Monday, November 3, 2014

Propoganda For The Rest Of Us

"...the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families..."

Thanks in no small part to Occupy Wall Street, the tremendous increase in economic inequality since Reagan has become conventional wisdom in the media. But as Fortune magazine points out, in the article I quoted above, increasingly more accurate ways of measuring wealth inequality (as opposed to income inequality, which is fairly easy to measure) show that the disparity between the uber rich and the rest of us is worse than we thought. More from the article:

"Wealth inequality, it turns out, has followed a spectacular U-shape evolution over the past 100 years. From the Great Depression in the 1930s through the late 1970s there was a substantial democratization of wealth. The trend then inverted, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent increasing to 22 percent in 2012 from 7 percent in the late 1970s. The top 0.1 percent includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20 million in 2012."

Fortune graphic

And so what? The amazing thing about all this, to me, is that is that the public discourse has changed. Even the most conservative media outlets have given up trying to argue that economic inequality hasn't gotten worse. You'll see feeble attempts here and there to argue it the other way, or to say that income inequality is no barrier to opportunity. But that kind of talk isn't catching on.

Democratic politicians, of course, especially in New Mexico, still aren't talking about economic inequality. They're in it with Wall Street, sink or swim. They've been given their marching orders. Keep quiet, take the hit if you have to. Let the Republican get elected. We're all equals here, after all.

But that might be changing. Because Elizabeth Warren's railing against Wall Street is so popular with the Democratic base, even Hillary herself, in the last few days, has resorted to criticizing the bailing out of big banks while leaving homeowners to fend for themselves. This is Mrs Wall Street herself. Her husband's policies are responsible for much of the inequality. Hillary is often seen hobnobbing with Wall Street bankers and has been taking $200,000 a speech from them.

This isn't to say that the public's awareness of wealth and income inequality is going to translate into political power for the masses. Democrats will do whatever's necessary to make sure that doesn't happen. A new, more populist script will be issued to them, and possibly even New Mexico's Democrats will be seen reading uncomfortably from it.

But it could just be that things will stop getting worse. Wages will start to creep up. Taxes on the rich and corporations might edge up and our schools and governments might get some needed funds. If people have more money in their pockets the economy might pick up some steam, and this twisted way of the rich have been accumulating wealth by scavenging it from us and from the economy might be reversed.

Or, the working class might just get fed up with it once and for all and hang the rich and their politicians in the public square and run things the way they want to.

Note: From The Economist, a Brit's take on why Americans aren't up in arms about economic inequality.

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