Posted by: Boston Bravery | April 11, 2011

What Really is Going On

Wonder how many of you saw this article in this week’s Vanity Fair:   “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”  by Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz.  This article is an accumulation of  progressive economic argument.

In case you haven’t seen it or don’t have time to read the whole story, here  are a couple highlights:

“In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent.  Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”

“…growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible.”

“…many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy.”

“…and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology.”

“They [the Top 1%] also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.”

Author Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz also points out that, “Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.”  The only way to correct is through public financing of elections at all levels, President, Senate, House, Governors and state representative bodies.  That is if it is correctable.  I would bet that throughout history, virtually all U.S. Senators and Representatives in the House have been members of the top 1 percent.  However, with public-financed elections,  the representatives would represent the people and not the lobbyist funding their campaigns.

Finally he ends with, “The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

I wouldn’t argue with any of the points made in the article.   I would like to see expansion of the progressive argument to fit the world we live in today. The top 1 percent have moved on to the new consumer market in Asia.  With over a billion Chinese –and a billion Indians that are growing in number and soon will out number the Chinese– why would the top 1 percent care about the 99 percent in this country which has a  total population of only 300 million?  The top 1% have billions to sell their crap to in India and China who  aren’t expecting a U.S. standard of living.  Which also brings us to the question:  Are the Chinese and the Indian  really going to buy the  crap the top 1% are selling?

Dr. Stiglitz points out that Americans, “…outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means.”  So far the Chinese and Indians  have not been shown that they are willing to live beyond their means.

I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.


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