Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rich and Poor in America: a Second Gilded Age?

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, writes that "The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now earn as much as the bottom 120 million of us." Wow. Here are some takes on this topic. Most are liberal and alarmist in outlook. They make a strong case. But the long list below - it's almost an archive - also has opposing viewpoints, conservative and libertarian. Plus one by a sociologist who maintains that rich people are more stressed and overworked than other people.

• Riobert Lieberman, Why the Rich Are Getting Richer: American Politics and the Second Gilded Age, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2011 "The dramatic growth of inequality, then, is the result not of the "natural" workings of the market but of four decades' worth of deliberate political choices."
• Brian Domitrovic, The Bitter Fruits of Equality, Forbes, 12/28/10. ". . . in reality, what happens given high taxes is that the rich see themselves through very well . . . , while good livelihoods for the rank-and-file become ever more elusive."
• Chris Hedges "Power and the Tiny Acts of Rebellion" OpEdNews, 11/10.  Tiny acts or large? 
• Charles Blow, The Great American Cleaving, New York Times 11/5/10 "That ripping sound you hear [after the 2010 Congressional midterm elections] is the fabric of a nation."
Robert Reich, The Perfect Storm That Threatens American Democracy, Huffington Post, 10/20/10. "The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that's raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work. We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy."
• Robert Reich, How to End the Great Recession, New York Times, 9/2/10. Labor day. "Policies that generate more widely shared prosperity lead to stronger and more sustainable economic growth — and that’s good for everyone. The rich are better off with a smaller percentage of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of an economy that’s barely moving. That’s the Labor Day lesson we learned decades ago; until we remember it again, we’ll be stuck in the Great Recession."
• James Kwak, Advancing Oligarchy, The Stradler, Fall 2010. A deliberative piece, not as strong as its title suggests. Kwak and Simon Johnson of MIT wrote 13 bankers, which takes "a highly critical stance toward recent palliative measures, arguing that nationalization of the banks would have been preferable to the bailouts, which have allowed the banks to further consolidate power and resources. Given the swelling size of the six megabanks, the authors make a persuasive case that the financial system cannot be secure until those banks that are too big to fail are somehow broken up." (Publishers Weekly)
• Bill Moyers, Plutocracy and Democracy Don't Mix, 4 minute YouTube video, 5/2/10. Moyers quotes from the 2005 Citigroup "Plutonomy" client memo to argue that America, thanks to "market-friendly governments," is now a plutocracy. "Democracy," he concludes, "only works when we claim it as our own."
• Gus Lubin, 15 Mind-Blowing Facts about Wealth and Inequality in America, Business Insider, 4/9/10 Amazing charts & graphs.
• Christopher Caldwell, American Oligarchy, The Weekly Standard, 5/1/10. Thoughtful response to Johanson and Kwak. "But are the banks in fact too big to fail? Not necessarily. The banks are certainly too big to fail without destroying the economy. But that is not the same as saying they are too big to fail. The first duty of a sovereign public is to defend its sovereignty, not to prop up its banking system. The public is in a mood to risk cutting off its nose to spite its face. If voters are again offered a choice between bailouts and a likely second Great Depression, it is by no means certain they will choose the bailouts. "
• Associated Press, Nearly Half of U.S. Households Escape Fed Income Tax, 4/7/10
Simon Johnson, The Quiet Coup, The Atlantic 5/2009
• Dalton Conley, Rich Man's Burden, New York Times, 9/2/08
Bill Moyers and Steve Fraser on the Second Gilded Age on Bill Moyers Journal, 6/13/2008
• Elizabeth Gudrais, Unequal America, Harvard Magazine, 7/2008
• Steve Fraser, The Gilded Age, Past and Present,, 5/28/08
Rich Man, Boor Man Wall Street Journal, /28/07
• Thomas Sowell, A Dangerous Obsession, National Review, 12/26/06
David Cay Johnston, '04 Income In U.S. Was Below 2000 Level, New York Times, 11/28/06
• Stephen Fleischman, The Great American Oligarchy, Counterpunch, 9/2/06
• Citigroup, Equity Strategy memo to clients ("Plutonomy" memo) 11/16/05 (noted in Michael Moore's 2009 film "Capitalism: a Love Affair."Relevant excerpt from the film on YouTube.
• Paul Krugman "For Richer" New York Times Magazine, 10/20/02
• P. J. O'Rourke, "Closing the Wealth Gap," Cato Institute 6/97
• The controversial 2005 Citigroup "Plutonomy" client memo arguing that "The World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest." Attached by journalist Bill Moyers and filmmaker Michael Moore (see above) 10/05

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