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America Split in Two: Five Ugly Extremes of Inequality

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, children, corruption, crime, culture, dishonesty, education, environment, ethics, family, gayrights, government, health, law, media, politics, rights, safety, society, violence, women )

- 1882 days ago -
The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves, as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans.

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. (0)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 11:31 am
Thanks Kit-appauling statistics.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 11:38 am

The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves, as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans.

1. $2.13 per hour vs. $3,000,000.00 per hour

Each of the Koch brothers saw his investments grow by $6 billion in one year, which is three million dollars per hour based on a 40-hour 'work' week. They used some of the money to try to kill renewable energy standards around the country.

Their income portrays them, in a society measured by economic status, as a million times more valuable than the restaurant server who cheers up our lunch hours while hoping to make enough in tips to pay the bills.

A comparison of top and bottom salaries within large corporations is much less severe, but a lot more common. For CEOs and minimum-wage workers, the difference is $5,000.00 per hour vs. $7.25 per hour.

2. A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S.

On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost of $558 per month, any ONE of the ten richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year. These ten rich men together made more than our entire housing budget.

For anyone still believing "they earned it," it should be noted that most of the Forbes 400 earnings came from minimally-taxed, non-job-creating capital gains.

3. The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth

In 1983 the poorest 47% of America had $15,000 per family, 2.5 percent of the nation's wealth.

In 2009 the poorest 47% of America owned ZERO PERCENT of the nation's wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).

At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families -- 62% of America. The reason, once again, is the stock market. Since 1980 the American GDP has approximately doubled. Inflation-adjusted wages have gone down. But the stock market has increased by over ten times, and the richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of it.

4. The U.S. is nearly the most wealth-unequal country in the entire world

Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

Yet the financial industry keeps creating new wealth for its millionaires. According to the authors of the Global Wealth Report, the world's wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017.

5. A can of soup for a black or Hispanic woman, a mansion and yacht for the businessman

That's literally true. For every one dollar of assets owned by a single black or Hispanic woman, a member of the Forbes 400 has over forty million dollars.

Minority families once had substantial equity in their homes, but after Wall Street caused the housing crash, median wealth fell 66% for Hispanic households and 53% for black households. Now the average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 in net worth.

What to do?

End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively.

Institute a Financial Speculation Tax, both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases, and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.

Perhaps above all, we progressives have to choose one strategy and pursue it in a cohesive, unrelenting attack on greed. Only this will heal the ugly gash of inequality that has split our country in two.

By: Paul Buchheit | Common Dreams


JL A (281)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 11:52 am
Under Bush, the capital gains taxation rate dropped from 30% to 15%--doubling the wealth retained from this source and making it taxed less than the earned income from work for the majority of Americans--restoring it to at least 30% would be progress towards fairness and equity in taxation.

lee e (114)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 12:04 pm
I'd hate to see where I fall in the "percentage category" in '13 -- I'm so broke :) Oh well, I'm really not alone, and I carry on the fight toward an equitable taxation, and preserving our earned benefits!

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 4:28 pm
Frightening and disgusting... hope one day those will find out they cannot eat money.
Look what Nicosia did today - LIFTED the tax rate for the top to 40% ! Ok, that's to save the country, but still shows it can be done if necessary.

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 6:45 pm
A lot of this is exactly the point of the book I have often suggested that people read, "democracy for the Few," which is about the Plutocracy that runs the country. It is interesting that one of the statistics given in the article compares 1980 to the present, because 1980 is when Reagan became president and it was his policies that created the huge flow of wealth upwards, from the middle class, which has not at all abated, and which Boehner and his ilk are working so hard to protect.

Tamara Hayes (185)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 6:57 pm
I'm sorry Kit, I would love to say something really profound and astute, but I am having trouble holding down the can of soup I had for dinner.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 7:41 pm

Soon that soup will be shared with others. How much worse can this get? Much worse.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 8:52 pm
Thank you Kit! Knowledge and understanding are the first steps in creating change. The media must expose the truth to the light of day, and then the people will be motivated to take action. We need to glut the White House and Congress with petitions and phone calls as well as proests until they act. The greed of the few will destroy this nation if we do not act.

Billie C (2)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 10:14 pm
we are more split than just by money. we fracture more everyday. our so called leaders in dc are making things worse. they fracture this country more and more. we are heading for civil war and i hope it happens on obama's watch. he's been a major force of the split he uses it to split us wider.

De D (96)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 10:54 pm
Thanks for breaking down the facts so just about anyone who reads this story can understand it. Its not going to get any better for awhile.

Constance F (418)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 12:55 am
Almost every day, I ask myself - what are we going to do? Almost everyday, I read the most slap in the face appalling legislation proposed or enacted that doesn't necessarily pertain to this massive inequaility - but yea ! still a major slap in the face of all that is democratic, just and humane. Simply put. Uggh! While America sleeps - still she sleeps ! watching dancing with the stars while sociopaths make deals and pass legislation in the dead of night. What did Machivelli say - something about don't tax them too harshly, keep them somewhat contented and you can steal it all. What to do ? I am thinking about it. Maybe we all have to go to hell first before there is any profound action.

Kerrie G (116)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 2:09 am
Noted, thanks.

Craig Pittman (52)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 6:16 am
Sadly I believe it will get worse. Our society still largely admires the rich and famous. Just take a look at the most popular TV shows and movies, magazine etc. Capitalism and unregulated free enterprise in no way equals democracy. But to say so one risks being branded a subversive, socialist or terrorist. The one percent are still able to manipulate enough of the 99% to maintain their right-wing policies.
Yup I am afraid it will get much, much worse for most of us.
That said there are more and more people expressing outrage and looking tor ways to change the system thanks to stories posted like this one. Thanks kit.

S S (0)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 6:55 am
Thank you.

Judith Hand (55)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 3:17 pm
Noted. That was an interesting read. He gave an example that speaks to me: the amount of the wealthiest's wealth that would house all the homeless in America. {Just an aside, I strongly suspect that we have more homeless than the figure in the article). Thanks for a mind-stirring article that gave me some ideas for follow-up.

Birgit W (160)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 4:14 pm
Thank you

Past Member (0)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 4:28 pm
Worse then worse

Nancy C (806)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 5:35 pm
maddeningger and maddeningger (I'm not curious) . PS If you have not done your taxes yet in the states, please use Turbo Tax. I received triple $ back compared to the past years in the same field and salary. Don't be afraid. They take you through it and you can ask questions.

Joanne Dixon (38)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 5:52 pm
Capital gains - The 1% is so accustomed to gaming the system that it is second nature to them. The 99% not so much. I wish someone would make it clear to me and all of us how to deal with capital gains taxation without creating a mirror-image capital loss tax shelter. Which the 1% would game without blinking an eye. In fact, are already gaming, but a change in the tax rate would shift what is being gamed by whom. I just don't want us to get hit any worse over this one, and as the author of the article says, we need a consistent strategy.

Marie W (67)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 10:32 pm
Stats have been true for 10 years...

Diane O (194)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 3:28 pm
I'm going to be completely "on topic" for this thread:

The only way for people to be lifted out of poverty and be self sufficient is to enable opportunity for jobs and upward mobility. Historically, socialist economic models have not done this on a large scale. Wealth creators are the employers enabling millions to earn a living wage. When governments intercede to moderate income equality, disaster ensues. You mention the Koch brothers because they are the popular conservative pin cushions, however, considering the politics, left wing mega billionaires such as George Soros and Bill Gates behave exactly the same way as far as wealth creation is concerned. The United States has become the most prosperous country in history through capitalistic economic policy. Keynesian policies have never proven to be either wealth creators or wealth equalizers. Using conservative wealth creators as a reason for redistributionist economic policies is dishonest and not supported historically in improving economic conditions for nations or individuals.

What this thread openly promotes is pure socialism. Too far left and too far right is simply too far for America. Our liberal Care 2 members need to step forward and openly embrace socialism for America. They dance all around it. However, actually stating that they embrace it is something they haven't been able to do. It's time to come out of the closet.

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 3:38 pm
Good info...thank you, Kit.
Some more info: 6 Dems joined Reps. to vote down raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, recently. It was a last-minute amendment to the SKILLS Act, authorizing a jobs training program. They are: Barrow, Matheson, Owens, Peterson, Schrader, McIntyre. Not even voting: Schakowsky, Markey, Dingell & a few others.
So, not only are we fighting against a soul-less, heartless, greedy GOP; we're fighting Dems as well. Or, maybe I should say that they are fighting us.

JL A (281)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 9:09 pm
Living wage
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In public policy, a living wage or subsistence wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs (for an extended period of time or for a lifetime). These needs include shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition. In some nations such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality or quantity of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation, although in many cases child care, education, saving for retirement, and less commonly legal fees and insurance may cost a family more than food, utilities, transport, or health care. In addition to this definition, living wage activists further define "living wage" as the wage equivalent to the poverty line for a family of four.

The living wage differs from the minimum wage in that the latter is set by law and can fail to meet the requirements of a living wage - or is so low that borrowing or application for top-up benefits is necessary. It differs somewhat from basic needs in that the basic needs model usually measures a minimum level of consumption, without regard for the source of the income.

Living wage is defined by the wage that can meet the basic needs to maintain a safe, decent standard of living within the community and have the ability to save for future needs and goals.[1] The particular amount that must be earned per hour to meet these needs varies depending on location and family circumstances. Currently the minimum wage across the US is $7.25, which in most areas is well below living wage due to high rent or house prices in cities and automobile dependent arrangements of grocery stores, jobs, housing, and services in suburbs and outlying areas, causing combined housing and transportation cost to be high both in the city and in the outlying areas. In 1990 the first living wage campaigns were launched by community initiatives in the US addressing increasing poverty faced by workers and their families. They argued that employee, employer, and the community win with a living wage. Employees would be more willing to work, helping the employer reduce worker turnover ratio and it would help the community when the citizens have enough to have a decent life.[2]

Poverty threshold is the income necessary for a household to be able to consume a low cost, nutritious diet and purchase non-food necessities in a given country. Poverty lines and living wages are measured differently. Poverty lines are measured by household units and living wage is based on individual workers.

A related concept is that of a family wage one sufficient to not only support oneself, but also to raise a family.


Activists argue that a wage is more than just compensation for labor. It is a means of securing a living and it leads to public policies that address both the level of the wage and its decency.[3]

In his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith recognized that rising real wages lead to the "improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of people" and are therefore an advantage to society.[4] Growth and a system of liberty were the means by which the laboring poor were able to secure high wages and an acceptable standard of living. Rising real wages are secured by growth through increasing productivity against stable price levels, i.e. prices not affected by inflation. A system of liberty, secured through political institutions whereupon even the "lower ranks of people" could to secure the opportunity for higher wages and an acceptable standard of living.

Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged. Smith, Adam Wealth of Nations, I .viii.36[4]

According to living wage advocates Smith advocated that labor should receive an equitable share of what labor produces; According to Smith, this equitable share amounts to more than subsistence. Smith equated the interests of labor and the interests of land with overarching societal interests. He reasoned that as wages and rents rise, as a result of higher productivity, societal growth will occur thus increasing the quality of life for the greater part of its members.[3]

Activists argue that the greater good for society is achieved through justice. They argue that government should in turn attempt to align the interests of those pursuing profits with the interests of the labor in order to produce societal advantages for the majority of society. Smith argued that higher productivity and overall growth led to higher wages that in turn led to greater benefits for society. Based on his writings, one can infer that Smith would support a living wage commensurate with the overall growth of the economy. This, in turn, would lead to more happiness and joy for people, while helping to keep families and people out of poverty. Political institutions can create a system of liberty for individuals to ensure opportunity for higher wages through higher production and thus stable growth for society.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued a papal bull entitled Rerum Novarum, which is considered the Catholic Church's first expression of a view supportive of a living wage. The Church recognized that wages should be sufficient to support a family. This position has been widely supported by the church since that time, and has been reaffirmed by the papacy on multiple occasions, such as by Pope Pius XII in 1931 Quadragesimo Anno and again in 1961, by Pope John XXIII writing in the encyclical Mater et Magistra. More recently, Pope John Paul II wrote:

Hence in every case a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. Laborem Exercens, 1981 [5]

Today, one of major supporting groups for the Living Wage is the Universal Living Wage group. The group currently has over 1,500 followers and continues to grow.[6]

The national and international living wage movements are supported by many labor (trade) unions and community action groups such as ACORN.

In Australia, the 1907 Harvester Judgment ruled that an employer was obliged to pay his employees a wage that guaranteed them a standard of living which was reasonable for "a human being in a civilised community" to live in "frugal comfort estimated by current... standards,"[7] regardless of the employer's capacity to pay. Justice Higgins established a wage of 7/- (7 shillings) per day or 42/- per week as a 'fair and reasonable' minimum wage for unskilled workers. The judgment was later overturned but remains influential. From the Harvester Judgement arose the Australian industrial concept of the basic wage. For most skilled workers, in addition to the Basic Wage they received a margin on top of the basic wage, in proportion to a court or commission's judgement of a group of worker's skill levels. In 1913, to compensate for the rising cost of living, the basic wage was increased to 8/- per day, the first increase since the minimum was set. The first Retail Price Index in Australia was published late in 1912, the A Series Index. From 1934, the basic wage was indexed against the C Series Index of household prices. The concept of a basic wage was repeatedly challenged by employer groups through the Basic wage cases and Metal Trades Award cases where the employers argued that the basic wage and margin ought to be replaced by a "total wage". The basic wage system remained in place in Australia until 1967. It was also adopted by some state tribunals and was in use in some states during the 1980s.
United States

In the United States, the state of Maryland and several municipalities and local governments have enacted ordinances which set a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum that requires all jobs to meet the living wage for that region. This usually works out to be $3 to $7 above the federal minimum wage. However, San Francisco, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico have notably passed very wide-reaching living wage ordinances.[citation needed] U.S. cities with living wage laws include Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico; San Francisco, California; and Washington D.C.[8] The city of Chicago, Illinois also passed a living wage ordinance in 2006, but it was vetoed by Mayor Richard M. Daley.[9] Living wage laws typically cover only businesses that receive state assistance or have contracts with the government.[10]

This effort began in 1994 when an alliance between a labor union and religious leaders in Baltimore launched a successful campaign requiring city service contractors to pay a living wage.[11] Subsequent to this effort, community advocates have won similar ordinances in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and St. Louis. In 2007, there were at least 140 living wage ordinances in cities throughout the United States and more than 100 living wage campaigns underway in cities, counties, states, and college campuses.[12]

Although these ordinances are recent, a number of studies have attempted to measure the impact of these policies on wages and employment. Researchers have had difficulty measuring the impact of this policies because it is difficult to isolate a control group for comparison. A notable study defined the control group as the subset of cities that attempted to pass a living wage law but were unsuccessful.[13] This comparison indicates that living wages raise the average wage level in cities, however, it reduces the likelihood of employment for individuals in the bottom percentile of wage distribution.
United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, many campaigning organisations have responded to the low level of the National Minimum Wage by asserting the need for it to be increased to a level more comparable to a living wage. For instance, the Mayor of London's office hosts a Living Wage Unit which monitors the level needed for a living wage in London (which has considerably higher living costs than the rest of the UK). Other organisations with an interest in living wage issues include the Living Wage Campaign,[14] and the Church Action on Poverty [15] and the Scottish Low Pay Unit. The Guardian newspaper columnist Polly Toynbee is also a major supporter of the campaign for a living wage. The charity London Citizens is campaigning for a living wage to be implemented across London. The activist group Bloomsbury Fightback! are campaigning for a living wage to be implemented across the University of London.[16] The Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband actively supports the living wage saying that the living wage 'can make Britain both a fairer and more prosperous place'.[17] The Labour Party has implemented the living wage in some local councils which it controls, such as in Birmingham[18] and Cardiff[19] councils.

Research shows that minimum wage laws and living wage legislation impact poverty differently: evidence demonstrates that living wage legislation reduces poverty.[20] The parties impacted by minimum wage laws and living wage laws differ as living wage legislation generally applies to a more limited sector of the population. It is estimated that workers who qualify for the living wage legislation are currently between 1-2% of the bottom quartile of wage distribution.[20] One must consider that the impact of living wage laws depends heavily on the degree to which these ordinances are enforced.

"There is evidence that living wage ordinances modestly reduce the poverty rates in locations in which these ordinances are enacted.However, there is no evidence that state minimum wage laws do so."[21] With minimum wage laws, the increased costs are passed to employers who in turn charge consumers higher prices if possible. Faced with higher prices, consumers purchase fewer goods thus leading to a redistribution among low wage workers. Those impacted by living wage legislation are typically low wage employees who are selling services to the local governments.
Living Wage Estimates

As of 2003, there are 122 living wage ordinances in American cities and an additional 75 under discussion.[22] Article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that " Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity." In addition to legislative acts, many corporations have adopted voluntary codes of conduct.

Not socialism at all, for any who do their research:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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This article is about socialism as an economic system and political philosophy. For socialism as a stage of economic development in Marxist theory, see Socialism (Marxism).
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Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.[1] "Social ownership" may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, or citizen ownership of equity.[2] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[3] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[4]

A socialist economic system would consist of a system of production and distribution organized to directly satisfy economic demands and human needs, so that goods and services would be produced directly for use instead of for private profit[5] driven by the accumulation of capital. Accounting would be based on physical quantities, a common physical magnitude, or a direct measure of labour-time in place of financial calculation.[6][7] Distribution would be based on the principle to each according to his contribution.

As a political movement, socialism includes a diverse array of political philosophies, ranging from reformism to revolutionary socialism. Proponents of state socialism advocate the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange as a strategy for implementing socialism. In contrast, libertarian socialism proposes the traditional view of direct worker's control of the means of production and opposes the use of state power to achieve such an arrangement, opposing both parliamentary politics and state ownership.[citation needed] Democratic socialism seeks to establish socialism through democratic processes and propagate its ideals within the context of a democratic political system.

JL A (281)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 9:40 pm
Given Smith and other recognized economic experts, like reported above, this quote seems fitting:
An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.
Anatole France


Robert O (12)
Friday March 29, 2013, 12:45 am
Those are stark (and very upsetting and unsettling) contrasts that really made my stomach turn and my blood boil. Thank you Kit.

Helen Porter (39)
Friday March 29, 2013, 1:44 am
I think the last paragraph of Patrick Henry's speech is very appropriate here. The Revolutionary war times were not really that different from today's times. Our trauma and our provocation are pretty much the same if you think on it.

Here's what our founding father said:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Kit B (276)
Friday March 29, 2013, 9:15 pm

To some small extent we do have some liberties left however, one can not eat freedom. What does it mean to be free and not able to afford a roof and food? If the minimum wage had over time kept pace with inflation, today our minimum wage would be over $20.00 an hour. That still would not be a middle class income, but it would be living above the poverty level.

Lynn Squance (235)
Friday March 29, 2013, 11:13 pm
To think that "any ONE of the ten richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year." is astounding! I think that is the one fact that really caught my attention. That really put the income and wealth inequality into perspective. Sometimes it makes me feel like an old fashion Russian style revolution is the only way to iron things out. But I know it isn't the way. The way involves living by the words of John F O'Donohue:

""Part of understanding the notion of Justice is to recognize the disproportions among which we takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to really understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great duty and responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless."

And part of the way means the revamping of tax codes to be more fair and just. We really need to look at what is most valuable, most meaningful in life as individuals and as nations.
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