Economy: Vast inequalities of wealth undermine society

Why is it important that, finally, a movement has arisen to resist the slo-mo counter-revolution that since the 1970s has seized political and economic control of the United States?

Since before the Revolutionary War, economic inequality has been a fact of American economic life, and indeed the Founders went out of their way to institutionalize the advantages of wealth, but in recent decades the gap between rich and poor has widened to a pathological degree. Today, more than 40% of total income is going to the wealthiest 10%, and the oligarchs have purchased control of government at every level to cement in place the status quo.

By every measure  -- infant mortality, longevity, health, productivity, democratic governance, crime -- the social and political repercussions on society of economic inequality are devastating. Like a cancer, economic injustice eats away at civil society, weakening democracy and destroying the quality of life for most citizens.

The evidence shows that it is not possible to have a functioning civil society and a vibrant economy when a tiny oligarchy absconds with nearly all the benefits. In this TED talk from Richard Wilkinson, who with Kate Pickett wrote The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, demonstrates graphically how inequality damages societies.

Until now, the majority of Americans has acquiesced in the corporate raid on America. We sat quietly for decades while the progressive tax was flattened; the labor unions were defanged; public education deteriorated; the infrastructure rotted away; public services were rolled back or privatized; the prison system metastasized. We watched as the public weal was stolen, tuning in while plane loads of cash -- sometimes literally -- vanished. We watched as democracy was transformed into kleptocracy.

Until now.

Occupy Wall Street is the middle class' way of shouting "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."  Americans are articulating, even as the oligarchs are too befuddled by greed to comprehend, the simple fact that the current system is unsustainable.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Signage

Although the media has done its best to obscure the message of the Occupy movement, anyone interested in finding out what the demonstrations are about has only to look at the astonishingly articulate signs in the "what do they want" videos and newsphotos. Or you can download the following video of Michael Moore being interviewed on lower Broadway by CNBC's Carl Quintanilla (to the network's credit, for a full eight minutes).

Moore isn't confused by the protests, as the pundits pretend to be. Don’t the American people deserve some answers and some justice?, he asks. Where did their money go? Who stole it?  Everybody down at Occupy Wall Street wants the wealthy to be taxed more. They want Glass-Steagall reinstated. They want the money out of politics. They want to know where the jobs went. They want to know if the jobs coming back.

“I’m not even sure equality of opportunity is there anymore," he says.

It's the Inequality, Stupid: Eleven charts that explain what's wrong with America by Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot (Mother Jones March/April 2011)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails