Category Archives: The 1% and The 99%

Forty Years Of WOW – The War On Workers – In America

Here’s another dog-bites-man story, an economic tale of today’s America that only a Republican could love or ignore or feign surprise at. TPM’s Brian Beutler points us to a preview of the Economic Policy Institute’s forthcoming publication, “The State of Working America,” and the state is… not good. The preview, “The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth” by Lawrence Mishel, informs us that from 1948 (my birth year) to 2011, while worker productivity has gained 254.3% in a more or less straight-line increase, hourly compensation has gained only 113.1% in the same time period. The hourly compensation curve tracks the productivity curve up to the early 1970s, but then flattens out as wages have stagnated for four decades. See the linked EPI article for those graphs.

Another graph is more interesting. This one shows productivity gains from 1973 to 2011… more or less my working lifetime… about 80.4%, again in a more-or-less straight line… and median hourly compensation, by gender. Median male compensation has increased almost not at all… 0.1%. Overall median hourly compensation has increased only 10.7%… remember, this is in the face of an 80% productivity gain.

Average hourly compensation has grown by 39.2%, vastly more than median hourly compensation gains, which means most of the gains by both women and men have gone to higher-paid workers. Median female compensation has grown by only 33.2%, in other words, nowhere close to the average though well above the both-genders median. (I assume the much higher gains for women are because equal-pay laws have somewhat ameliorated the unconscionable underpayment of women in earlier decades.) Here is the graph:

 

I said at the beginning that this is a dog-bites-man story. If you are a working-class, working-age American, you scarcely need to be told that you are working harder and more hours while your personal economic situation is simply not improving. Of course there are exceptions, but remember the above graph deals in the median… the most typical numbers… and the average numbers. On the whole, all those productivity gains meant profit gains for your employers. Well and good; there’s nothing immoral about profit… unless it is not shared with the people who make it possible. And those are the workers in America who are just plain not getting a fair deal. We’ve doubled our productivity and gotten squat for our reward. That is wrong.

As someone once said on the ancient 1960s/1970s comedy TV show Laugh-In, “We upped our work production… up yours!” It was funnier before it became a true rendition of the attitude of the 1% toward the 99%.

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Greece: People Are Eating Out Of Dumpsters

L’Enfant de la Haute Mer has the story (please use Google Translate if you don’t read Greek).

This has happened in the United States within my lifetime, notably in the era of the “sainted” Ronald Reagan. I’ve seen it myself. Every grocery store dumpster had its regulars; it was presumably their main source of food.

It should never have happened in the United States. It should never again be allowed to happen in the United States. And it should not be allowed to happen in Greece or any other Eurozone country. Allowing people to starve in a setting of great wealth (which the Eurozone is) is simply wrong.

Robert Reich Gives Obama Free Advice… Worth A Great Deal More Than The Price

Robert Reich says Obama is pursuing the “We’re on the right track” strategy… and that it isn’t working nearly fast enough, and that there’s too great a chance of an economic stall between now and elections. Reich offers Obama four points on which to build a successful campaign; please go read them.

Reich correctly assesses that a Romney presidency would be an economic disaster of proportions greater than the Great Depression, and that the next president will probably get to appoint two Supreme Court justices.

Question for the reader: if you are an American, and if Romney becomes president, will you leave the US? If so, and if you’re willing to say, where will you go?

AFTERTHOUGHT: if Obama becomes president, life will be no bed of roses, though I suspect there will be some chance of recovery at some point, whereas with Romney, we’ll be doomed, probably permanently. In fairness, I’ll ask the same question about Obama: if he becomes president, will you absquatulate, and where will you go?

NYPD, National Park Service Threaten Occupy Wall Street

According to Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter, as of about 5PM ET yesterday, the superintendent of the National Park Service (!) had signed an order against Occupy Wall Street, who had moved to the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street when they were ordered to vacate a “sleepful protest” on the sidewalks of Wall Street.

According to the updated headline, the Park Service has since relented; no details are posted. But one thing that hasn’t changed is a simple fact: if the National Park Service is ordering Occupy Wall Street out of places, then the Obama administration supports NYPD’s attempts to disband OWS. When the Obama administration and NYPD are on the same side of an Occupy-related matter, when they label one of their indisputably peaceable events an “unlawful assembly,” this cannot be good news for free speech and free assembly in America. This order… even if rescinded later… clearly indicates an intent by our current government to filter free speech based on its content. That is unacceptable under the First Amendment.

Do any of you still think we ought to vote for this guy? Yeah, I know; some of you do. What will it take to change your minds?

What, And Who, Killed The Economy?

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, writing for Salon, sum it up: it’s the dramatically widening inequality of incomes… and plain and simple GOP ignorance, “failing Econ 101,” as they put it. Here’s a sample:

So how did we end up in this state? How did America become a nation that could not rise to the biggest economic challenge in three generations, a nation in which scorched-earth politics and politicized economics created policy paralysis?

We suggest it was the inequality that did it. Soaring inequality is at the root of our polarized politics, which made us unable to act together in the face of crisis. And because rising incomes at the top have also brought rising power to the wealthiest, our nation’s intellectual life has been warped, with too many economists co-opted into defending economic doctrines that were convenient for the wealthy despite being indefensible on logical and empirical grounds.

We can keep on pursuing this course until the nation’s… and the world’s… economies collapse. Or we can “suddenly” remember that we’ve been here before, in the second half of the 1930s, and that we know how we got out of the Great Depression. I could say “the choice is ours,” but hey, it’s not as if we had a democracy or anything… [/snark]

Economic Recovery? For Whom?

For America’s obscenely, overwhelmingly wealthy… and, to a lesser degree, for people with incomes in the top 10%… there’s been a recovery.

For everyone else in America… there has been not even a hint of a change.

Is this just the vanishing of a fondly if fuzzily remembered Clinton era of growing wealth for everybody?

No. Here’s a summary of what Robert Reich has to say on the subject:

The top 1 percent got 45 percent of Clinton-era economic growth, and 65 percent of the economic growth during the Bush era.

According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all.

In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010. That’s down $127 from 2009, and down $4,843 from 2000 (all adjusted for inflation).

Some of us… the chronically unemployed… have not even been that lucky. Averages are great, if you’re not below them, but they’re a terrible measure of typical economic well-being.

Eat the rich, I say. (Be sure to clean and cook them thoroughly before consuming them.) Seriously: there is no just basis for the change in income distribution over the past three decades. It is rapidly turning America into a third-world nation with a bimodal wealth distribution like the worst of South America… or possibly worse. I unapologetically favor taxing the rich mofo’s back into the Stone Age… not punitively, but as a matter of national survival.

Krugman And Noah: ‘Crankocracy’

Paul Krugman follows Timothy Noah in noting that Citizens United has made America not so much a corporatocracy as a “crankocracy” … a government by oddball billionaires who form super PACs of their own. Krugman points out that the crankocracy has been going on “for decades,” not with formerly illegal campaign contributions but with think tanks, comfy positions between jobs for politicians and their families, etc. Krugman summarizes it this way:

For what the money of rich cranks does is ensure that bad ideas never go away — indeed, they can gain strength even as they fail in practice again and again. The notion that wonderful things happen if you cut taxes on the rich and terrible things happen if you raise them has a stronger hold than ever on the GOP, despite the experience of the Clinton tax hike and the Bush tax cut. Climate denialism gains force even as the planet warms. And so on.

And now a hand-picked Supreme Court (to which Obama’s contributions have made no difference in the balance of power) has handed the keys to the Ferrari to the senescent “teenagers” of the American family. Buckle up; here comes the crash…

The State Of The Nation

Please read William Rivers Pitt’s piece, Let the Million Flowers Bloom. Allow yourself a short span to fathom the list of activities Pitt compiles, things being done by government entities at literally all levels. Then read it again.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy-oriented mind to believe that we in America are headed straight to Hell, based on a simple list of well-established facts. While I believe there are some conspiracies, I am very disinclined to believe they are typically perpetrated by our governments; I find it more than distasteful to imagine that municipalities are organizing against our well-being. But facts are facts, and Pitt has spent years establishing a reputation for getting his facts right. His facts on NYC’s treatment of the Occupy movement are almost certainly right. Who would you rather believe? Michael Bloomberg? And how far behind can the rest of us be, if they’re collecting retinal scans of peaceful protesters?

Pitt says that GeeDubya Bush is finally getting his wish expressed in his attempt at a “Total Information Awareness” program. The technology to do such a thing has been available for a decade at least, and if it is now a mission of the No Such Agency to establish such a database, it will almost certainly happen. As a first step in preparing ourselves, we might want to contemplate how we will live in an era in which individual privacy is effectively nonexistent.

After you’ve figured that out for yourself, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some time to contemplate what comes next. Or maybe not. If I were in my 20s or 30s, I might seriously consider emigrating. And if that’s not an option for you…

Welcome to America! Enjoy your stay!

Robert Reich On Republican Social Darwinism

I am less than fond of the term “social Darwinism” because it has little if anything to do with Darwin’s theory of descent with modification by natural selection applied to random variation… i.e., evolution. But it is a term that has settled into use in political circles beyond my poor ability to control, and everyone knows that it really means “survival of the fattest… cats,” so I’ll forgive Robert Reich for using it in the title of his article, The Republican’s [sic] Social Darwinist Budget Plan. Reich’s conclusion just about says it all:

Republican Social Darwinists are determined that the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 be made permanent. Those cuts saved the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (roughly 1.4 million people) more money on their taxes last year than the rest of America’s 141 million taxpayers received in total income.

Right. To this would Paul Ryan and company condemn us, and they wouldn’t bat an eye at doing so. Do they really believe that 99% of the American body politic, as edgy as it has been in recent years, would continue to resist the use of pitchforks and torches if what little they have left is (let’s be honest here) stolen from them by means of tax laws?

Representation is a scarce commodity in Washington for ordinary mortals these days. My US Representative, a Republican, never… ever… answers my letters. My US Senators, both Republicans, generally reply with a “thank you for sharing your thoughts” non-response. I have no representation in Congress, and Obama isn’t helping much by repeatedly giving away the store. My thoughts keep drifting back… back… back to the days of our nation’s founders, and James Otis’s catch phrase that led them to revolution: taxation without representation is tyranny. So… what’s it going to be, Congress? and you, Mr. Obama? Real representation, or unmitigated tyranny?

UPDATE: please also read Paul Krugman’s Flim-Flam Fever. Krugman concludes that Ryan is an “obvious charlatan” and invites his (Krugman’s) critics to apologize for their own exuberant response to Ryan in 2010. It won’t happen, but Krugman has to try.

Mark Fiore – ‘iWhine’

Here.

H/T Michael Moore.