Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who widened inequality ? by Henry CK Liu

The figure is one such measure of inequality—the ratio of the wealth of the richest 1% to that of a household with typical wealth in the middle. As the figure indicates, wealth inequality has not only persisted, but also grown much larger over time. The richest 1% of wealth holders had 125 times the wealth of the typical household in 1962; by 2004 they had 190 times as much or $14.8 million in wealth for the upper 1% compared to just $82,000 for the household in the middle fifth of wealth.

Extract below from Super Capitalism, Super Imperialism and Monetary Imperialism
Part 2 of article by Henry C.K. Liu

Who Widened Inequality?

Reich continues in his WSJ Opinion piece: “Yet the philosophical debate [on inequality] is coming up all the time these days, and it helps explain the new economic populism. Consider, for example, the Bush cuts. They’ve mainly benefited the top fifth of taxpayers. Supply-siders argue the cuts have generated enough extra revenues to pay for themselves so they haven’t enlarged the budget deficit. That’s debatable but let’s make the heroic assumption the supply-siders are correct and no one has been made worse off. Yet even so, most Americans have not benefited – nothing has trickled down. Real median wages have barely budged since they were enacted. So the underlying question is whether they’re justified by the fact that rich Americans have gained from them while no one has lost ground. The answer is no. They’ve widened inequality.”

Reich reminds one of the famous fable by Mencius (372-289 BC) in which those who retreated 50 paces from the battle line turning around and laughing at those who retreated 100 paces for being cowards.

The Bush administration has not been the only one adding inequality to the US economy. The philosophical issue of inequality has only come up “these days” because neo-liberals thought it was not a worthwhile issue as long as all income is rising even though some may rise much faster than others.

Moyers the True Liberal

Bill Moyers, key participant in President Johnson’s Great Society that was tragically aborted by the Vietnam War, in a June 3, 2004 speech: The Fight of Our Lives, given at the Inequality Matters Forum at New York University, said:

“Astonishing as it seems, no one in official Washington seems embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it’s been in 50 years – the worst inequality among all western nations. Or that we are experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said those people down there at the bottom were single, jobless mothers. For years they were told work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn’t expect it – among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. Our political, financial and business class expects them to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.”

The inequality that Moyers rightly protests about did not start with the second Bush administration. It started with the Carter deregulation policies and the neo-liberal trade policies of the two-term Clinton administration and Clinton’s adoption of the “Third Way” radical centralism approach promoted by British sociologist Anthony Giddens

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