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Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column in the New York Times in which he apologizes for "suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around."  

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

A Hedge Fund Republic?

The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States.

Since then, we’ve reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.

A Hedge Fund Republic?

Stare the inequality in its face.  That is the reality underneath most other issues today.  But if we ignore it, if we deny its reality, then NOTHING we do makes a damn bit of difference.  

But there is also a larger question: What kind of a country do we aspire to be? Would we really want to be the kind of plutocracy where the richest 1 percent possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent?

Oops! That’s already us. The top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America’s private net worth, according to figures compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The bottom 90 percent owns just 29 percent.

That also means that the top 10 percent controls more than 70 percent of Americans’ total net worth.

A Hedge Fund Republic?

That's already us.  Until we face reality, we are just spinning our wheels, making noise, but making no difference at all.    

The bottom 90% owns 29%.  Think about that.  You may own stock, a biggie it seems among some, but you don't own shit.

1/4 getting food stamps.  Nearly 10% official unemployment. And growing class stratification.  But many Congress folks want to ignore the working peple with or without jobs and give rich folks tax cuts. It's like a bad movie. I mean, only some crazy socialist like Michael Moore would imagine America to be like this. And yet it is.  

McJoan brings us news on the front page of the rich getting richer:

Wall Street profits soar, again

Wall Street may earn $19 billion in 2010, its fourth-most profitable year, even as regulatory changes and a weakened economy limit its ability to generate profit, New York state's comptroller said.

My reference in the title is to a line in John Lennon's song.  "You're all fucking peasants as far as I can see."  We are all peasants now.  As Rand Paul says, we exist to serve the rich, and we are supposed to be grateful.  Work on your bowing, cause you're going to need it.  Kissing ass is an art form, if you want to eat, that is.  

Check out Income Inequality Kos on Thursday nights.  I just discovered it by a google search this morning for something else. Here's some from a November 11 diary:

Income inequality is not healthy for a society. That's the take-away from The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010 (American Edition), NY, Bloomsbury Press. Income inequality in the US is at an all-time high and many of us have been bothered by this for some time. Inequality offends our sense of justice. There is a large zero-sum element involved so that more for those at the top means less for the rest of us and there is a self-perpetuating trend so that more wealth means more political power which means even more wealth and so on. These are reasons enough for concern, even outrage, about income inequality. But there is more, a lot more.

The higher the income inequality the lower the social mobility, the harder it is to rise from the social class you were born into. Remember the 1980s, the Reagan Revolution, the beginning of the Republican Class-War ? People were watching Dallas and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. There was a celebration of wealth in the popular culture. Why not institute policies favoring the wealthy ? Anyone can become rich if they want to, right ? Well, no. Free-market economics has given us a country with very little social mobility, a highly stratified, highly unequal country, a country like the European monarchies of old, a country that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. I highly recommend The Spirit Level. Read it and weep.

Originally posted to TomP on Thu Nov 18, 2010 at 08:07 AM PST.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos.

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