It’s been a while since the New York Times’ premiere liberal columnist, Paul Krugman, had reason to flay one of his favorite targets, chief GOP wonk and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But with the GOP suddenly talking about how much it wants to help America’s poor — a development Krugman calls “fake compassion” — the award-winning economist and best-selling author once again has a reason to take Ryan to the woodshed.
In his latest column for the Times, Krugman writes that while Ryan’s new attack on liberalism —a lengthy report, supposedly on the efficacy of government-funded anti-poverty measures — is less of a sham than efforts from years past, the Wisconsin congressman has still ultimately produced “a con job.”
Krugman applauds Ryan for “citing a lot of actual social science research” but insists that the GOPer has falsely represented the conclusions of most of the research he cites. “In some cases,” Krugman writes, “Mr. Ryan and colleagues outright misstate what the research says, “drawing outraged protests from a number of prominent scholars about the misrepresentation of their work.”
But where Ryan’s report really goes wrong, Krugman argues, is in its ideological assumptions — chiefly, it’s unexamined belief that anti-poverty measures make the poor lazy and drains them of their ambition. “Mr. Ryan would have us believe that the ‘hammock’ created by the social safety net is the reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty,” Krugman writes. “But the evidence says nothing of the kind.”
After all, if generous aid to the poor perpetuates poverty, the United States — which treats its poor far more harshly than other rich countries, and induces them to work much longer hours — should lead the West in social mobility, in the fraction of those born poor who work their way up the scale. In fact, it’s just the opposite: America has less social mobility than most other advanced countries.
And there’s no puzzle why: it’s hard for young people to get ahead when they suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate medical care, and lack of access to good education. The antipoverty programs that we have actually do a lot to help people rise. For example, Americans who received early access to food stamps were healthier and more productive in later life than those who didn’t. But we don’t do enough along these lines. The reason so many Americans remain trapped in poverty isn’t that the government helps them too much; it’s that it helps them too little.
Which brings us back to the hypocrisy issue. It is, in a way, nice to see the likes of Mr. Ryan at least talking about the need to help the poor. But somehow their notion of aiding the poor involves slashing benefits while cutting taxes on the rich. Funny how that works.
The report also found that the world’s 85 richest people own the same amount as the bottom half of the entire global population.
The ramifications of such inequality may be dire, the report suggests:
This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems. Instead of moving forward together, people are increasingly separated by economic and political power, inevitably heightening social tensions and increasing the risk of societal breakdown.
Oxfam calls on leaders gathered at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to tackle the growing inequality through multiple pledges, such as insisting on a living wage for companies they control, and by supporting progressive taxation.
The current budget brokered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is up for a vote today. It will be interesting to see if it passes both houses.
Giving more tax break to the rich and cutting subsidies for the underemployed and poor seems to be a bipartisan effort these days.
Pope Francis has made yet another strongly worded statement on growing inequality and economic justice, this time slamming outsized salaries and bonuses for corporate executives while others survive on “crumbs.”
“The grave financial and economic crises of the present time … have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy,” he said. ”The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles,” he said.
Rush Limbaugh has yet to comment, but presumably he thinks President Obama is currently having an orgasm somewhere.
The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable. In an extended essay, Bill shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless — who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years — are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps.
“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Bill, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”
A video posted to YouTube back in November 2012 is starting to go viral after Mashable posted it to its site on Saturday.
We all know there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, but this video visually captivates viewers by showing just how much of the country’s wealth lies in the hands of the top 20 percent.
The 99 percent movement protests are going global as more and more people seek to register their frustration with corporate greed and injust economic policies. Preferential tax treatment has helped drive the U.S. to its worst level of income inequality since the Great Depression, with the nation ranking more unequal than the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. Since 1979, “the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled.”
America’s recognition of the indisputable level of inequality is forcing Republicans to back away from their condescending treatment of the “Occupy” protesters. Once concerned about these “growing mobs,” House Majority Eric Cantor (R-VA) ismaking an about-face. Today on Fox News Sunday, he told host Chris Wallace that the president and Republicans “agree that there is too much income disparity in this country.” Pointing to the public’s “complaint” about the unfair economic playing field, he insisted that Congress should rely on America’s wealthy “to take care of income disparity”:
CANTOR: We know in this country there is a complaint on the folks on the top end of the income scale that they make too much and folks on the end don’t make enough. We need to encourage those on the top income scale to create more jobs. We are about income mobility and that’s what we should be focused on to take care of the income disparity.
It may shock you exactly how wealthy this top 1 percent of Americans is. ThinkProgress has assembled five facts about this class of super-rich Americans:
1. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Owns 40 Percent Of The Nation’s Wealth: As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out, the richest 1 percent of Americans now own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Sociologist William Domhoff illustrates this wealth disparity using 2007 figures where the top 1 percent owned 42 percent of the country’s financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home). How much does the bottom 80 percent own? Only 7 percent:
As Stiglitz notes, this disparity is much worse than it was in the past, as just 25 years ago the top 1 percent owned 33 percent of national wealth.
2. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Take Home 24 Percent Of National Income:While the richest 1 percent of Americans take home almost a quarter of national income today, in 1976 they took home just 9 percent — meaning their share of the national income pool has nearly tripled in roughly three decades.
3. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Own Half Of The Country’s Stocks, Bonds, And Mutual Funds: The Institute for Policy Studies illustrates this massive disparity in financial investment ownership, noting that the bottom 50 percent of Americans own only .5 percent of these investments:
4. The Top 1 Percent Of Americans Have Only 5 Percent Of The Nation’s Personal Debt:
Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top 1 percent have 5 percent of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90 percent have 73 percent of total debt:
5. The Top 1 Percent Are Taking In More Of The Nation’s Income Than At Any Other Time Since The 1920s: Not only are the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans taking home a tremendous portion of the national income, but their share of this income is greater than at any other time since the Great Depression, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates in this chart using 2007 data:
As Professor Elizabeth Warren has explained, “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody…Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” More and more often, that is not occurring, giving the protesters ample reason to take to the streets.
This sort of information needs to be shouted from every rooftop in America. Americans should know the just how the economy has been manipulated to allow such an income disparity between the rich and the middle class and working poor.
What part of “grossly inequitable” does the GOP not understand? Income levels between the working class and the “well off” should have never gotten to this point.
One could call it greed, which is bad enough and considered one of the seven deadly sins, but this goes beyond greed, these numbers show that the GOP is complicit with corporations in sabotaging our Democracy by making corporations the most powerful “people” in America! My question is…to what end?
After the longest recession since WWII, many Americans are still struggling while S&P 500 corporations are sitting on $800 billion in cash and making massive profits. Now, economists from Northeastern University have released a study that finds our sluggish economic recovery has almost solely benefited corporations. According to the study:
“Between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, real national income in the U.S. increased by $528 billion. Pre-tax corporate profits by themselves had increased by $464 billion while aggregate real wages and salaries rose by only $7 billion or only .1%. Over this six quarter period, corporate profits captured 88% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1% of the growth in real national income. …The absence of any positive share of national income growth due to wages and salaries received by American workers during the current economic recovery is historically unprecedented.”
The New York Times adds, “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average real hourly earnings for all employees actually declined by 1.1 percent from June 2009, when the recovery began, to May 2011, the month for which the most recent earnings numbers are available.”
Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. 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. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats.
That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.
Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin.
The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin. Read more…