Of the 1%, by the 1%, for…

While protesters Occupy Wall Street for the third week it is interesting to stumble across an article in Vanity Fair (written in May this year) that says almost exactly the same things.

  • The top 1% of Americans earn almost 25% of the national income and own 40% of the assets.
  • Both figures are up on twenty five years ago (12%, 33%), while those in the middle have seen their incomes fall over the past decade.
  • “An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year — an economy like America’s — is not likely to do well over the long haul”, because:
  • Inequality means shrinking opportunity, which means people’s talents are not being fully utilised, which means the economy is under-performing compared to its potential
  • The distortions that create and sustain the societal inequality create inefficiencies in the economy
  • The economy relies on [public] investment in infrastructure and education, but these are on the decline
  • By removing limitations on campaign spending, the Supreme Court has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government.
  • “Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.”
  • “Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever.”
  • “A tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy.”
  • Inequality distorts foreign policy:
  • Foreign policy is about balancing national interests and national resources
  • But if the top 1% rarely serve in the military and feel no pinch from higher taxes, and corporations and contractors stand only to gain then there is no balance or restraint
  • The American Dream is that everyone has the same chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise
  • Alexis de Toqueville once described the genius of America as “Self interest, properly understood” — we all have a self interest, but looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.
  • “The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

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