Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

Wealth Inequality in America

March 4th, 2013

Wealth inequality is a major problem in America. Why are our representatives not talking about it?

You need to see this video!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also:

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/stiglitz-some-are-more-unequal-than-others/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/books/review/the-price-of-inequality-by-joseph-e-stiglitz.html?smid=pl-share

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/equal-opportunity-our-national-myth/

http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

 

The Wall Street Occupation

October 18th, 2011

Now in over 1500 cities worldwide, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement is looking more and more like it will have staying power on a massive scale. The movement is still trying to refine its demands and specific grievances. Its main focus is economic injustice, but some groups within the movement have a much broader lists of complaints. One thing that is for certain, this is not simply a group of hippies—as Fox New coverage would have you believe. This is a highly diverse group that is expressing the spirit of democracy. This thrust is felt by people on both sides of the isle. This is not about left or right…it is about being American, in an America that is fair and just.

Here are some of the demands and declarations that have been made.

 

Occupiers on Wall Street

 

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City (source):

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011, with minor updates made on October 1, 2011. It is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

 

Article image

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

 

There’s a War Going On!

December 10th, 2010

In his recent speech on the Senate floor,  Senator Bernie Sanders passionately declared, “There is a war going on…a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country, against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country” (see his video speech below). There are a number of data points that indicate the truth of Senator Sanders claim. Let’s look at a few of these:

  • Corporations are enjoying record profits (source)
  • Unemployment is at a 30-year high (source)
  • The unemployed tend to be out of work longer than ever before (source)
  • US hit the highest poverty level in 15 years (source)
  • Top earners’ income continue to grow while wages are stagnant for everyone else (source)
  • Union membership has declined from one-third of the labor force in 1960, to 10% by the year 2000 (private sector union membership)(source)

We need to think about what is causing these trends and how they can be countered. We know they are not countered by extended income tax cuts for the wealthy or raising the estate tax exemption amount. Republicans seem to be doing everything in their power to speed up these trends; and taking the House this year will give them some power to continue the status quo. It it worth think about what kind of country we end up with if they have their way. It is not pretty for anyone, not even the rich. These trends need to be reversed if we are going to preserve our way of life.

Senator Bernie Sanders really says it all:

See additional graphs by clicking “read more.” » Read more: There’s a War Going On!

The Difference Between a Liberal and a Conservative

September 20th, 2010
Of all the political theories used to understand our complex political system, one of the most useful is “Social Dominance Theory” (SDT) developed by Sidanius and Pratto. This is a sociological theory that seek to make sense of social hierarchies and how they are formed and maintained. To understand social hierarchies is to understand discrimination, oppression,  stereotypes, inequality, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, nationalism, and the like. In short, SDT provides a framework for understanding power and group inequality.
Sidanius and Pratto’s 1999 book, Social Dominance, exhibits high scholarly standards, and is considered a classic sociological text. For anyone who wants to understand human systems, including political-economic social systems, this is an excellent read. There work is particularly relevant for understanding the difference between conservatives and liberals. Essentially, a political conservative is someone who accepts group inequality—that is, when a small group of elites dominates the majority (the subordinate group). A liberal is someone who seeks more egalitarian social organization, with equal opportunity for all groups. SDT identifies the attitudes associated with conservative/liberal views by measuring a group’s “social dominance orientation.”
“Social dominance orientation” is the degree to which individuals desire and support group-based hierarchy and domination of “inferior” groups by “superior” groups. Individuals have varying degrees of social dominance orientation. Political conservatism, authoritarianism, racism, sexism, lack of empathy, acceptance inequality, patriotism, and the presence of oppressive and discriminatory behavior is strongly correlated with social dominance orientation. » Read more: The Difference Between a Liberal and a Conservative

“Death Taxes” are for the Living

August 6th, 2010

“We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or democracy–but we cannot have both.”
–Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandels

Since the 2001 tax cuts, there has been a slow phasing-out of the estate tax until the tax was fully repealed at the beginning of this year. Absent any further legislation, the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of 2010, including the estate tax. (We’re going to see a lot of dead grandparents this year!) There will inevitably be a political storm over extending the Bush tax cuts. Although Obama himself made tax cuts part of the economic stimulus in early 2009, he is widely expected to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year. This should be good news for deficit hawks. If we are going to get back to a balanced budget, the additional tax revenues will be necessary (although not sufficient).

The estate tax (AKA, the inheritance tax) is one of the oldest forms of taxation. It has been in place since 1916 in the U.S., until it was repealed earlier this year. According to the Brookings Institute, the estate tax only affects the wealthiest 2% of the U.S. population (i.e., the majority of those paying the tax had fortunes in excess of $5 million). Of the $550 billion that is transferred from one generation to another, the estate tax brings in $20 billion each year to the U.S. treasury (other sources say that the federal government lost $56 billion in 2010 because of the tax repeal). Estate taxes have rarely contributed more than 2% to federal budget. But this tax is not just about finding another revenue stream for the government. It is a wealth control program that lies at the very heart of American values.

In many ways, America was born out of the idea of rejecting aristocratic power and privileged (even if those forces have always been present). Since our founding, we have sought to put power in check (even–perhaps especially–our government), and to allow equal opportunity for all. We also value “the self-made man,” who earned his/her way to success through hard work, not through nepotism or privilege (in other words, not Paris Hilton!). In short, we wanted a society based more on meritocracy than aristocracy, and inheritances leads to an unequal material starting positions for members of society. Without a control mechanism, family dynasties of the ultra-rich are a threat to these values.

Political commentators, such as Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal, want to believe that the rich earned their own way. But when $550 billion is passed on each year, with only $20 billion collected, there are plenty of people getting a free ride. When the ultra-rich hand off their fortunes to their descendants, we have a situation where a dynastic ruling class emerges, made up of people who did not earn most of what they have (or at least didn’t get there under the same rules that the rest of us do), and these people are now on the boards of our businesses, buying our elections, and funding lobbyists.

» Read more: “Death Taxes” are for the Living