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Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Last night, Rachel Maddow showed a graphic similar to what is seen early in the video presented below.  It indicated what the vast majority of Americans think the ideal wealth distribution should be, and what they perceive the actual distribution to be - a considerably more skewed condition.  It also shows the reality, a condition far, far removed from the perception

The data Rachel presented is a stacked horizontal bar chart, essentially a one-dimensional representation.  The video shows this, and then follows up by presenting the data in another way, which is much more dramatic and effective.  Have a look.  It's well worth 6 1/2 minutes of your time.

This makes me wonder again how we compare in A. D. 2013 with the stratification of society in, say, A. D. 1213.   Now, the bottom 40% have essentially zero wealth.  That might have been true then, as well, and perhaps reaching for a couple more quintiles - for in those days the middle class had not yet been invented.  But at the top now, the distribution is so skewed that the 99th percentile have vastly more than the 98th percentile who have vastly more than the 97th.    

Don't get me wrong, those in the 97th percentile are doing very well, indeed.  But the top percent, and the top tenth of a percent in particular really have amassed wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

Back in A.D 1213, could there possibly have been orders of magnitude differences among fine divisions of the top couple of percent?  In a time when wealth was measure in land, cows and gold chalices, that's very hard for me to believe.

I believe the corrective actions are very clear, and simultaneously politically impossible to implement.

1 Steeply progressive income tax structure
2 Steeply progressive inheritance tax structure
3 Stringent regulation, most especially of the finance industry
4 Break up the to-big-to-fail banks
5 Limit banks along State borders
6 Tax capital at a higher, not lower rate than labor
7 Increase the minimum wage to something livable
8 Increase earned income tax credits
9 Simplify the tax code in ways that encourage keeping jobs here
10 Create strong disincentives for off-shoring
11 Repeal Taft-Hartley and strengthen labor unions
12 Break up monopolies

Feel free to expand the list in comments.

If this looks a lot like the New Deal, that's not much of a coincidence.  The only time we ever had a robust middle class was in the years when New Deal policies were followed.  The systematic dismantling of the New Deal [call it the Raw Deal if you wish] has resulted in the erosion of the middle class, further impoverishment of the poor, and the vast enrichment of the already very wealthy, at everyone else's espense.

H/T to nanute who pointed me to this article where I found the video.

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