Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Growing inequality in the US

SOYMB has previously reported on the fantasy and myth of the American Dream , most recently here , and again we find ourselves reading another article , this time from the Economist , highlighting the increasing inequality and decreasing social mobility in the United States.

The American dream was simple: work hard and move up.In early 2009 71% still agreed that hard work and personal skill are the main ingredients for success. Compared with people in other rich countries, Americans tend to accept relatively high levels of income inequality because they believe they may move up over time.But now in a new poll 36% of respondents said they had less opportunity than their parents did, compared with 39% who thought they had more. Half thought the next generation would have a lower standard of living, double the share that thought living standards would rise.In education , rich, stupid children are more likely to graduate than poor, clever ones.

Between 1947 and 1973, the typical American family’s income roughly doubled in real terms. Between 1973 and 2007, however, it grew by only 22% — and this due to the rise of two-worker households , working wives , or , mom and dad both going out to work.In 2004 men in their 30s earned 12% less in real terms than their fathers did at a similar age. The driving factor, most economists agree, has been technological change and the consequent lowering of demand for middle-skilled workers.

In mid-2008 the typical family’s income was lower than it had been in 2000. Yet the richest 10% earned nearly half of all income, surpassing even their share in 1928, the year before the Great Crash.

To ‘escape from your class’, do not dream of becoming a capitalist. Work instead for a society in which class divisions no longer exist, just as billionaires and paupers, landlords and homeless, bombs and borders will no longer exist. This is what we call a socialist society, where the means of production belong to everyone, not to a small rich list. Where wealth is produced to meet people’s needs rather than to produce profits for a few. Where there is no social ladder but everyone has the chance to educate themselves in the best and broadest way possible and to do work which is rewarding and enjoyable, without ever defining themselves as a cleaner or a butcher, where everyone has the opportunity to relate to others as human beings rather than as cogs in an uncontrollable economic machine.

Increasing inequalities are likely to lead, if not to outright conflict, then to tensions and an increasing political demand and therefore political will, where representative democracies exist, to a likely challenge to an unapologetic inegalitarian capitalism . Capitalism is becoming more and more irrational. The discrepancy between what is economically and socially possible and what is actually happening has never been greater than it is today.The only way to ensure that every single human being on the planet has an equal chance to enjoy a life free from material deprivation is a world where all the resources of the planet have become the common heritage of all humanity.

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