03 September 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

It really is the distribution, stupid.

I started this endeavor when I discovered, not caring a fig earlier, that one could blog without having one's own web site and server to match.  Who knew that Blogger, WordPress, Open Salon, and the like existed?  As the Great Recession deepened, I found more and more to write about.

I began professional life as an economist, and not the sort I would have liked; working, if even menially, at Brookings.  Eventually, I segued into statistics and computers, and did OK, until the Great Recession, as for so many others.  I keep an eye out for those in the Profession who write the facts.  They often do so for The NY Times, an assumed to be Liberal Media, and if so, about the only one.  Well, not counting "Mother Jones".

Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Reich, Clinton Labour Secretary.  Read the whole piece, if you would.  What follows are a few quotes for those who don't.

[C]onsumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven't kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.

The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago.

When American families couldn't squeeze any more income out of these two coping mechanisms, they embarked on a third: going ever deeper into debt. This seemed painless - as long as home prices were soaring. From 2002 to 2007, American households extracted $2.3 trillion from their homes.

The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty examined tax returns from 1913 to 2008. They discovered an interesting pattern. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation's total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income.

All points I have been making in the course of this endeavor.  Reich, in the balance of the piece, has some prescriptions.  He also, I feel, has missed out a key sociological component.  So far as I recall, this insight is mine alone; which is unfortunate, in that I lack the visibility of Reich, Clinton, or Obama.  The growth, and its shared nature, during the 1950's and 1960's (ending in 1973 with the first oil embargo) was due mostly to a residual Socialism engendered by the shared sacrifice of World War II.  For about 20 years, or about a generation, Americans as a whole understood and accepted the notion "that we're all in this together".  Thus, a truly progressive tax system was accepted as necessary.  The forced inclusion of Civil Rights, the divisiveness of Vietnam, and the evil of Republicans put an end to that. 

Stupid white folks have been looking to blame Others ever since.  And they'll keep on doing that until they start a real civil war, again.

1 comment:

TooMuchEditor said...

Another sign of our unequal times . . .

In 2007, the latest year with IRS stats available, America's 400 highest-earning taxpayers collected an average $344.8 million each in income. They paid 16.6 percent of that, after exploiting all the loopholes they could find, in federal income taxes.

In 1955, the top 400 collected on average, in 2007 inflation-adjusted dollars, just $12.8 million. They paid, after exploiting all available loopholes, 51.2 percent of that in taxes.