Revolt of the Bottom-Dwellers

April 2, 2011

Ordinary US peoples are financial slaves to the rich:

In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity.
The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate.
Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.

(Illustration found here via Google Images).

Let them eat cheesecake — see a most-vivid post with nothing but graphs and charts on how screwed the income inequality is in the US of A at Mother Jones.
It’s enough to piss one off — one chart shows the US Congress and how much over-bloated those assholes.
The median net worth of the ordinary American family is $120,000 while for members of Congress that number is $912,000, with the top 10 most-wealthiest Congress creatures holding a combined net worth of $2.8 billion.
And don’t just blame those shit-sucking Republicans, seven out of that top 10 are Democrats.

CBS News’ MoneyWatch took a look at a recent US Federal Reserve survey on what happened to Americans during the ‘Big’ Recession of 2007-2009 — 63 percent experienced a 45 percent decline in total wealth, due primarily to the falling values of homes and investment/retirement accounts.
And yes, the rich lost more — about 77 percent suffered declines compared with about 50 percent for those with the smallest wealth.
Yet that’s all relative — if one has five dollars and and losses three, he’s still got two bucks.
But if one has only one dollar and loses fifty-cents of that….

A glance at another national situation where the smallest amount of people owned the largest amount of everything:

“The nobility …is truly a nation apart, but a bogus one which, lacking organs to keep it alive, clings to a real nation like those vegetable parasites which can live only on the sap of the plants that they impoverish and blight.
The Church, the law, the army and the bureaucracy are four classes of public agents necessary everywhere. Why are they accused of aristocratism in France?
Because the caste of nobles has usurped all the best posts, and takes them as its hereditary property.
Thus it exploits them, not in the spirit of the laws of society, but to its own profit.”
Abbé Sieyès, from an influential pamphlet that appeared in 1789 France called, What is the Third Estate?

As already witnessed this year in large demonstrations in Wisconsin, Ohio and other places, ordinary US peoples will pour into the streets if shit they don’t like gets too thick — although there the cause was union-busting and restricting (or outright denying) collective bargaining rights, what would happen if the financial inequality became as stark and obvious as those?
Then pile that shit onto what’s sweeping across the Arab world as we speak — people boiling into the streets, protesting situations deemed unequal, upsetting powers-that-be, and spreading upper-crust fear like a bitch. (The latest ready-to-crack-strongman is Syria’s stretch-necked Assad, one twitter-looking dude).

Economist Joseph Stiglitz — yeah, the same guy who called out George Jr. over the real cost of the Iraqi war — has a piece up at Vanity Fair on this exact same subject, aptly titled, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” and blends together components for a back-lash at the very least in a confrontation between haves and have-nots.
An interesting read in it’s entirety — a few nuggets:

Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders.
So what if this person gains and that person loses?
What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie.
That argument is fundamentally wrong.
An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year — an economy like America’s — is not likely to do well over the long haul.

None of this should come as a surprise — it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided.
The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs.
The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security — they can buy all these things for themselves.
In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had.
They 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.

Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe.
The cards are stacked against them.

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.

Stiglitz gives a lot of credit/validity to the notion of something like this vast wealth/ownership inequality breeding division, breeding real-bad times if the situation continues unabated — extending the Bash tax cuts, for instance.
If you have nowhere to go…go shopping…

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