Plutocracy in America

Income inequality has “significantly” retarded economic growth, according to a December 2014 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, often called “the west’s leading economic think tank.” (In 1961, fourteen western nations formed the OECD “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people round the world.”) Not only is the gap between rich and poor the highest in thirty years in thirty-two of the organization’s thirty-four member countries, but growing inequality between 1990 and 2010 has cost the United Kingdom’s economy almost nine percentage points of GDP growth, and the United States, almost seven points. Yet the OECD researchers found that, on balance, redistribution via taxes and benefits does not impede economic growth. Read more at location 123

Note: If this is true, and we have the corresponding paper here to go with it, then this debate is just about over. Inequality is not only demoralizing, stagnant wages not only undermine the American dream and the impetus to work harder, but we hit the Conservative right where it hurts; they don’t cat about people or the misery of the least well off, but they care about growth. If we can make the connection that inequality reduces economic growth then the case is made everyone suffers as a result. We have less wealth, the entire pie they cherish so much is smaller, and even the rich won’t be as rich, due to a smaller GDP. Now you will need to prepare for the fact that they simply will dismiss it. That is okay. People can choose to ignore data. But you have fulfilled your burden of proof. The opponent does hold a burden of rejoinder. To simply say you don’t believe something tells us absolutely nothing. The opponent must either refute this claim by pointing out error in content, error in reasoning, refuting it as unsound, or assuming the contrary position and proving it correct. If he cannot do this, that’s fine, he simply loses that point. Nuh Uh isn’t a pathway to truth. Remember this for all data and evidence that an opponent denies but does not disprove. Now, once we demonstrate this, we frame the reduction of inequality as a public good. They could admit the premise but say we have no obligation or even right to tax just to increase growth. Then we have a new argument.

The disappearance of good jobs, decreases in wages, and the war against unions is shrinking the American middle class, which was once the envy of the world and hailed by political scientists as the foundation of a civil and democratic political culture. Read more at location 162

Americans, like college students watching their team winning a football game, love to chant “We’re Number 1.” But in reality the United States is not at the top in terms of social progress, defined by the Social Progress Index as “the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.” The small countries of New Zealand, Switzerland, and Iceland are ranked highest on this index in terms of social progress, followed by a second group of thirteen nations that is headed by Austria and Germany, with the United States mired in sixteenth place. Read more at location 186

So long as extreme disparity of income and wealth perpetuates hardship and undermines representative government, it needs to be discussed. So long as inequality harms the life chances for tens of millions of one’s fellow citizens, it must be shown the light of day. While a distended plutocracy reigns and tramples a democratic political culture underfoot, then its arrogance must be confronted. So long as millions of the disadvantaged are denied access to the vote and even to effective citizenship, those un-American circumstances must be illuminated. As a nation, the United States once aspired to be better, as, in Lincoln’s words during the “fiery trial” of the Civil War, “the last best hope on earth.” While a gap has always existed, too often as a broad chasm, between our ideals and our practice, this is one of those times—a New Gilded Age—when the gulf between them has grown to undermine our very sense of who we are. Before the United States existed as a political entity, Americans thought of themselves as “exceptional.” Whatever the notion of exceptionalism signified across more than two centuries, it did not rest on a bedrock of inequality. Read more at location 210

The economic collapse in 2008 momentarily slowed these trends, but then exacerbated them. During a limited recovery from 2009 to 2011, the income of the top 1 percent grew by 11.2 percent while that of the bottom 99 percent declined by 0.4 percent. The 0.01 percent superrich, amounting to about 15,000 households with an average income of $23.8 million, did even better in 2010, raking in 37 percent of that growth. By 2012, the top 10 percent had recovered very nicely, according to Saez and Piketty, taking home over half of all income, the highest proportion since 1913. In early 2014, the top 1 percent had garnered 95 percent of all income growth since the Great Recession. But median family income (adjusted for inflation) has gone into a free-fall at a pace not experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and wage-earning families remain stuck in a rut. Read more at location 294

The top 1 percent own 40 percent of all the wealth in America, and the bottom 40 percent own 1 percent of the wealth. The top 5 percent own 72 percent of all the wealth in the United States, and the top 1 percent have a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent. Read more at location 316

The reality was that CEOs of the S&P 500 companies garnered about $14,000,000 per year, with eight CEOs at the stratospheric level of $100,000,000 or more each. Read more at location 325

Note: For when the apologists perk up and say most CEOs don’t actually make that much or some other similar attempt to come to their hero’s defense.

Lawrence R. Jacobs and Theda Skocpol, eds., Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn (2005); Larry M. Bartels, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (2008); Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010); Robert B. Reich, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future (2010); Judith Stein, Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (2010); Molly C. Michelmore, Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics, and the Limits of American Liberalism (2012); and Hedrick Smith, Who Stole the American Dream? (2012). Read more at location 391

In San Francisco an influx of millionaire “technocrati” are driving up housing prices, pushing out artists and the city’s trademark bohemians as well as middle-class families and workers. Read more at location 428

Note: Zero Sum, Inequality, Here is a way in which yes…other poeple having more does effect you. They bid you right out of your neighborhood and home.

Obamacare alleviates inequality with a redistributive component and also aims to prevent a major cause of bankruptcy for families and individuals by protecting them from encountering massive health-care costs while uninsured. Read more at location 455

Yet the scandal of the United States as a “prison nation” encapsulates the many ways that inequality, combined with discrimination against blacks and poor whites, “frays the social fabric.” Although incarceration rates for blacks, especially black women, fell between the years 2000 and 2009 (with rates for white men and women increasing), the effects of imprisoning African Americans in hugely disproportionate numbers after the 1970s is still reflected in the population of the nation’s almost 4,600 prisons (Russia has 1,029). Read more at location 482

Because one in three black men has had a felony conviction, his chances of finding a stable, good-paying job are much lower than those for white men, including white males who also have had felony convictions. Read more at location 501

The ramifications of inequality and the policies and conditions that have created it do indeed extend far beyond minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged, and they diminish the quality of life for all but the very wealthy few. A ramshackle tax system permitting hugely profitable corporations to pay few or no taxes and allowing the income and wealth of the top 0.01, 1, and 10 percent to grow while everyone else bears the brunt of the tax burden has helped drive the impoverishment of the public sector and created a substantial reduction in the quality of life for millions of Americans in all walks of life. States lack funding to support education at all levels, the nation’s transportation infrastructure crumbles, and public services of all kinds are cut. Food insecurity stalks the lives of millions, and tens of thousands of the poor, the elderly, and children chronically experience hunger. Unemployment, under-employment, and part-time employment are a fact of life for tens of millions. In 2012, six in ten workers expressed worry about losing their jobs; their quality of life clearly is diminished, and they are not thinking about realizing “the American Dream.” Read more at location 521

Robert Kuttner, author, or, and a keen observer of the political economy, describes the destructive loop: “Widened income inequality is not just socially unattractive or morally repugnant. It has real macroeconomic effects. As wealth concentrates, the very rich can’t possibly spend it all. Much of their income is saved or invested. The rest of us, meanwhile, have deficient purchasing power relative to the economy’s capacity. As wages are constrained, the economy remains in a self-reinforcing slump.” Read more at location 548

Long-cherished convictions among a people die hard, and the belief in the American Dream—the United States as the land of opportunity—has enjoyed a particularly durable afterlife. That its mystique extends well beyond the nation’s borders probably has added to its longevity. But the dream, once a reality, has become a myth. Read more at location 571

Noble laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, summarizing the work of economists, observed that presently “the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity.” While social mobility is still possible, “the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity.” Economic mobility in the United States is less than in most of Europe. And beyond Europe, countries as diverse as Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Pakistan have higher degrees of income mobility than the United States. The life chances of an American child are more dependent on the income and education of her or his parents than in most other advanced countries for which there is data. This relationship increased after 1980, and cross-national comparisons indicate that the “more inequality, the less social mobility.” Read more at location 575

Class mobility in the United States displays what demographers call “stickiness,” namely, those born into the top fifth of incomes and those born into the bottom fifth tend to stay there. The Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts found that about 62 percent of children born in the top fifth stay in the top two-fifths, while 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. More mobility occurs in the middle, but not as much as in comparable countries. Read more at location 581

Note: Mobility

Inequality and diminishing mobility are reflected in—and caused by—growing inequalities in the U.S. system of secondary and higher education. Read more at location 617

More importantly, during the last decade the number of high-poverty schools has risen, and many students in these schools remain trapped in a self-perpetuating set of disadvantages that significantly lower their chances of improving their lives. (High-poverty schools are defined as having at least 75 percent of their students enrolled in free or reduced-cost lunch programs.) For decades studies have shown that students in high-poverty schools perform poorly, compared with those in better-off districts. And that gap has not been decreasing, but growing. High-poverty high schools have a graduation rate of 68 percent, and only 28 percent of their graduates attend four-year colleges, compared with 52 percent of the graduates from low-poverty schools. The homes of low-income students contain fewer resources to enhance their education, and they suffer from lesser-quality materials available in their classrooms. Schools in affluent neighborhoods enjoy abundant resources and more qualified personnel. Read more at location 622

Note: Inequality in Education puts low income students behind the curve before they even get out if the gates. But of course I’m sure this is “Their own fault. ” They should have been born to rich parents.

As Suzanne Mettler notes in Degrees of Inequality, “our system of higher education contributes, increasingly, to rising inequality, as it stratifies Americans by income group rather than providing them with ladders of opportunity.” Inequalities, beginning in the household, strongly influence how high school graduates fare at four-year and community colleges. Over 40 percent of the students entering college do not get a degree within six years; over half do not when community colleges are counted in the mix. Whether or not a student graduates seems to depend largely on how much money her or his parents make. Paul Tough put it in blunt terms in the New York Times Magazine: “Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t.” Just one-fourth of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will earn a degree by age twenty-four, while almost 90 percent of students from the top quartile will graduate. Tough adds that this difference has little to do with ability; comparing students with the same standardized-test scores, “you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores.” Read more at location 642

Note: Inequality has huge effects in education which reinforces further inequality.

While elite universities are becoming precincts of privilege, tuition at public universities, which educate 70 percent of the nation’s students, has skyrocketed at a rate faster than medical care, gasoline, and all consumer items. Since 1985, the cost of college tuition and fees has increased by 559 percent, far outpacing family income. From just the years 2006 to 2011, as a major recession depleted family resources and income, tuition at four-year public colleges went up 18 percent. Although schools have been adding services, huge cuts in state funding have shifted the financial burden onto students. Every time state legislatures face a budget squeeze, they look to education as a convenient target where they can cut back on discretionary spending, in contrast to something like Medicaid. Between 2008 and 2012, states provided 28 percent less financing for education, and students have borrowed more to compensate, so that in the decade before 2012, federal college-loan debt more than doubled, from $41 billion to $103 billion. Read more at location 666

“No Rich Child Left Behind” is the wry comment of Stanford University researcher Sean F. Reardon on yet another dimension of inequality in higher education. The 10 percent and 1 percent are using their resources for their children’s educational enrichment to further pave the road to plutocracy, if not aristocracy—at least this is the way aristocracies used to work. Hence children from wealthy families get better grades, have higher standardized-test scores, and even have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities, along with higher graduation rates. The scores of wealthy and poor students on standardized math and reading tests have diverged over the past fifty years: the average difference is around 125 points, compared with about 90 points in the 1980s. The gap has grown not because poor students’ scores are falling, but because rich children are performing so much better from kindergarten on. Reardon and his colleagues tie this directly to growing income inequality. The rich now use their money differently regarding their children’s education, “increasingly focusing their resources—their money, their time, and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school—on their children’s cognitive development and educational success.” With educational success becoming ever more important, middle-class and poor families are trying to do the same thing but with fewer resources. “Relative differences can have absolute consequences,” comments James Lardner. “When some people enroll their children in high-priced test-taking courses or hire ‘private guidance counselors,’ the landscape is changed for everybody, like it or not.” Read more at location 678

Note: These grades propagate forward through everything better schools, more scholorships, better jobs, more money, the cycle keeps going. But I guess “it’s their own fault.”

Almost all students at for-profits are financed with loans or grants, and graduates with bachelor’s degrees have taken on a median debt of $33,000 per student, compared with $18,000 at nonprofits and $22,000 at public institutions. Read more at location 728

Note: For profits..surprise…cost more.

Graduates also “end up with higher unemployment and ‘idleness’ rates and lower earnings six years after entering [for-profit] programs than do comparable students from other schools.” Their default rates on student loans are the highest, accounting for nearly half of all defaults.22 In 2013, attorneys general in thirty states began cooperating to stem abuses in the industry. The U.S. Senate had already conducted a two-year investigation and issued a report in 2012 accusing thirty for-profit colleges of paying out more for marketing than instruction, using “troubling” recruiting tactics, wasting taxpayer money, and failing to graduate half or more of their students. The for-profits, while spending very little to recruit qualified staff at any level, generally garnered more in tuition and fees than public colleges, helping to make the enterprise highly lucrative for its executives. Read more at location 737

Note: As you’d expect…more went to advertising and recruiting to get more suckers than salaries for teachers, while providing less. Cost more, leave more debt, graduate less, less employment, hire less qualified staff, and mislead. For profit baby.

Congress made matters worse for indebted students with the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act, which made it almost impossible for students to discharge their debts by declaring bankruptcy. The law treated in-debt students as if they were no different from people who went on cr card binges. Read more at location 750

Note: God damn Fucking Bush

The debt piled up by for-profit students, graduates, and nongraduates has consequences for the U.S. economy and for the nation’s taxpayers. Some economists believe that the $1 trillion in overall student debt has inhibited recovery from the financiers’ economic debacle of 2008–2009 by causing indebted former students to delay purchasing big-ticket items, instead conserving their resources and paying off debt. A Brookings Institution study, however, argues that student borrowers who graduate from traditional institutions are no worse off than those a generation ago. But the students leaving for-profits with or without a degree or certificate are usually burdened with debt and struggling to recoup in a weak economy. Read more at location 778

The signs of America’s middle-class decline can be seen throughout the land. Who has not encountered a man or woman who previously held a professional or semiprofessional job now mired in a service or retail occupation with low pay and scant or no benefits? Who does not know of the millions of blue- collar workers whose manufacturing jobs once paid enough for them to see themselves as middle class, but whose jobs got shipped overseas along with their middle-class status and sense of self-worth? Factory workers still lucky enough to be employed earn pay and benefits that are considerably less than their counterparts received a generation ago. Read more at location 964

Note: I thought it was because they were all lazy bums, right you Fucking Republicans?

The American middle class was once the envy of the world, and the richest, even into the 1990s, although inequality was growing. Political scientists boasted that it was the bedrock of American democracy. But by 2010, middle-class incomes in the United States lagged well behind those in most of Europe and Canada. The American poor are even worse off, earning much less than the poor in most European countries. Although U.S. economic growth compares favorably with that of many other countries, the lion’s share of the gains go to top executives and corporate profits, not to middle-class wages; the minimum wage is lower, and unions are weaker. Read more at location 968

Note: The Fuckpublicans say “The poor here have cell phones and Air conditioning, while real poor don’t have anything! So they shouldn’t complain!” Leave it up to a Conservative to set the economic bar at a third world country. Democrats strive for better. We aren’t competing with Fucking Zimbabwe. We are supposed to lead the world.

While the Great Recession hammered middle-class incomes, they had already been declining for decades. In 1968, a then-robust middle class earned 53.2 percent of the nation’s total income. In 2012, the share of the middle 60 percent of households fell to 45.7 percent. In the lost decade of the George W. Bush presidency, the middle class experienced a decline in overall wealth, not just an immediate income loss. The collapse of the housing bubble resulted in the loss of homes and equity—in effect, much of the middle class’s assets. In 2012, the Federal Reserve reported that the steep recession had wiped out 39 percent of Americans’ wealth, with middle-class families losing the most. Read more at location 996

Note: Inequality isn’t complaining about what the wealthy make. It’s complaining about what the rest of us don’t. People aren’t getting ahead. Yes you have a high top bar to strive for. But it’s a lottery, a winner take all economy.

Moreover, mortgage lenders often charge minority home buyers higher fees and interest rates than whites, and African Americans still encounter discrimination in housing markets. In tests of realtors’ practices, advocacy groups and academic researchers have sent out white and black couples or individuals to look at the same houses or apartments and have found that these units are often available to whites but not to blacks. Read more at location 1021

Note: Inequality via discrimination. Republicans wounds say somehow it’s the blacks own fault. But this is another way in which resources are less available to minorities.

As the middle class shrank, residential segregation by income increased. Neighborhoods across the country became less diverse, with fewer middle-class families living next to low-income families. From 1980 to 2010, the number of low-income households living in majority low-income neighborhoods rose from 23 to 28 percent. A parallel shift took place in upper-income neighborhoods, where affluent households doubled, from 9 to 18 percent. Income segregation by neighborhood grew in almost all of the nation’s thirty largest cities.10 This trend deepens inequality and erodes social well-being and civic life. Read more at location 1026

Larger numbers of well-off families have also segregated themselves. This “sorting” of the affluent is not without consequences for everyone else. As Stanford University researchers Sean Reardon and Kendra Bischoff point out, the rich take resources with them: better schools, parks, and public services gravitate to upscale neighborhoods, resulting in “greater disadvantages for the remaining neighborhoods where low- and middle-income families live.” Read more at location 1034

Loss of work often devastates older employees. A study done by economists at Wellesley College found that workers in their late fifties or early sixties who lost jobs and employer-provided health insurance can also suffer up to a three-year reduction in their life expectancy. They are in a kind of no-man’s-land age cohort of not qualifying for Social Security until age sixty-two and Medicare until age sixty-five and thus are in the most peril. The effects of sudden unemployment in that group can linger well beyond the loss of meaningful work. Read more at location 1110

According to a study by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, in states with more union members, the middle class earns significantly more income than in states with low union membership. In the ten most-unionized states, “households in the middle class received 47.4 percent of total state income … [and] in the bottom 10 states, households in the middle class received only 46.8 percent.” That seemingly insignificant difference of 0.6 percent can amount to real money: in 2012, 0.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s aggregate income equaled over $2 billion, or about $700 per middle-class household. The bottom line? More-unionized states have stronger middle classes. Read more at location 1225

Note: While the difference isn’t enough to really use in a debate, it could be a starting point. I would have liked to see a bother difference though.

A private pension plan with a guaranteed payout became a standard of worker compensation for millions. No longer. The traditional employer-provided plans, known as defined-benefit pensions, have, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, become “rare” in private industry. In 2011, just 18 percent of private-industry employees enjoyed such coverage; it has steadily declined over the past four decades, down from over 60 percent in the early 1980s. Read more at location 1267

In the 1990s, a booming stock market created enormous surpluses in corporate pension funds: $25 billion at General Motors, $24 billion at Verizon, and $20 billion at AT&T. Dozens of corporations then restructured these funds to divert the money to their companies. General Electric, for example, in a sale of one of its aerospace units—including its employees and their pension fund, which had a surplus of $531 million—added that surplus into the sale price and pocketed the money that had belonged to its employees. Other big firms plundered their employees’ pension funds to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, but when the stock market crashed, they began to plead that they could no longer afford expensive pension benefits, and they often blamed unions for any financial distress. Read more at location 1288

Another hallmark of the New Economy that separates many employees from assured benefits and good pay is the rise of freelance workers. Employers increasingly rely on independent contractors, temporary workers, contract employees, and freelancers. The federal government estimates that there are now more than 20 million freelancers and independent workers, and professionals possess no immunity from this status. Read more at location 1322

What the New York Times did not reveal in the article—since it was not the main point—was that the Cynamon and Fazzari paper focused on how “rising inequality” has created a drag on consumer spending; that spending by the bottom 95 percent before 2008 relied heavily on going into debt and was “unsustainable”; that during the Great Recession, spending by the 95 percent collapsed; and, above all, that the declining share of income going to the bottom 95 percent from 1989 on (i.e., rising inequality) contributed both to the recession and to the economy’s failure to recover.55 So the backstory, of far greater significance than Schwartz’s focus on spending, is rising inequality: a shift of income from the bottom 95 percent to the top that has deprived the American economy of adequate purchasing power. Read more at location 1345

Note: Moderately important here. This is one easy in which inequality has macroeconomic effects that effect everyone.

So what economists call rent seeking means getting income not as a reward for creating wealth but for grabbing a larger share of the wealth than would otherwise have been produced by one’s own efforts. Read more at location 1371

While market forces and other government policies have driven rising inequality, tax policy has exacerbated after-tax income inequality since the late 1970s and has promoted the shift of pretax income toward high-income households. The top federal tax rate averaged 80.6 percent from 1947 to 1979. Under Reagan the top rate came down from 70 percent to 28 percent; then Clinton raised the top rate to 39.6 percent in 1993. George W. Bush, as a self-proclaimed friend of the “haves and have-mores,” pushed the top marginal rate down to 35 percent. The tax rates on capital gains income, which is received mostly by the wealthy, are especially beneficial: more than half of the capital gains in America go to the top 0.1 percent. “The bottom 90 percent of the population gets less than 10 percent of all capital gains.” Clinton reduced that tax rate to 20 percent in 1997, and G. W. Bush dropped it to 15 percent. The interest accrued on municipal bonds, another large holding of the wealthy, is not even taxed. Read more at location 1403

One result of all this bipartisan beneficence toward the most privileged (and privilege does accompany wealth) was that in 2009, the top 400 earners (the superrich .01 percent) paid an average tax rate of just 19.9 percent on the income they reported, and the richest 1 percent now pay effective tax rates in the low twentieth percentile. Read more at location 1410

Note: They do pay less in percentage

Tax breaks, a form of government spending—and regarded as such by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation—benefit mainly the wealthy and the upper middle class. Read more at location 1420

Note: I cut your taxes. How how much did I spend? Chris’s old trap. Well here you go. Tax cuts are considered flat out a form of government spending by… Congress joint committee on taxation.

Among this group, the twenty-five highest-paid hedge-fund managers had their already-large fortunes grow by a combined $21 billion in 2013. As Paul Krugman observed, they made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in the nation. These twenty-five men—no women—are not job creators, but financial speculators enjoying favorable tax rates. Read more at location 1443

Note: Let’s see how you spin these guys as job creators. They arent. They speculate and gamble with money. They don’t hire poeple. Now yeah we get it. This return on investment will be spun into all kinds of money for hiring (why doesn’t unemployment go down when they make more? We should be swimming in jobs). By that same extended logic everyone is in some sense a job creator.

Teachers and professors educating the future. Parents raising their children right. Artists creating work for poeple to sell. Poeple making our roads drivable, our water drinkable, and everything possible. If you have to hire…Most of the rich aren’t job creators. If “you make it possible” for poeple to work, everyone is and you can’t draw contrast.

By 2013, with a soaring stock market, they entered “a golden age for corporate profits.” In the third quarter of 2012, corporate profits reached $1.75 trillion, a share of national income higher than at any time since 1950 and the greatest share of GDP in history. The portion of that income going to employees, however, dropped to its lowest since 1966. Corporations also enjoyed a plunge in corporate tax rates. The stated federal tax rate on a corporation’s income is 35 percent, but the tax code for corporations, according to Allan Sloan, senior or at Forbes, has “more holes than Swiss cheese.” Read more at location 1453

Note: So much for tax cuts for corporations creating jobs. Oh raising taxes just gets passed to us consumers. But did you see our prices go down when their tax rates went down? Did hiring explode? All that happened was that they just made more money for the top…The only thing they are designed to do.

American government of revenue for investment in infrastructure, education, and research that would be beneficial to U.S. corporations as well as to the public welfare. Read more at location 1482

Note: Just a simple quick and dirty line on the benefits of taxes. Real quick.

Between 1978 and 2011, CEO compensation grew by 876 percent, while that of the typical private-sector worker rose by just 5.4 percent. Read more at location 1496

The media too seldom has remarked that CEO compensation has become detached from a company’s success or failure. The CEOs of the fifty firms that laid off the most workers during the depths of the Great Recession took home nearly $12 million (on average) in 2009, 42 percent more than the CEO pay average at S&P 500 firms as a whole. Fred Hassan of Schering-Plough received a golden parachute after laying off 16,000 workers when his firm merged with Merck, getting almost $50 million in compensation. And five of the top fifty layoff leaders received financial bailouts provided by taxpayers. American Express’s Kenneth Chenault, for example, pocketed $16.6 million, including a $5 million cash bonus, after his company received $3.4 billion in bailout money. Meanwhile, American Express laid off 4,000 employees. According to Forbes, of the 697,448 layoffs between November 2008 and April 2010, more than three-quarters of those firings occurred at just fifty firms, companies that mirrored corporate America’s “relentless squeezing of worker jobs, pay, and benefits to boost corporate earnings and maintain corporate executive paychecks at their recent bloated levels.” Read more at location 1505

Note: This argument has to be piloted carefully. Merely saying the highest paid CEOs laid off thousands doesn’t help, because the rabbit ok could simply be that they were cutting unnecessary input costs and were doing what was best for business. But wait… I thought the wealthy, and the wealthiest among those were Job Creators? Here are CEOs….who make millions more than other CEOs, who slash tens of thousands of jobs…AND take bailout money! So you can’t even use the argument that cutting all those jobs and making all that money comes from great performance. …they needed a Fucking bailout. But what is more, we learn a very important general rule, CEOs make money very often by slashing jobs…not creating them. Do these leaner companies give us lower prices? How often you see prices go down? So whete does the extra money go? Profits, and executive pay.

The incentive-pay fig leaf covers up the realities of how this supposedly top talent actually performs. Of the 241 executives who have ranked among the highest paid in one or more of the past 20 years, nearly 40 percent of them were eventually “bailed out, booted, or busted.” Research by the Institute for Policy Studies found that CEOs “performing poorly—and blatantly so—have consistently populated the ranks of our nation’s top-paid CEOs over the last two decades.” The poster boy for these underachieving millionaires and billionaires has to be Richard Fuld, chief of Lehman Brothers Holdings when this financial-services firm crashed in 2008 and helped set off a global economic meltdown. From 2000 to 2007, Fuld took around $529 million in salary, cash bonuses, and shares out of Lehman Brothers and became notorious for using the firm’s money to furnish his office with items such as a $16,000 umbrella stand. When Fuld and his henchman Joe Gregory, in reckless pursuit of personal wealth, ran the firm into bankruptcy, “they very nearly collapsed the world economy.” After giving themselves hefty bonuses, they transferred billions of dollars of other people’s money to a potential buyer, “leaving tens of thousands of people and institutions to which Lehman owed money—from foreign orphanages to the city of Long Beach, California—high and dry.” In 2013 Fuld, unlike many Lehman employees who lost their jobs, still owned several palatial residences and had a reported net worth of $160 million. Read more at location 1540

In 2012, seventy-one of Fuld’s former brethren responded to Washington’s wrangling over spending and taxes by launching a campaign to “Fix the Debt,” proposing sharp cuts in Social Security and Medicare. The integrity of their proposals, which would have ordinary Americans tightening their belts, was undercut by an IPS investigation revealing that these executives were sitting on an average of $9 million in their own retirement funds. A dozen had more than $20 million in their accounts. Forty-one of the seventy-one companies involved had offered their employees pension funds, yet only two had sufficient assets to meet their pension obligations. The other thirty-nine had a total deficit of $103 billion, or about $2.5 billion per firm, on average. A “pension deficit disorder” indeed. Read more at location 1551

Actually, according to the Tax Policy Center, two-thirds of the 47 percent who, because of their low income levels, paid no federal income tax in 2011 still did contribute through the payroll taxes taken from their paychecks. The rest were mostly the elderly or retired receiving Social Security payments, or households earning less than $20,000. In fact, in 2011 only 18.1 percent of American households paid neither payroll nor federal taxes and, of that group, 10.3 percent were elderly and 6.9 percent earned less than $20,000 per year. Read more at location 1570

Economist magazine has observed that “for all the conservatives’ insinuations of loafers living on handouts, America spends less than half as much as the average OECD country on cash transfers for people of working age.” The poor get little. “Around 10% of the total goes to the richest fifth of Americans, almost 60% to the middle three-fifths, and only 30% to the poorest fifth.” The top fifth also benefits substantially from the mortgage-interest deduction from federal income taxes: the amount saved by the richest 20 percent amounts to four times what the government spends on public housing for the poorest fifth. Other developed countries do much more to alleviate poverty through social expenditures, transfer programs, and tax policy. Thus the United States “stands out” among most of its peer countries because of its soaring poverty rate “and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure” as a percentage of GDP. Read more at location 1582

Minimum-wage workers are not just teenagers, who now account for only 17 percent of the total; the average age is thirty-five. Nearly 25 million workers in the United States earn less than $10.10 an hour, and 3.5 million of them make the federal minimum of $7.25. Among minimum-wage workers, 79 percent of them have a high school degree; over 40 percent have attended college for a period of time or have a college degree; and many are the primary earners in their families, whose income is usually supplemented with safety-net programs. People of color make up 42 percent of minimum-wage workers. Read more at location 1695

Note: So enough with this shit that min wage is just for teenagers with no education. It’s actually the result of a new economy, with fewer good jobs. Even Friedman said a higher minimum wage puts teenage blacks out of work. But most aren’t teenage, most aren’t just “starting out” and most aren’t uneducated.

In 2010, the U.S. Justice Department brought an antitrust suit against Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe for colluding in a conspiracy not to hire one another’s workers, a scheme affecting 64,643 software engineers. The engineers claim that the companies’ collusion from 2005 to 2009 kept the engineers’ pay lower than it would have been and thus cost them $3.5 billion in lost wages. Read more at location 1727

Note: There is your free market assholes. Companies collude not to hire good workers from another company. Thus your bargaining power goes out the window. “But this just leaves them at a disadvantage in losing out on the best talent” says the Libertarian. Not if the savings from the lower wages resulting from less competition from other companies hiring talent offsets the cost of missing out on some of those better workers.

Economists, including Alan Krueger, former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, “estimate that 20 to 30 percent of the rise of wage inequality in this country can be attributed to the decline of the real value of the minimum wage.” The difference between the federal minimum wage and that of the average American worker used to be much smaller than it is today. In the 1970s and for many years later, the federal minimum wage was roughly half that of the typical worker, but today’s minimum is only 36 percent of the average nonsupervisory wage.49 The federal minimum-wage level has not kept pace with inflation out of “economic necessity,” but because of political obstruction. Read more at location 1780

Note: This is what we said. Every day the min wage goes down as inflation rises. So employers should be hiring more…but it doesn’t happen.

Inequality has consequences for both life and the quality of life. It impacts life expectancy, physical and emotional health, and the bonds of community, however thin and fragile the latter may be in the twenty-first century. It corrodes the ties that bind Americans as members of a common nation when the poor sink into what is more like a separate Third World nation. When Thomas Jefferson put the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” into the Declaration of Independence, he understood the obvious: liberty and the pursuit of happiness depended on life itself. Read more at location 1815

The life-expectancy research unfortunately is ignored by those who advocate raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare. These budget cutters would compound the inequality that already exists between places like Putnam and St. Johns Counties by basing their argument on the overall rise in life expectancy. But having to be older before becoming eligible would mean that lower-income recipients would get fewer benefits, because they die at a younger age (as in Putnam County) than the affluent. Thus a bipartisan proposal to raise the regular retirement age from sixty-five to sixty-seven or seventy “will enlist the working poor to pay into the system for a few more years, curtailing their retirement years to the single digits, while the taxes they pay will flow into Social Security checks for the wealthier and healthier. A senior citizen with a fatter bank account wins twice—with greater longevity and more years drawing Social Security checks—while the poor work longer, live fewer years, and collect less in benefits.” Read more at location 1833

Note: For jack asses like Jeb Bush and other ilk like him

The gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor diminishes the international standing of the United States when compared with peer countries. Among them, American life expectancy is decidedly lower than in at least sixteen other economically advanced nations. A 2013 report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine, “U.S. Health in International Perspective,” observes that the United States has “a longstanding pattern of poorer health” that is “strikingly consistent” from birth to old age. Read more at location 1841

Note: Another way in which socialism doesn’t hurt, these socialist countries are ahead of us in life expectancy.

Relatively poorer health in the United States reflects the circumstance that, to cope with declining wages in the 2000s, many Americans were working more hours and sleeping less. By some estimates, sleep loss amounted to an average of one or two fewer hours each night than in the 1960s. Read more at location 1872

In 2012, according to Feeding America, 49 million households—33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children—experienced food insecurity. Feeding America is a national network of over 200 food banks and the largest charity combating hunger in the United States. It classified some households as simply “food insecure” and others as having “very low food security,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as households where “normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.” Seven million households met that definition, and households with children reported food insecurity at a higher rate than adult-only households. Read more at location 1940

Note: Getting ready to combat the argument that financial insecurity, poverty, or real economic hardship don’t exist in the US, a Conservative mainstay.

An August 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center found that “yes, the rich are different” in being generally happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their work that those in the middle and lower classes. Indeed, 44 percent of the wealthy stated they were in excellent health, compared with 32 percent of the middle class and 19 percent of the lower classes. Read more at location 1990

Note: Just a rebuttle to that old junk

The wave of hospital mergers in metropolitan areas has also driven up costs. One study found that after mergers, hospital prices rose by 40 percent. Cartels, in the form of giant purchasing combines, are raising costs artificially by keeping generic drugs and medical devices off the market. Several of these agglomerations are buying up billions of once-inexpensive items and then accepting kickbacks from vendors. Ironically, in rural areas, at a time when the Affordable Care Act has allowed more people to have health insurance, rising prices and the closing of small community hospitals are making it difficult for poorer patients to receive emergency care close to their homes. Read more at location 2020

Note: This is what happens in your goddamn “free’ market. Power and wealth concentrate and aggregate like dust and gravity. Wealth becomes like the planets, a gravity well occurs and a tipping point is reached. Another way on which physics and economics are related. Once this point is reached the wealthy and corporations can destroy the tenates of a “free” market by removing competitive forces. The thong about capitalism and “free markets”is that the premises required for these conclusions top be reached never occur in the real world.

Improved medical devices and drugs now command prices that do indeed crush patients with staggering bills. As Elizabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times reported, “the routine care costs of many chronic illnesses eclipse that of acute care because new treatments that keep patients well have become a multibillion-dollar business opportunity for device and drug makers and medical providers.” New treatments for chronic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and colitis emerge regularly, accompanied by higher price tags. Diabetes patients in particular confront updated and possibly unnecessary devices—some soon to be obsolete—that are heavily promoted by the industry. “Complication rates from diabetes in the United States,” Rosenthal observed, “are generally higher than in other developed countries.” Read more at location 2025

Note: All this technology results in higher prices

cascading consequences. Read more at location 2053

Note: Articulate

Despite the overall improvement in life expectancy for most Americans, “alarming disparities persist”: the largest exists between white men and women with sixteen or more years of education and black men and women with twelve or fewer years of education. Educational disadvantage produces as dramatic a finding regarding whites of low educational status. Their chances for longer lives have actually been declining over recent decades. Between 1990 and 2008, white women without a high school diploma lost five years off their expected life span, and white men without a diploma lost three years. Studies by other health researchers have found similar declines and point to a variety of possible causes to explain why this group is going backwards. The least-educated whites increasingly lack health insurance and are susceptible to prescription drug overdoses, obesity, and higher rates of smoking. Read more at location 2053

Note: It isn’t just getting by. As the higher have more purchasing power, prices and inflation go up. The frame is shifted on what things cost. Some things that keep people alive and living lives of well being are bid away from them. The cost of living, of maintaining, is lifted out of reach. In this sense it isn’t enough just to make the same while some make more. It’s rat your money does indeed become worth less as the cascading consequences from higher purchasing power bid the cost of living our of reach of millions. Your wealth foes hurt others then. It’s not the wealthy man’s fault. He’s not trying to do it. It’s just just a macroeconomic consequence.and it needs to be addressed.

More young women are bearing children outside of marriage and thus are more likely to be single parents. In 2012, one in four children in the United States were being raised in a single-parent household. Although greater numbers of single-parent families (a growing number of which are headed by fathers) were white, 72 percent of black children were being raised mostly by single mothers. The poverty and low income levels of many of those single-parent families has created steep learning difficulties and other educational disadvantages for their children. Indeed, a cross-national study finds that poverty and a heritage of poverty, rather than family structure (i.e., single parenthood), is the critical variable in causing children to achieve less educationally. Read more at location 2060

In predominantly black neighborhoods, overall health and life expectancy are also affected by the disproportionate presence of fast-food restaurants and the intensive advertising of alcoholic beverages. A recent joint study on child-directed marketing by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Arizona State University found that fast-food restaurants disproportionately appeal to children in low-income black neighborhoods, rural areas, and middle-income communities. Fast-food chains in disadvantaged black sections of towns and cities appealed to children with displays of celebrities and offers of toys 60 percent more than in mostly white areas. Similarly, a study conducted at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity described the multiple venues that beverage companies use to inundate Hispanic and African American youth with advertising for sugary soft drinks. Racially targeted marketing thus plays “a fundamental role in … the persistence of racial inequality and … health disparities.” Fast food and alcohol consumption are associated with negative health conditions affecting blacks and low-income families and, in these cases, “race is the demographic axis along which marketing is deployed.” Read more at location 2069

Note: Capitalism preys on disadvantage. It it the children’s “own fault” that they grow up in an environment of poor food choices that effect their health throughout their life?

To simplify, more inequality results in
(1) a lower level of trust;
(2) a greater prevalence of mental illness, including drug and alcohol addictions;
(3) a lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rate;
(4) more obesity; (5) more damage to children’s educational performance;
(6) more teenage births;
(7) more violence and homicides;
(8) higher imprisonment rates; and
(9) less social mobility (with data for this latter category not available for U.S. states).

The authors repeatedly cautioned the reader that the correlations, however statistically significant, should not be assumed to “prove” causality, but just as frequently they commented that the patterns they observed, along with related considerations, could hardly be due to chance. Read more at location 2090

The bottom line: the more equality there is in a country, the better the physical and mental health of its citizens, the greater their degree of civility and positive social relations, and the greater the community spirit within it. Read more at location 2107

But an older person faced with choosing to pay for food or medication, or a single parent mired in debt and wondering whether to buy groceries or pay the heating bill, would readily trade places with anyone “suffering” from affluenza and having the wherewithal to go shopping for whatever they wanted. Read more at location 2120

For the wealthy and privileged who lack empathy for the less fortunate, the poor are either an inconvenience or maybe a source of cheap labor. Read more at location 2149

Before Barack Obama took office and the subsequent passage of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, about two-thirds of all Americans, including a majority of high-income earners and nearly half of all Republicans, favored “national health insurance, financed by tax money, that would pay for most forms of health care.” A majority (54%) even favored “a national health plan, financed by taxpayers, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan.” Read more at location 2734

The ascent of the filibuster over the past three decades reflects the increase of polarization in America (see chapter 6), and this legislative device both parallels and drives the growth of inequality. From 1920 to 1970 filibusters averaged about one a year. They began to uptick in the 1970s, with Democrats and Republicans (even more so) increasingly invoking them in the 1980s. From the 1990s on filibusters actual and threatened (and obstructionist points of order) have skyrocketed. During President Obama’s first term Republican filibusters broke all records, well over two hundred. Hundreds of bill that have passed the House, many with bipartisan support, have died in the Senate.27 Most of the policy infrastructure that has nurtured inequality of income and wealth, meanwhile, remains in place. Read more at location 2821

Note: Republicans and obstructionism.

As noted in chapter 3, the states of the Old Confederacy receive far more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes, setting up an exchange between red-state takers and blue- state givers. Nine out of the top ten states that receive more in federal benefits than are paid in federal taxes are small, mostly red states. Read more at location 2843

In a brilliant essay, Jonathan Rowe, a contributing or at Washington Monthly and Yes! magazines, described “the Commons” as “the wealth of nature and society that precedes both the market and the state. The rivers, the oceans, and atmosphere; the sidewalks and public spaces; the vast array of languages and species; the processes of democracy; the accumulated store of knowledge—these and more make up the foundation of human well-being and, indeed, of life itself.” Read more at location 2853

Note: Fantastic articulation of the common good, that which ilk like Chris would deny even exist.

Although Rowe focused mostly on the “expropriation” of resources, he also pointed to a consequence of the enclosure, or privatization, of “the assets we own” by corporations and the rich: “No less important, the social glue begins to crack.” The “we” disappears. “The fact that rich and poor can stroll together in Boston’s Common or New York’s Central Park is significant both literally and metaphorically.” Read more at location 2856

Poorer people using less water may not necessarily be more public-minded than richer people using excessive amounts, but the contrast fits with findings that the more wealth families accumulate, in general the less concern they have for others. Read more at location 2900

He does not begrudge the ability of the rich to purchase expensive toys like yachts and sports cars, “but as money comes to buy more and more—political influence, good medical care, a home in a safe neighborhood rather than a crime-ridden one, access to elite schools rather than failing ones—the distribution of income and wealth looms larger and larger.” Read more at location 2923

Supporters of antipoverty efforts point out that LBJ’s “war” reduced those afflicted by poverty from 19 percent of the population in 1964 to about 11 percent by the mid-1970s. They add that the rate would have been much higher without public assistance, and that the U.S. Census Bureau’s ongoing (and arbitrary) measure of what is poverty leaves out benefits from programs that help the poor, such as SNAP and the Earned Income Tax Cr, with the latter program alone reducing the number of people living in poverty by about 5.5 million people. Read more at location 2942

The term “poverty” itself, as David A. Shipler observed in The Working Poor, is unsatisfying because it “is not a category that can be delineated by the government’s dollar limits on annual income. In real life, it is an unmarked area along a continuum, a broader region of hardship than the society usually recognizes. More people than those officially designated as ‘poor’ are, in fact, weighted down with the troubles associated with poverty.”3 Thus the arbitrary line between poor and nonpoor underestimates what low-income people need to get by. Read more at location 2956

Those eager to judge the poor as immoral need to be reminded about the changed structure of employment and the elimination of good-paying jobs for those with little education, along with a minimum wage that has lagged behind inflation. Read more at location 3000

The United States of Inequality is pervaded by class-based double standards, illustrated by the differential application of the term “moral hazard” (taking risks and not bearing the consequences) during and after the Great Recession. The many low-income people who bought homes they could not afford when the housing bubble was in effect received little help after it burst and became scapegoats for conservative talking heads. But little was said about moral hazard in the case of financial institutions that recklessly and fraudulently enticed inexperienced home buyers into high-risk mortgages. The large banks that “securitized”—that is, sold a huge number of sub-prime residential mortgages to the government-sponsored mortgage enterprises Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae or to large investors (hedge funds, etc.)—had already been paid when the housing market collapsed. The financial institutions that bore heavy responsibility for the crisis received a taxpayer-funded $165 billion bailout that saved them, and their executives promptly rewarded themselves with millions in bonuses. Read more at location 3008

The Lehman Brothers’ executives who nearly collapsed the world economy in 2008 “ran up a $700 billion tab engaging in almost indescribably reckless and antisocial behaviors, borrowing on a grand scale to create and sell” dangerous financial products. Read more at location 3022

But why not expand that understanding of the undeserving rich to include those who cheat, game the system, break the law, or legally/illegally bribe public officials to gain or increase their wealth? A portion of the poor (and some thieves who are not so poor) manipulate the welfare system to their advantage, but they do not leave economic distress for millions in their wake, as did the undeserving rich who committed financial fraud and brought on the Great Recession. If someone gets caught illegally accepting food stamps or other welfare benefits, they usually are punished. But in the aftermath of the 2008 recession and bank bailouts, none of the high-ranking Wall Street financial executives who were involved went to jail “for any of the systemic crimes that wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth.” “Even now,” wrote journalist Matt Taibbi in a book that appeared in early 2014, “after JPMorgan Chase agreed to a settlement of $13 billion for a variety of offenses and the financial press threw up its arms over the government’s supposedly aggressive approach to regulating Wall Street, the basic principle held true. Nobody went to jail. Not one person.” CEOs of the firms that collapsed—Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers (see chapter 4), Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns, Stan O’Neal of Merrill Lynch, and Chuck Prince of Citigroup—all walked away not only free, but rich. Read more at location 3038

In a survey conducted in 2012 by Labaton Sucharow, a whistle-blower law firm, 26 percent of the bankers in the United States and the United Kingdom said they had observed or had first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing; 25 percent said they believed they needed to engage in unethical or illegal behavior in order to succeed in finance; 30 percent felt pressured to commit such actions; and only 41 percent reported that members of their company had “definitely not” engaged in illegal or unethical behavior. Read more at location 3112

Note: Use this as a set up for arguments that say it’s a fallacy that the wealthy earn their wealth through cheating and taking.

A 2013 New York Times investigative report revealed that in 2010, Goldman Sachs bought the aluminum storage company Metro International Trade Services, along with twenty-seven industrial warehouses in Detroit, for $500 million. Goldman then exploited pricing regulations determined by the London Metal Exchange, owned by a Hong Kong company run by executives of big banks. Goldman charged rent for storing the aluminum in its newly acquired warehouses, except it was not “storing” the aluminum but holding it off the market. This chicanery poured money into Goldman’s coffers and those of allied investors by upping the cost of aluminum cans, electronics, automobiles, siding for houses, and other products. The tenth of a cent thereby added to the price of an aluminum can seems tiny, but Americans use 90 billion aluminum cans every year. For all products manufactured with aluminum, the estimated cost to consumers is $5 billion a year. In Detroit, forklift operators at Goldman Sachs’s warehouses moved 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the various storage buildings, “a merry-go-round of metal,” one former driver called it. This tactic (reminiscent of oil tankers making U-turns from port to port during the alleged energy shortages of 1973 and 1979) delayed the delivery of aluminum from what had been six weeks to sixteen months. Goldman then profited by raising the cost of delivery and supply, even when the overall price of aluminum in the metals market fell after 2010. Read more at location 3126

Note: Perfect example of people making money but not adding value. All these fuckers did was create greater scarcity, not value.

These corporations and their lavishly compensated executives perhaps might be said not to deserve the protection of the U.S. armed forces should an unfriendly government decide to nationalize their resources; nor deserve the nation’s use of military might to maintain their access to resources such as Middle Eastern oil; nor deserve actions by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department to provide billions in taxpayer money for bailouts; nor deserve the government’s financing of scientific research from which they derive benefits. Such corporations and executives may be said not to deserve all these things (and more), but they expect them, and they get them. Read more at location 3175

Note: Referring to tax dodging corporations, which are happy to enjoy the fruits of government benefits but do not want to pay.
But Piketty, as some critics have observed, does not say enough about the policies of a plutocratic government, the weakening of unions, the shrinkage of progressive taxes on income, the steady decline of how much corporations pay in taxes, and the loosening of government regulations across the board that allow enormous profits to accrue to the drug, technology, and financial sectors of the economy, among others. Read more at location 3230

Note: Inequality and some drivers in a nutshell

Add to that the rise of an aggressive, corporate-financed antigovernmental movement and the promotion of a free-market ideology that is little understood by the rank and file who embrace it (and is set aside by the financial and corporate elite when profitable). The reactionary Right aims not only to keep the infrastructure of rent-seeking and privilege in place so income will still flow to the top, but also to reverse the health, financial, and regulatory reforms President Obama and the Democrats have managed to obtain against fierce Republican opposition. Read more at location 3233

But I am convinced, along with Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in The Spirit Level, that the concatenation of multiple correlations associated with inequality can hardly be by chance. Read more at location 3252

Note: Good way to get around the correlation does not imply causation rebuttle. Certainly true, it doesn’t. But when a galaxy of converging factors come together on one conclusion, chance can basically be ruled out.
Given the present state of political dysfunction and the war being waged by reactionary plutocrats to destroy the remaining unions, keep wages low, undermine economic security for tens of millions of Americans by transferring risk and accountability away from prospering corporations and onto individuals and families, eliminate corporate taxes completely and allow giant oligopolies unregulated freedom in economic life, and generally enhance the power of the elites, it seems unrealistic indeed to hope for more than an incremental approach to the long list of needed reforms. Read more at location 3262

Note: Level 9, Republican war in tne poor and middle class. Memorize. This is why we hate the Right, and why Chris and others like him hate the middle class.
The undeserving rich are dependent on the government for handouts in the form of a rigged tax system, corporate welfare, and favorable laws and regulations that increase their profits at the expense of the U.S. Treasury and add to the tax burden and social costs for everyone else. Read more at location 3276

Raising the minimum wage will bump up the paychecks for those low-income workers making meager wages and lift millions of the poor and near-poor out of poverty and off of public assistance. Putting more cash into the hands of those millions will improve conditions for middle-class workers, whose pay has lagged far behind their increased productivity. In short, when the United States ceases to have one of the largest low-wage labor forces among developed nations, the salubrious effects will be experienced throughout the economy. More importantly, federal and state governments must commit themselves to a policy of full employment. The more people who are working, the fewer the unemployed; wages will rise, and a shared prosperity will reemerge. Read more at location 3301

The mid-twentieth-century era of shared prosperity—economists call it the “Great Compression”—probably was an anomaly, as Thomas Piketty has argued. But it resulted not from an act of God or from entirely natural forces beyond the control of government. Rather, the infrastructure underlying the growth of widespread economic security was created by government policies, strong labor unions, a high-wage labor market, investment in education (such as the G.I. bill), and the restraint of a business-corporate elite that was not obsessed with maximizing personal wealth, whatever the social costs. During the Great Compression, the financial industry did not rake in 25–30 percent of all business profits—Wall Street’s share of the latter rose as high as 41 percent in the last decade. Nor had finance captured the U.S. Congress, a reality all too evident as these words are being written at the end of 2014. Read more at location 3331

Michael E. Porter and Scott Stern, with Michael Green, “Findings of the Social Progress Index 2014,” Social Progress Imperative, Read more at location 3370

Catherine Rampell, “Why Tuition Has Skyrocketed at State Schools,” New York Times, March 2, 2012,; Lynn O’Shaughnessy, “Why College Tuition Keeps Rising,” CBSMoneyWatch, September, 25, 2012,; Robert Gordon, “The Great Stagnation of American Education,” New York Times, September 7, 2013, Read more at location 3576

Excessive salaries and other abuses also result from lack of competition; see Leemore S. Dafney, “Are Health Insurance Markets Competitive?,” American Economic Review 100, no. 4 (2010): 1399–1431. Read more at location 4242

Marsha J. Bailey and Sheldon Danziger, eds., Legacies of the War on Poverty (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2013); Annie Lowrey, “50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag,” New York Times, January 4, 2014. The War on Poverty was based originally on “maximum feasible participation,” dependent on the engagement of the poor and locally based solutions coming from the bottom up, not top down. See Sasha Abramsky, “The Battle Hymn of the War on Poverty,” Nation, February 3, 2014. Read more at location 4587

Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (New York: Russell Sage Foundation; 1997), 218–27; Stephanie Mencimer, “What If Everything You Knew about Poverty Was Wrong?,” Mother Jones, March/April 2014. In most families (i.e., those with children) receiving food stamps, there is usually at least one adult with a job. In 615 U.S. cities and regions, the basic needs of families amount to at least twice the federal poverty line of $23,283. Read more at location 4606

Street Fleet Street Main Street: Corporate Integrity at a Crossroads: United States & United Kingdom Financial Services Industry Survey,” Labaton Sucharow, July 2012, In November 2014, Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich released a corroborative study. See Kate Kelland, “Banking Culture Breeds Dishonesty, Scientific Study Finds,” Reuters, November 19, 2014, Read more at location 4668

Note: They don’t always earn it through hard work and effort.