Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Income Inequality: 1 Inch to 5 Miles

According to journalist David Cay Johnston, who got his figures from an analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, income grew a measly $59 on average for the bottom 90 percent of Americans between 1966 and 2011 (adjusting the income for inflation, of course). Income for the top 10 percent, on the other hand, rose from an average of $116,071 to $254,864.

To put that in perspective, if you were to plot the numbers on a chart, with $59 representing 1 inch, the line for the top 10 percent would go up more than 163 feet. If you compared the vast majority’s income growth with that of the top 1 percent, the line on the chart would extend 884 feet. And if you measured it against the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, well ... that would require a really, really big chart, as the line would be nearly 5 miles long.

The median wage has been stuck since 1999 at a bit more than $500 per week in real terms and job growth has lagged far beyond population growth. But capital gains and dividends have soared. Those at the top are pulling away from everyone else not because of hard work, but the shift of income from labor to capital and changes in federal income, gift, and estate tax rules. The oligarchs are sucking dry America's working class, while the rest of us are being left to feed off of their crumbs. Labor unions have seen their gains being wiped out. Health care and pensions were integral to the job as general wages, now they are luxuries to be lopped off. The politics of people and the politics of elites are opposed to one another. The workers interests are simple: a good and better life but for bosses their particular interest cannot be achieved without taking from the majority of people. And so the struggle between classes is carried on everyday. In their fight for survival people learn their aspirations, their struggle educates them, widens their perception and raises their spirit. Victories are few and set-backs are many for the working class but the war goes on.

Workers are imbued with a dream for a happier life, the hope for a society free from exploitation and a life liberated from the clutches of deprivation. The conflicting interests shape the mass psyche. Through sufferings, struggles and lessons learned, the working people seek and strive for socialist solutions even if it is not always articulated in a clear unambiguous voice.

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