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Income inequality is at an 80 year high.
Basically, a couple hundred pages of the policies and facts behind this.
The Betrayal of the American Dream
By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
PublicAffairs: New York
289 pages

Before beginning Donald Barlett and James Steele's The Betrayal of the American Dream, put away any implements with which you might be tempted to harm yourself. This is grim, grim stuff. Some of the grimmest stuff possible: an unvarnished picture of the place of middle- and working-class people in our economy, with a glimpse of the political and economic forces putting the squeeze on that place.

Much of the material in the book will be familiar if you follow progressive media—if you're a regular reader of Daily Kos or Paul Krugman or a watcher of Chris Hayes or any number of others—but having so much of that information compiled in one relentless, compulsively readable volume is ... a lot. Imagine reading a year's worth of class war-themed blog posts or magazine articles or newspaper columns—the big-picture ones filled with numbers and facts and the history of tax and regulatory policy, mostly, seeded with a few affecting individual stories bringing home how brutally the numbers and facts and policies hit actual people. Only whereas you get a break between the short pieces, time to catch your breath and decide when to go back for more, The Betrayal of the American Dream just keeps gathering steam.

Really, there's nothing for the book to do but keep gathering steam, though, since while the problems come through loud and clear, the solutions are not nearly as well developed. That's a common problem for a book like this, and with good reason: if it was obvious how to fix things, we'd probably be making more progress toward doing so. But The Betrayal of the American Dream suffers from the lack of solutions more than most, because it actively undermines the hope that solutions are possible. Barlett and Steele are correct to emphasize the degree to which the rich and powerful (corporations and people) operate by a different set of rules than the rest of us, writing, for instance, that:

Because they conduct business around the world and move money in and out of tax havens and other countries to secure the lowest possible rate, many [U.S. multinational corporations] stash their cash offshore rather than bring it home, where they would be obliged to pay taxes on it.

They will bring it back only if Washington will agree to a tax holiday. [...] If you want to understand the differences between you and the ruling class, try that ploy with the IRS someday. Just tell them if they don't lower your tax rate you are going to move your money to another country.

It's important to be clear that the existence of two sets of rules is part of the problem. And it's important to be clear, as Barlett and Steele are, that Republicans are not the only problem, that Democratic politicians are complicit in many of the policies that perpetuate and solidify this system. (Even if at times it feels a bit unfair that they emphasize the participation of Democrats while taking for granted that Republicans are acting to the detriment of the working and middle classes.) But the grim tone, the lack of proposed solutions, the lack of any indication that there are forces fighting the expansion of this system, make you feel as hopeless as you feel angry after reading it. The Betrayal of the American Dream would benefit from providing even a little more perspective on ways to fight, on people and movements that are fighting, on leverage points. The final chapter offers some policy ideas, but it would be helpful to hear more about those throughout.

Nonetheless, the book is packed with important information and examples of the damage wrought by policies that allow companies to, for instance, avoid taxes, profit from sending jobs overseas, and strip workers of their pensions. And it does the important work of making clear just how badly the deck is stacked against the 99 percent. In the final analysis, if you're the sort of person who responds to an overwhelming dose of that knowledge by becoming too depressed to fight, avoid The Betrayal of the American Dream. But if getting mad primes you to fight, by all means, read this.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 05:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Dream Menders, Income Inequality Kos, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Is this book similar to the Shock Doctrine? (6+ / 0-)

    Cause the Shock Doctrine sure showed the sham of the American Dream to me and opened my eyes.

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    by roseeriter on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 05:57:35 AM PST

  •  The "tax holiday" is a really stupid idea (8+ / 0-)

    since it rewards corporations for doing business outside the country rather than at home, so are "progressives" really saying this?

    They will bring it back only if Washington will agree to a tax holiday. [...] If you want to understand the differences between you and the ruling class, try that ploy with the IRS someday. Just tell them if they don't lower your tax rate you are going to move your money to another country
    strange strange stuff
    •  Here's a bit more . . . (15+ / 0-)
      The subcommittee's report found that the last repatriation tax holiday cost the Treasury at least $3.3 billion in net revenue lost over ten years and that it "produced no appreciable increase in U.S. jobs or domestic investment, and led to U.S. corporations directing more funds offshore."
      link

      Just the opposite should be done - EXTRA taxes should be put on repatriation of overseas earnings and profits - if nothing else that might make US investors think twice about investing in companies using these ploys (since bringing the profits back home where they could get their hands on them would/could be just a tad more difficult).

      •  as written below (8+ / 0-)

        Sometimes there are simple solutions to complex problems.  Apple and Microsoft have an unbelievable amount of cash hidden overseas waiting to be repatriated when they receive a lowered tax rate.  Instead of bargaining with them, the government could just say, if not brought home within 2 years, the money can never be returned without a 95% tax.  Money sleeping overseas depresses the local economy and needs to be threatened.  Capitalism is good for business--government is supposed to be good for its citizens.  Countervailing forces.

        Apres Bush, le deluge.

        by melvynny on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:24:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I would think a (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grasshopper, starduster, Roadbed Guy

      Corporate amt might be the best option.

      If you're big corporation, with multiple offices, and especially a publicly traded corporation, you should pay at least something.

      There could be a way to do that based on worldwide median pay, profits, and executive pay as a multiple of median worker pay.

      So if you pay your executives 300 times your workers, and make a profit, you get a higher tax rate or a flat tax of 10% of your executive pay. If you don't make a profit, and your executives get a bonus, it kicks off an audit, at least. Or maybe a surcharge on those bonuses.

      If the median pay of your workers is more equitable, and you make a modest profit, you don't hit the amt.

      But for us corporations, I'd rather see a gross revenue tax on worldwide revenue. It wouldn't have to be much, maybe .5 cent per US dollar.

      But you couldn't get out of it, and it would be easy to calculate.

  •  Been there, done it (16+ / 0-)

    It was called the Guilded Age.  There were complicit Democrats - Grover Cleveland and his friends.  The Robber Barons of the day owned the government - the Congress, SCOTUS, the state legislatures and governors - bought and paid for.

    But we were able to move beyond this and create a more equitable society, and develop the American Dream, through government initiated reforms in the Progressive Era and the New Deal.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:07:35 AM PST

    •  Trapped in repeating history (7+ / 0-)

      .... another Grover
      ...another Guilded Age
      and our 2012 election map looks like


       ...another Civil War.

      If cats could blog, they wouldn't

      by crystal eyes on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:23:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Except Grover I could be moderately liberal (7+ / 0-)

        Creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, which would prohibit discriminatory rail freight rates that benefited the robber barons.

        Forcing the railroads to return to the government millions of acres of land granted to them gratis in previous Republican administrations.

        Opposition to imperialism in Hawaii and, after his presidency, in the Philippines.

        And, horror of horrors, implementation of the first peacetime federal income tax, with progressive rates - higher rates on higher incomes - later declared unconstitutional by a right wing SCOTUS.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:43:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In other words, if Grover I had had his way (0+ / 0-)

          The Birthers would have been right - Barack Obama would have been born in a foreign country - Hawaii!

          "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

          by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:49:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Where is today's Teddy Roosevelt? (6+ / 0-)

          Today it's monopolies that need to be broken up instead of trusts, but it's the same problem.

          The beginning of the end of the gilded age was state-level activism aimed at dismantling the local political machines.  Today's most organized local activists are advocates for the tea party.  We're a long way from the reforms of the progressive era.

          "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

          by SueDe on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:04:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  there's nobody entering government who _wants_ (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, historys mysteries

            to be Teddy Roosevelt.

            and the lobbyists quickly put a stop to that.

            look at the current way big pharma and big banks run the place.

            and with nary a peep from democrats or the best president of my lifetime.

            well, there's Warren and Merkley, Sanders and a few others.  Pathetic showing from 535 members of congress.

            and the republicans are the footsoldiers in the plutocratic take-over.

            big badda boom : GRB 090423

            by squarewheel on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:35:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  what we forget is that the American Dream (0+ / 0-)

        we mourn was largely a myth promoted by television and ad agencies.  The dream of immigrants was quite different, and they were/are prepared to struggle, live in poverty, work long hours for low wages in order to educate their children for a chance at something better.

        Income equality has never been part of any economic system.  The swings are normal.  We're fighting another battle for more fairness, but without the manufacturing bubble of the last battle.  Obama's right to be pushing for clean energy jobs but we don't yet know what the next bubble will be - probably climate clean-up of some sort.  

        The middle class we know was a fluke.  Decentralizing is also probably the new future- more small businesses, corporations moving to the the newest economies and settling there to do the damage they always do.  

        None of this is new, and it's always greeted with shock and anger because we don't know our history.

        I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

        by I love OCD on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:51:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So what *DO* we do about it? (6+ / 0-)

    ...because it's pretty clear to me the political climate isn't going to be favorable, probably for the rest of my life.

    I'm being serious here.  What DO we do about it?

  •  If anyone thinks there's a clear solution (7+ / 0-)

    to this then they haven't read Bobswern's post or Fish's post this morning.  The powers that be let us yammer on in our own little internet spots until somebody steps out of line; then it is hammer time, and the powers that be have a long reach when it comes to us peons. Never, even in the darkest days of the Nixon White House, have I felt so despairing of this country.

  •  A post-capitalist capital class (8+ / 0-)

    This is my nightmare: capital is now utterly divorced from production or commodities, or any real product or transaction. Consequently, capital can be lost and gained without any real change in the world beneath it, as the losses and gains are synthetic promises among members of a class that are unattached to:
    1. commodities, except as those who wish to dance in them,
    2. real property, except as commodities in aggregate which can be turned into capital values that can be abstracted,
    3. nation states, except as physical presences that affect in the most general way the atmosphere.

    I call this post-capitalist because capitalists were deriving wealth from rent on the means of production, but these. . . these are aggregating that money in a professional gambling ("venture") class of guaranteed returns ("deferred risk") while believing and acting in their own ideology that there is no loser involved, no subject for the money to belong to.

    This is what Clinton II unwittingly unleashed.

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:27:35 AM PST

  •  Start local and state. (9+ / 0-)

    A lot of the damage starts with local and state actions and politicians. Change the state legislature, redistrict (you do not have to wait for a census) and root out ALEC-bots.

    Then we can get a different Congress. 2012 results are a lot better than 2010, despite the huge amount of money spent.

    It s not in my nature to despair. I have see too many "impossible" changes happen. I remember segregated schools, among other things.

    We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much. JK Galbraith, 1991

    by Urban Owl on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:39:00 AM PST

    •  I live in Texas. (4+ / 0-)

      It's the reason I despair.

      •  I do too. Austin. (4+ / 0-)

        Texas will turn blue by 2020 from the demographic shift.

        Sooner with some work.

        Perry can be defeated in 2014; nobody likes him. He only won in 2010 b/c  of the national wave. In his previous election, he got 39%!

        I look forward to the "Castro or Governor" campaign.

        We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much. JK Galbraith, 1991

        by Urban Owl on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:53:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Castro FOR Governor (0+ / 0-)

          Damn typo

          We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much. JK Galbraith, 1991

          by Urban Owl on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:57:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Austin ain't the problem. (4+ / 0-)

          I also live in Austin, but I was born in west Texas and grew up in deep east Texas.  Neither of those places is going to change.  Our only hope is the cities.  

          I agree Goodhair is toast in the long run, but he might manage to get elected Governor one more time.  I don't think so, but there are plenty more crazies where he came from.

          We might, in time, be able to get a Democrat elected senator.  It might even happen in my lifetime (I'm 48), but it's going to be a very long time before we have a Democratic congressional delegation.  The Republicans have rigged state politics to favor their election since the day they took over.  It will take a long time to unwind them.  I'm not even going to mention the pathetic excuse that is the Texas Democratic Party.

          Castro for Governor would be a very good start, but since the Texas Governor doesn't hold any real power, it's largely symbolic.  It would be fun to watch the crackers squirm, though.  They'd be buying even more guns to protect themselves from the "Mezzcans"!

          it's going to be a very long time before a true progressive gets elected to national office from Texas.  

          I hope I'm alive to see it.

      •  Wait (0+ / 0-)

        The demographics they are a changin.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:54:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am 52... (5+ / 0-)

          ...been waiting all my life for a progressive economy and government. All I got were neo cons and neo libs.We have a fabulously wealthy country with no economic distribution model left in tact.

          I am old enough to have read two of Barlett and Steele's previous works. If memory serves (at 52 that is iffy ;) ) one was a Pulitzer winning America What Went Wrong some 20 years ago. Everything was clear as day then and yet the class struggle rages on with the good guys losing.

          -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

          by Blueslide on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:10:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  "The Rich and the Super-Rich" came out in 1968 (13+ / 0-)

    and was a pioneer in this type of literature.  I reemember reading it in college in the 70's and being amazed at how the deck was stacked.  Things haven't changed in the ensuing decades.  Thanks, Laura, for this.  I'll be sure to pick it up.

    •  Degree/intensity is the issue not mere inequality (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      deanarms, historys mysteries

      Income inequality exists in the Northern European nations some of us frequently cite.

      They redistribute better than we do, though I am certain there are elements of their political strata which look with envy at how much we allow financial "winners" (really cannot say "our" financial winners as most of them considered themselves our citizens only when situationally convenient)  to keep for themselves.  :-p

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:39:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  In 1968 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howd

      the usury limit in most states for interest on loans was 1.5%/month. Banks were chartered only within the State they were chartered in and the interest they could pay for accounts was limited by regulation. Union membership was 35% and the median wage let a family own a home, a car, save a little for the future and let mom stay home. A job that didn't have health insurance was rare. In 1968 there were fewer than 10 filibusters in the Senate. A lot has changed, including the ratio of the rich to the rest.

      "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 12:29:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent criticism (0+ / 0-)

    alternatives exist, and they go far beyond a few policy options. thank you for foregrounding this important point, which is the only reason so many of us muster the energy to get up in the morning and keep fighting. Ms. Clawson has done so much to keep these visible in her column. for example, i have recently been heartened by the courageous actions of workers from OUR Wal-Mart and the Walmart Warehouse Workers, ordinary people who are reclaiming their place in the American Dream.

  •  Handing the f**king Rat Prince a big loss last (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Urban Owl, hosemore, OnlyWords, llywrch

    month was a step in the right direction.

  •  The answer to the inequality problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyK

    is not that difficult, except politically.  If the top income earners refuse to invest their enormous gains in enterprises that create jobs for wage earners, tax their gains at high enough rates to convince them that they would be better off taking risks and creating jobs than paying extremely high taxes to the government.  That way the government could create the jobs that the top quintiles refuse to create.

    The reason this is impossible to accomplish politically is that the top earners find it preferable to spend their money to defeat congressional candidates who would vote to substantially raise their tax rates.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:52:33 AM PST

  •  Recommended (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    goodpractice, foresterbob

    Another excellent book is Hedrick Smith's Who Stole The American Dream. I strongly recommend it along with this similarly titled book. Once you read how the American people were betrayed by our leaders, including liberals, and the business community you will begin to understand the enormous power they wield to our detriment. Trying to visualize where we should be as a nation rather than where we are brings out anger and also tears.  

  •  Why are there no class action lawsuits against (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kentucky DeanDemocrat, llywrch, howd

    corporations that steal workers' pensions?

    Best. President. Ever.

    by Little Lulu on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 06:58:27 AM PST

    •  Because It Is Not Illegal (0+ / 0-)

      ... since corporations get to make the rules.

      What we consider stealing, they call reorganization.

      Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

      by howd on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 03:30:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I would suggest that the book be required (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, howd

    reading for right wingers, but without the stamp of approval from Fox, Rush, Beck, et al, nobody will believe it.  They will simply declare it to be false, as they do with climate change, and continue down the same path of enabling the ultra rich.

    •  Of Course Right Wingers Will Not Believe This Book (2+ / 0-)

      it's full of facts and numbers and arithmetic while being devoid of god and guns and freedumb.

      Obviously it's the work of some godless commie pinko ni&&er-lovin socialist so why would anyone to the right of Joe Manchin pick this book up.... except to burn it

      I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

      by OnlyWords on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:59:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Projected $280 Billion Lost Revenues Offshore! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, foresterbob

    (Examiner)

    Which is approx $24,000.00 in lost revenue PER U.S. HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR.

    ******

  •  Stealing the pensions is what I hate (7+ / 0-)

    the most.  People went to work for companies with the mutual understanding that pensions were part of their compensation.  Then 15, 20, 25 years later a merger, or just a new generation of executives and the pension disappears.  

    I work for a non-profit and the current administration is very Republican (to the point they try to make us shut up during elections) and they took us out of a very good pension program, run nationwide by the parent organization.  Their rationale was that the pension plan had lost money (duh - it was 2008, everybody lost money.)  A group of us long term employees raised a big stink and they made an accommodation for us, but I still lose about $2500 a year in my pension pay-out ($50,000 over 20 years) and the extra compensation was only $20,000.  This is an organization that has been rated a top non-profit for several years.  Right.

  •  sometimes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RadGal70, llywrch

    Sometimes there are simple solutions to complex problems.  Apple and Microsoft have an unbelievable amount of cash hidden overseas waiting to be repatriated when they receive a lowered tax rate.  Instead of bargaining with them, the government could just say, if not brought home within 2 years, the money can never be returned without a 95% tax.  Money sleeping overseas depresses the local economy and needs to be threatened.  Capitalism is good for business--government is supposed to be good for its citizens.  Countervailing forces.

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:22:25 AM PST

  •  Thank you Barlett & Steele (0+ / 0-)

    I read two of your books in the nineties, "America: What Went Wrong?", and "America: Who Really Pays the Taxes?", and ever since felt many of the answers to our debates have been studiously ignored.

    It must be terribly frustrating to have done so much work on so much of what ails us as a country, and to hear our "debates" among political leaders bereft of data you have so helpfully provided.

    "extravagant advantage for the few, ultimately depresses the many." FDR

    by Jim R on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:31:05 AM PST

  •  The "American Dream"... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roseeriter, Egalitare

    has always been a civic religion, easily exploited by the "priestly class" of the Industrial Age. The lofty ideals of this Amerian ethos, as cynically preached to the eager masses, disguise the self-destructive horrors of consumerism, debt-slavery and the myth of limitless resources.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:40:50 AM PST

  •  This book makes me angry, not a bad thing (0+ / 0-)

    And anger can be a positive force that spurs us to action. What makes me hopeful is organizing to build power for change at the local level by forming coalitions of like-minded progressive institutions. I've found hope in work done in Industrial Areas Foundation( IAF)  groups- broad-based coalitions of churches, labor unions, schools, and non-profits working to develop local leadership and fighting for issues like affordable housing, living wages, good public schools, immigration reform, and health care. Organized people can  match the power of organized money.

    Good thing we've still got politics in Texas -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented.- Molly Ivins

    by loblolly on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:44:59 AM PST

  •  Those graphs don't look like a betrayal. (0+ / 0-)

    Question:

    Are they not in constant dollars?

    There seems to be something wrong about them, especially in light of other reports about relative declines in middle-class income, reduced labor force participation rates, etc.

    If those numbers are real, however, they might reflect a problem, but not a betrayal, per se -- everybody's after-tax income went up.

    I don't really care if Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is doing tons better than I am if I'm doing well, too.

    The big problem is that so many of us aren't doing better.  A lot of us, in fact, are doing much worse.  Whether we're doing as much better as we think we should is a lesser problem by comparison.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:48:12 AM PST

  •  The Democratic Base Warned The Nation In 1980 That (0+ / 0-)

    supply-side economics Reaganomics trickle-down economics voodoo economics was counter-factual, counter-intuitive, and just plain idiotic!

    In 1980, Reagan won only 12% of the Black vote and 56% of the White vote.

    The Democratic base warned the nation again in 1984 that supply-side economics Reaganomics trickle-down economics voodoo economics was counter-factual, counter-intuitive, and just plain idiotic!

    In 1984, Reagan won only 8% of the Black vote and 64% of the White vote.

    But the country decided to ignore these warnings from the Democratic base. Ever since 1984, it's been either voodoo economics, or neo-voodoo economics. And, looking at the demographics of the 2012 election, it is crystal clear that the Democratic base is still being ignored by those who have voted in the majority for RepubliKlans over the last 4 decades.

    I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party.

    by OnlyWords on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:20:28 AM PST

  •  The thing that bugs me about all of these charts.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barbwires

    ...is that there's almost never a "breakdown" of what income ranges constitute the 1%, the highest 5th, the middle 5th and the bottom 5th.

    Without that information, the charts become fairly...gauzy.

    "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." ~ Steven Biko

    by Marjmar on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:31:17 AM PST

  •  we need the economics of the 24th century (0+ / 0-)

    infinite growth is not possible and will surely destroy the planet.  it is destroying the planet.

    Krugman's been writing some very interesting columns about smart machines.

    the capitalists don't want employees, not exactly sure who they think they're going to sell product too, but there it is.

    the rise of the rent seeking uber-capitalists means the decline of our living standards. there just isn't going to be enough work to go around due to mechanization of all forms.

    the current economic structure isn't going to work, but what are we going to replace it with ?

    big badda boom : GRB 090423

    by squarewheel on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:32:47 AM PST

  •  Screw the IRS. I'm moving my $100 offshore! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native

    Take that!

  •  The super-rich can control the ship of state (0+ / 0-)

    only to the degree that the populace as a whole allows it. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the American public is still very supportive of our corporate overlords, and unwilling to demand the systemic reforms that would be necessary to loosen their grip on power. Progressives have yet to convince the general public of exactly what structural changes are needed, or even desirable.

    But it's a dynamic situation. Opinions and circumstances are changing, and information is flowing ever more freely. Vested interests can control the media only to a certain extent. What needs to change before anything else, is the consciousness of the people themselves.

  •  A simple solution, in my view, is just (0+ / 0-)

    burn down Wall Street, get banks out of the casino, and raise the min. wage to $10. It ain't the end all comprehensive solution, but it's a damn good start.

  •  The Amerrican Revolutioanries comapred to the left (0+ / 0-)

    There are two, interrelated reason why workable solutions seem unclear is because we have yet to fully grasp the idea that the fundamental political nature of the United States has changed in the last half century. The USA is supposed to be a republic. In fact, the Constitution guarantees to each state a republican form of government (Article IV, Section 4). But who today can correctly define what a republic is?

    I have argued that to understand what a republic is, you should look at what the antitheses of a republic are: monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, plutocracy. If you do an internet search for "republic" you will find that conservatives have pretty well saturated the public space with their definition of a republic as a system in which minority rights are protected - which is only partially correct. There's much more to it. Conservatives, for example, leave out any discussion of how important an equitable distribution of wealth is to American Revolutionaries' concept of a republic.

    The second reason why workable solutions seem unclear is because of the prevalence of socialist and marxist theories, which incorrectly posit that the very nature of human behavior is shaped by the economic system. The simple proposition that the political system is shaped by the economic system is only a partial truth. There is a much more dynamic interrelationship between the political and economics systems, which was understood by the American Revolutionaries. The very revolt of the Revolution itself was based on the rejection of the English political elites using their control of the political system to shape the economic system of no-colonialism in the elites' favor, and at the expense of the colonists.  This process was subsumed under the general topic of "corruption" at the time of the American Revolution. Gordon Wood writes in his important 1969 history, The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787  (pages 32-33) that

    These widely voiced fears for the fate of the English constitution… represented the rational and scientific conclusions of considered social analysis… When the American Whigs described the English nation and government as eaten away by “corruption,”  they were in fact using a technical term of political science, rooted in the writings of classical antiquity, made famous by Machiavelli, developed by the classical republicans of seventeenth-century England, and carried into the eighteenth century by nearly everyone who laid claim to knowing anything about politics. And for England it was pervasive corruption, not only dissolving the original political principles by which the constitution was balanced, but, more alarming,  sapping the very spirit of the people by which the constitution was ultimately sustained.

    ….as the Whigs interpreted the events of the eighteenth century, the crown had been able to evade the restrictions of the revolutionary settlement of 1688 and had “found means to corrupt the other branches of the legislature,” upsetting the delicately maintained balance of the constitution [remember – political mores, beliefs, expectations, and behavior] from within. Throughout the eighteenth century the Crown had slyly avoided the blunt and clumsy instrument of prerogative, and instead had resorted to influencing the electoral process and the representatives in Parliament in order to gain its treacherous ends.

    In short, the argument of the American Revolutionaries was that the elites in a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy engaged in economic looting through their control of the political system.  In "The American Revolutionaries, the Political Economy of Aristocracy, and the American Concept of the Distribution of Wealth, 1765-1900" (The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp. 1079-1105 ) Professor James L. Huston writes:

    The answer to how the social system of aristocracy generated wealth inequality was easily found. American political leaders applied the labor theory of property or value; an unjust distribution resulted when a few were able to transfer the fruits of other persons’ labor to themselves. Aristocrats (non-workers and therefore non-producers) stole the fruits of labor from the masses of toilers (laborers and therefore producers). Aristocrats effected the transference by political means. It was control of politics that enabled aristocrats to steal the fruits of labor, to enrich themselves and pauperize the multitudes. By the time of the writing of the Constitution, literate Americans had clearly voiced the idea that a misdistribution of wealth was almost entirely a political act.
    What Bartlett and Steele show in their new book (and I bet it does not differ that from their previous books America: What Went Wrong (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996); The Great American Tax Dodge: How Spiraling Fraud and Avoidance are Killing Fairness, Destroying the Income Tax, And Costing You (2000). The great weakness of Bartlett and Steele - the reason why it seems they are unable to provide a set of policy solutions - is that they do not put the political-economic developments they discuss in the context of the understanding achieved by the American Revolutionaries. They do not frame the issue squarely as that of the American republic endangered by a new, financial and corporatist oligarchy.

    Think of this; think of how controversial this is; but ask yourself if it is really incorrect: the rich must be treated differently exactly because they are rich. Of course, they already are treated differently, thanks to their control and manipulation of the political system, as Bartlett and Steele discuss. But what I mean is that the rights of the rich must be circumscribed simply because they are rich. For example, because they are rich, they can afford to exercise the freedom of speech in a much different way that is far more effective in our modern media economy of electronic telecommunications. This, of course, is the problem with unlimited corporate contributions allowed by the historically incorrect FEC v. Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

    Now, we already limit the free speech of some citizens simply because of who they are: military officers have the exercise of their free speech strictly circumscribed in the interest of maintaining civilian control of the military. What most people don't know today is that the other great threat to a republic identified by the American Revolutionaries, besides a standing army, is the rich. Or, as Madison puts in his April 1787 Notes on Vices of the Political System of the United States he made in preparing for the Constitutional Convention, "such as possess the great pecuniary resources." In his 1821 Autobiography, Thomas Jefferson wrote of the need to "annul ... an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit, to society" and replacing the rich with an "aristocracy of virtue and talent" as being "essential to a well ordered republic."

    Rich people are also a threat to the republic because of what they do with their money. Depicting this problem is what Bartlett and Steele excel at. There are probably few readers here unaware of the present facts that business profits are at record highs while workers wages are at new lows relative to GDP, and that corporate treasuries are sitting on trillions of dollars, without granting pay increases to employees.

    But just as important, the rich do no invest in new businesses and industries; they do not create new jobs, as the Republicans and conservatives would have us believe. Rather, the rich seek to preserve and hoard their wealth by engaging in what economists call rent seeking behavior. And they use their money to buy the political influence needed to create opportunities for rent seeking behavior, or even to make it legal when it is illegal. I present the stark evidence in Neo-liberalism-de-capitalization, de-industrialization and the Res Publica that the economic rent schemes of the rich have not only de-industrialized the U.S. economy, but de-capitalized it as well.

    Worst of all, the rich buy so much political influence, they effectively short-circuit republican self-government, and warp and maim democratic processes so badly that the United States now functions more like an oligarchy than a republic. As Chris Hedges points out, there is no way to vote against Goldman Sachs.

    Placing a much higher tax on the wealthy, simply for being wealthy, helps to prevent the huge concentrations of wealth that the Founders warned could be just as dangerous to our liberties as a standing army.

    If we probe this pernicious economic and political behavior, while also studying how a national economy actually, physically operates, we can begin to form what can be called a political economy of oligarchy, which fully justifies the proposition that the rich need to be taxed more heavily.
    In other words, the argument that the rich need to pay their fair share is only a facile assertion of political marketing, that probably does more harm than good by avoiding discussion of the problem of the new financial and corporatist oligarchy slowly but surely destroying our republic from within.

    The American Revolutionaries used their intense study of the histories of past republics - Athens, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Florence, the Netherlands, certain of the Hanseatic city-states - to fashion political and political-economic theories of republicanism that differ in important ways from socialist and Marxist theory. American Revolutionaries strove to erect a political structure that would allow citizens to exercise self-government. This structure is so strong, that it has a wonderful, if rocky and sometimes bloody, history of inexorably expanding the definition of who "citizens" are, to come closer and closer to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The left woefully missteps when it points to this history as proof that the American political and economic systems are irredeemably based on exploitation. More to the point, the left has failed to ask why it is that socialist and Marxist theories have led to authoritarian structures of socioeconomic and political hierarchy that have even more bloody and gruesome historical records that the USA. And, of course, by dismissing out of hand any redeeming qualities of what the American Revolutionaries achieved, the left cripples itself by making inaccessible any fundamental understanding of what a republic is supposed to be.  

    As for solutions, I was posting them back at the height of the financial crises, when I naively believed those crises would force citizens to act against the power of the financial and corporatist oligarchs, and reimpose social control on Wall Street and the financial system to redirect the channels of credit and new money formation away from speculation and back towards real economic activity. In October 2008 I promoted  Sean-Paul Kelley’s (editor of The Agonist)  outline of ten critical financial reforms: What Might Real Financial Reform Look Like? And in January 2009, I promoted David Cay Johnston’s ( former New York Times correspondent, and author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) eleven point A guide to ending the war on the middle class. In October 2011, Jon Larson posted an excellent list at Real Economics of specific policy proposals, So what do we really want?

    A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

    by NBBooks on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 10:07:17 AM PST

    •  Fairness and Balance (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think this is possible, but I believe that producers and resellers should only be allowed to be licensed to do business in one state. What I mean by this is that they could sell to anyone anywhere. But, they could not have any holdings outside their state of license. This would create opportunity for many more people, to do business in their local communities. An, most importantly there would be no large corporations (Walmart) siphoning off the wealth of the local community. The wealth would circulate within the community. Because, small businesses would be marketing goods and services to the local community, and hiring local people for the labor they need. I know this is a very simple view, but I think there must be someway to end the strangle hold that large corporation like Walmart have on us. They have become so large that they can influence not just state policy, but federal government policy.

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