for office, all we will have is a plethora of promises that have no substance in laws that could fulfill them. This is the sole purpose of the organization I am trying to build. I propose a very simple plan to vet and elect representatives with personal integrity and accountability to their constituents – while they serve their terms of office.

    My simple plan addresses how to get money out of politics, and requires no changes in laws. If Bernie follows it, he will be our next President. If he continues to just make promises, most likely money will play the greatest part in this election year.

    TrueDemocracyNow.org

  2. Joni Lindgren Reply

    Unfortunately, we’ve been voting with our middle finger for way too long now. Just how long will Americans find this acceptable before they want to do something about it???

    I’m very disappointed that Bernie didn’t win Nevada last night. I went into my funk at that point. Bernie has vowed, win or lose, to keep in the game until the end because he will be our voice until the election. Maybe then, limited information voters will finally get a clue. Problem is: none of us have a punishment against corporations and the wealthy who are doing this to us. Maybe if we had a leader to tell us that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH we would get the courage to band together and bring down the house!!!

    If you don’t do anything in the next two days, you need to go see Michael Moore’s film, Which County to Invade Next. He goes to Norway, Italy, Slovenia, Portugal and even TUNISIA looking for ways to improve our country…..running corporations, schools, etc. IT NEEDS TO BE SEEN BY EVERYONE!! Our theater in South Barrington AMC was almost filled and everyone clapped at the end! It’s also humorous!!

    If you haven’t seen The Big Short yet, do!!! Both will tell the story of how the U.S. has been derailed and citizens are not getting ANYTHING because the corporations and wealthy are getting it all!! Unfortunately, the American people are the only ones paying the biggest chunk of what the corporations don’t want to pay. It’s been trickle up economics for 40 years in the making and no end in sight. When you see Michael Moore’s movie, you’ll see that in Europe when the people wanted to make changes or to oust greedy people in power, they’d have MASSIVE protests! I’m more than ready!

  3. Joel altschul Reply

    I like the overall message, and especially enjoy your delivery. I suggest the air carrier example is not the best one (four majors including SW, not three). The banks work better. Thanks, Jax