6 Facts About Hunger That Demonstrate the Shameful Excesses of American Capitalism

AlterNet [1] / By Paul Buchheit,  June 23, 2013

Of all the miseries placed on human beings in their everyday lives, the lack of food may be the most inexcusable. Even in a world controlled by unbending attitudes of self-reliance and individual responsibility, the reality of children and seniors and disabled citizens going hungry is a stain on humanity, a shameful testament to the capitalist goal of profit without conscience.

The facts presented here all touch on the lives of human beings, in the U.S. and beyond, who lack food or the means to pay for it.

1. Congress wants to cut a food program that feeds low-income children.

According to the Department of Agriculture [3], 48% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in 2011 were children. Either unaware or indifferent to this, Congress is considering a new farm bill [4] that would cut food assistance by $2 billion a year while boosting the farm subsidies of big agriculture.

2. Some individuals make enough in two seconds to pay a SNAP recipient’s food bill for an entire year.

Americans [5] Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, two Kochs, and four Waltons made an average of $6 billion each from their stocks and other investments in 2012. A $6 billion per year person makes enough in two seconds (based on a 40-hour work-week) to pay a year’s worth of benefits to the average SNAP [6] recipient. Just 20 [5] Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire SNAP budget [7] for 47 million people.

Capitalism encourages an individual to make as much money as possible, even without producing anything. Most Americans accept that. But questions should be raised about a system that allows the yearlong needs of a hungry person to flash by in two seconds of an investor’s life.

3. McDonald’s profits are double the total wages of all its food servers.

McDonald’s has 440,000 [8] employees, most of them food servers making the median [9] hourly wage of $9.10 an hour or less, for a maximum of about $18,200 per year. The company’s $8 billion profit, after wages are paid, works out to the same amount: $18,200 per employee.

As noted by MSN Money [10], the company pays its front-line workers minimum wage or very close to it. But instead of passing along part of its profits to employees, McDonald’s just announced plans for increased dividends and share repurchases.

4. Just 10 individuals made as much as all the fast-food counter workers in the U.S.

The 10 richest [5] on the Forbes list increased their combined wealth by almost $60 billion from 2011 to 2012. That’s approximately equivalent to the total annual salaries of 3,378,030 fast-food [11] counter employees if they were all able to work 40-hour weeks, 50 weeks a year.

5. Apple avoided enough in taxes to mount a global attack on malnutrition.

The World Bank estimates the total cost [12] for “successfully mounting an attack on malnutrition” would be about $10.3 to $11.8 billion annually. Apple [13] alone underpaid its 2012 taxes by $11 billion, based on a 35% rate on total global income. (The company paid $8,443 current taxes on $55,763 total income, or a little over 15%.)

6. Speculation on food prices has contributed to the impoverishment of 115 million people.

From 1996 to 2011 the portion of speculative [14] wheat market trades by Goldman Sachs and other players went from 12 percent to 61 percent. The price [15] of wheat went from $105 a ton in 2000 to $481 a ton in 2008.

Food prices dropped after the recession, but the World Bank [16] notes that they’ve jumped 43 percent since 2010. The World Food Program [17] reported that since 2008, high prices have pushed 115 million more people into hunger and poverty.

Speculation hasn’t hurt the speculators. According to the World Wealth Report 2013 [18], the number of high net worth individuals ($1 million or more in investable assets) increased by 11.5% in North America in 2012, the highest rate in the world.

Billionaires are on the rise, and a billion people are without adequate food. The speculators should be ashamed.

See more stories tagged with:

hunger [19]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/6-facts-about-hunger-demonstrate-shameful-excesses-american-capitalism

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-buchheit
[3] http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/06/24/fact-vs-fiction-usda%E2%80%99s-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/
[4] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/opposition-to-house-farm-bill-spans-political-spectrum/
[5] http://www.usagainstgreed.org/Forbes400_2011-12.xls
[6] http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/18SNAPavg$PP.htm
[7] http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/FY13budsum.pdf
[8] http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/63908/000006390813000010/mcd-12312012x10k.htm
[9] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#35-0000
[10] http://money.msn.com/investing/5-companies-that-owe-workers-a-raise
[11] http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#35-3020
[12] http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/resources/online-library/life-free-hunger-tackling-child-malnutrition
[13] http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/320193/000119312512444068/d411355d10k.htm
[14] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/23/goldman-sachs-agm-drive-food-prices-up
[15] http://www.odi.org.uk/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/1630.pdf
[16] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/09/13/america_latina_crisis_precio_alimentos
[17] http://home.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/newsroom/wfp204445.pdf
[18] http://www.capgemini.com/sites/default/files/resource/pdf/wwr_2013_1.pdf
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/hunger
[20] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty — and It’s Creeping toward 75%

By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet, May 26, 2013 

The Census Bureau [3] has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute [4] data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent [5], the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report [6] states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages [7] has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced [8] formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, over half of Americans are now IN poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about $18,000 [9] per year. That’s less than the poverty line [10] for a family of three ($19,000) or a family of four ($23,000).

Census [11] income figures are about 25% higher, because they include [12] unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, public assistance, veterans’ payments, and various other monetary sources. Based on this supplemental income, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about $25,000, which is just above the $23,000 poverty line for a family of four.

4. Based on wage figures, 75% of Americans are NEAR poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 75% earns about $31,000 [9] per year. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% [13] of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Again, Census [11] income figures are about 25% higher because of SNAP reporting [14] requirements, bringing average household income for the bottom 75% to about $39,000.

Incredibly, Congress is trying to cut [15] food assistance. Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennesseereferred [16] to food stamps as “stealing.” He added a Biblical quote: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” A recent jobs hearing [17] in Washington was attended by one Congressman.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just 20 rich Americans [18] made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire 2012 SNAP [19] (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on theForbes list [20] made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the food [19], housing [21], andeducation [21] budgets combined.

Mr. Fincher should think about the tax breaks that allow this to happen, and then tell us who’s stealing from whom.

See more stories tagged with:

don poverty [22]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/real-numbers-half-america-poverty-and-its-creeping-toward-75-0

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-buchheit
[3] http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/
[4] http://epi.3cdn.net/2a7ccb3e9e618f0bbc_3nm6idnax.pdf
[5] http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/12/13/mitt-romneys-47-percent-gaffe-tops-yales-quotes-of-the-year/
[6] http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/OECD2013-Inequality-and-Poverty-8p.pdf
[7] http://stateofworkingamerica.org/who-gains/#/?start=1979&end=2008
[8] http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Job_Creation/LowWageRecovery2012.pdf?nocdn=1
[9] http://www.usagainstgreed.org/TaxFoundnSumm2_brief_append.xls
[10] http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/12poverty.shtml
[11] http://www.usagainstgreed.org/CensusIncomeSummary2011.xls
[12] http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/measure.html
[13] http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm
[14] http://www.massresources.org/snap-financial-eligibility.html#incomecounted
[15] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/05/14/2010531/senate-committee-approves-4b-in-food-aid-cuts-as-house-preps-even-worse-measure/
[16] http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/05/22/gop-congressman-stephen-fincher-on-a-mission-from-god-starve-the-poor-while-personally-pocketing-millions-in-farm-subsidies/
[17] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/lawmaker-unemployment-hearing_n_3148362.html
[18] http://www.usagainstgreed.org/Fortune400_2011-12.xls
[19] http://www.obpa.usda.gov/budsum/FY13budsum.pdf
[20] http://www.forbes.com/sites/edwindurgy/2012/10/05/who-got-rich-this-week-a-new-billionaire/
[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_United_States_federal_budget
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/don-poverty
[23] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

U.S. Ranks at the Bottom of Child Well-Being

Salon.com / By Katie McDonough [1] April 12, 2013

The United States ranked in the bottom four of a United Nations report [2] on child well-being. Among 29 countries, America landed second from the bottom in child poverty and held a similarly dismal position when it came to “child life satisfaction.”

Keeping the U.S. company at the bottom of the report, which gauged material well-being, overall health, access to housing and education, were Lithuania, Latvia and Romania, three of the poorest countries in the survey.

UNICEF said in a statement on the survey that child poverty in countries like the U.S. “is not inevitable but is policy-susceptible” and that there isn’t necessarily a strong relationship between per capita GDP and overall child well-being, explaining: “The Czech Republic is ranked higher than Austria, Slovenia higher than Canada, and Portugal higher than the United States.”

The Netherlands ranked number one on the list, with Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden filling out the top five.

But don’t feel too discouraged, fellow Americans! As the International Business Times notes [3], the U.S. has managed to take first place in plenty of other surveys conducted by global organizations:

The United States is No. 1 on many other lists: It spends more on the military than the next 12 nations on the list combined; it’s the best in the world at imprisoning people; and it has the most obese people, the highest divorce rate, and the highest rate of both illicit and prescription drug use.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/us-ranks-bottom-child-well-being

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/katie-mcdonough
[2] http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc11_eng.pdf
[3] http://www.ibtimes.com/unicef-report-child-well-being-shows-us-near-bottom-list-1186975
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/child-0
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/unicef
[6] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Bye, Bye American Dream! U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

AlterNet [1] / By Steven Rosenfeld, March 22, 2013  |

Excerpt

A new study [3] by a team of economists in academia and the government has concluded that economic inequality is a permanent—not temporary—feature in the United States…“The reason the permanent/transitory distinction matters is that lifetime earnings are much more important than a single year’s earnings. It’s lifetime earnings that decide how you live in general, what sort of house you can afford, whether you can send a kid to college, whether you can retire comfortably.”… this study suggests that there are irreconcilable gaps in income, lifetime wealth, consumption and the resulting health between the haves and have-nots in America…That means federal safety nets are more needed than ever—despite the GOP’s ideological crusade to cut spending on them.

Full study

A new study [3] by a team of economists in academia and the government has concluded that economic inequality is a permanent—not temporary—feature in the United States, based on an analysis of 350,000 federal income tax returns between 1987 and 2009.

“For household income, both before and after taxes, the increase in inequality over this period was predominantly, although not entirely, permanent,” the highly technical report concluded. “We also find evidence that the U.S. federal tax system helped reduce the increase in household income inequality; but this attenuating effect was insufficient to significantly alter the broad trend toward rising inequality.”

The study by economists at two state universities, the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department, also found, not surprisingly, that the wealthiest Americans consume more than less well-off people, and that disparity causes poorer Americans to suffer as a result.

“Our findings, along with economic theory, suggest that the increase in income inequality observed in roughly the last two decades should translate into increases in consumption inequality, and is therefore likely to be welfare-reducing, at least according to most social welfare functions,” the report said. “Although measurement problems with household consumption data in the U.S. have made it difficult to convincingly measure the degree of the increase in consumption inequality, some recent studies… suggest that the increase in consumption inequality was indeed substantial.”

Simply put, the study confirms what Vermont’s U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders has been saying for years, “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.”

“The takeaway here is rough,” the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote [4] in his Wonkblog column. “The reason the permanent/transitory distinction matters is that lifetime earnings are much more important than a single year’s earnings. It’s lifetime earnings that decide how you live in general, what sort of house you can afford, whether you can send a kid to college, whether you can retire comfortably.”

Better-off Americans often opine that those below them on the economic ladder should just work a little harder. But this study suggests that there are irreconcilable gaps in income, lifetime wealth, consumption and the resulting health between the haves and have-nots in America. It also suggests progressive taxation can buffer those inequalities a bit, but not make up for the gaps.

It will be curious to see if this study will be cited in Washington’s ongoing debate about ‘reforming’ entitlement programs—namely Medicare and Social Security. It suggests, if anything, that growing slices of American society are heading to less financially secure futures, especially in old age. That means federal safety nets are more needed than ever—despite the GOP’s ideological crusade to cut spending on them.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/bye-bye-american-dream-us-economic-inequality-permanent-study-finds

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/steven-rosenfeld
[3] http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Projects/BPEA/Spring%202013/2013a_panousi.pdf
[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/22/good-news-for-people-who-like-bad-news-about-inequality/
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/economic-inequality
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/progressive-taxation
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/entitlement-reform
[8] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Profits of World’s 100 Wealthiest Could End Poverty Four Times Over: Report

- Jon Queally, staff writer, Published on Monday, January 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Oxfam report shows how extreme global inequality ‘hurts us all’

The profits of the world’s one hundred most wealthy individuals last year would be enough to wipe out world poverty, says a new report. And not just once over, or twice over, but the vast amount of money that has flowed to the top of the world’s financial food chain would be enough to eradicate the worst kind of poverty a full four times over.

Such an explosion in extreme wealth and income inequality represented by these numbers is exacerbating and hindering the world’s ability to tackle poverty, warns international aid group Oxfam International in a new analysis published ahead of the World Economic Forum starting in Davos this week.

According to the report, ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all,’ the $240 billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to eliminate extreme poverty four times over. In releasing the report, Oxfam is calling on world leaders to curb today’s income extremes and commit to bringing back inequality levels to at least those experienced in the early 1990′s.

“Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s executive director.

“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” he said. “In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”

“From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favour. It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite.”

In addition, Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive, says the world’s extremity of wealth inequality is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive”.

Oxfam is calling for a ‘new global deal’ which would stabilize the world’s economic systems and bring equality back in way that would benefit all humanity.

“From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favour. It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite.”

The group estimates that closing tax havens – which hold as much as $32 trillion or a third of all global wealth – could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. In addition to a tax haven crackdown, elements of the “global new deal” Oxfam envisions would include:

  • a reversal of the trend towards more regressive forms of taxation;
  • a global minimum corporation tax rate;
  • measures to boost wages compared with returns available to capital;
  • increased investment in free public services and safety nets.

According to Al-Jazeera:

The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.

“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. [...] We’re anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/21-0

 

Saving America’s Soul – expanded with links

This article expands upon a commentary published in the Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN, November 2012 and provides links to further information.

by Phyllis Stenerson 

We need to talk.

How did a nation founded on belief in the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all become one mired in gross inequality, obscene poverty and a corrupt political process? Opportunity for a bright future is being stolen from millions of innocent children.

Our nation’s founders brought together the best thinking of the time balancing faith with reason, materialism with moral values and the reality of struggle with the energy of hope.  For more than two hundred years the United States of America moved forward toward that dream and now we are going backward.

Democracy, one of the greatest ideas in history and the best form of government ever invented, has been corrupted by ideology, greed and lust for power of some leaders, aided and abetted by the apathy, ignorance and fear of too many voters.

The founders were abundantly clear about their intent that Americabe a nation of ideals built on Enlightenment principles of reason and the values of compassion and empathy at the core of all world religions, not one specific religion. They embedded freedom of, and freedom from religion in our Constitution and clarified this country was not established as a Christian nation.  The United States of America is now the most religiously pluralistic country in the world.

So, what has happened to our moral compass and our common sense? It is fundamentally wrong that many millions of children live in poverty while a few thousand adults live with more wealth than anyone could ever need. There is a solid consensus among scientists that climate change is real with unimaginable consequences for the future. Why are we not addressing these, and many more, crises?

The problem is awesomely complex but solutions are within reach. Democracy provides a framework for working through problems and toward answers. The founders emphasized that for the democratic process to work an educated and involved citizenry with a commitment to honor was essential.

Out of all the components in this vast puzzle, one area that is seriously out of balance is the role of money and religion in politics.  These are topics that people are uncomfortable discussing but that need attention now.

The way in which a new conservative movement was built during the 1960s and 1970s to pull power away from the dominant liberal consensus is a fascinating study. The long term strategy included investing millions of corporate dollars into think tanks and communication networks. Conservative leaders developed a sophisticated network of organizations that became known as the “right wing message machine” to influence the public. This strategy changed hearts and minds so citizens would come to hate liberals and see government as the problem, not the solution, reinforcing a radically conservative worldview. The Bible is cited as the infallible truth underlying many of the right wing’s extremist positions including opposition to gay marriage. Biblical scholars, notably the Jesus Seminars and Bishop John Shelby Spong, prove this cannot be true.

Social and cultural changes were hijacked to serve the right wing’s long term strategy. Turbulence of the time including the Viet Namwar, Civil Rights Movement and hippie’s Summer of Love, as well as women’s struggle for equal opportunity, created fertile ground in which to grow new ideas. The Supreme Court decision allowing abortion provided a “wedge issue” around which social conservatives organized society to see liberals as the enemy. “The Pill” was a major catalyst for conservatives to motivate their base. Race was always an undercurrent. Later gay rights became a wedge issue. Many Americans were disgusted by the emerging lifestyles. More recently the concept of “Biblical economics” is being used to justify right wing assertions that taxes and welfare are wrong.

Right wing religious leaders and operatives had been working for years to strengthen and grow the conservative Christian and Evangelical population. Radio and direct mail were tools in developing a cohesive power base. Many organizations including the Moral Majority were launched.  By the early 1980s this grassroots movement was becoming known to religious and social scholars but most dismissed the possibility of it making a difference.

Liberals did not adequately articulate a progressive narrative to reinforce the liberal consensus. They split off into subgroups and organized around issues instead of a cohesive worldview. This created a vacuum in the public dialogue that was filled with conservative rhetoric.

A Supreme Court decision allowing legal access to abortion and introduction of the “Pill” strengthened the women’s movement but also provided the catalyst for the conservative movement to aggressively organize opposition to liberalism among social conservatives, particularly Evangelicals.

Fast forward to 2012 when conservative Christian extremists, a small segment of the population, had gained power sufficient to select the candidates to represent the Republican Party in the election of the President and Vice President of the United States.  The party platform was strongly influenced by these religious leaders and proposes draconian cuts to the social safety net, education, health, nutrition and other programs that provide access to opportunity for all. The fringe end of the conservative spectrum includes reconstructionism, “End Times” and dominionism, the belief that the Bible should replace the Constitution.

The primary goal of the movement is to strengthen conservatism and reduce government to the bare minimum. Starving the government of tax revenue is one tactic. Obstruction by Republican Members of Congress is another.

The Republican agenda is to shift power from ordinary people to those already rich and powerful. Fundamentalist religion is used toward this goal.  When money and religion are used to control government, it is called fascism. It ceases to be democracy.

Qualities that made America great — and good – are under attack. America’s soul is in grave danger. This is what we need to talk about.

This article is adapted from commentary published in the Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN, November 2012    

work in progress – last updated 10/25/12

Phyllis Stenerson © 2012

Numbers, Analysis Show 30 Years of Failed US Economic Policy

Common Dreams staff, Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 by Common Dreams  

Census numbers show persistent poverty, falling wages, and rising inequality

The latest US Census Bureau numbers on poverty, income inequality, and healthcare, coupled with newly released economic analysis of US public policy reveals the reality and the reasons behind the persistent rut of the poverty-stricken, the working-poor, and the middle class in America.

 More than three years after the collapse of the housing bubble, the federal government’s bailout of Wall Street, and the start of the Great Recession, the US poverty rate remains persistently high with nearly 1 in 5 Americans living at or below the poverty line, according to new figures released on Wednesday by the US Census Bureau

In addition, the numbers show rampant joblessness, stagnant or falling wages among workers, household incomes that continue to fall, and an inequality gap that continues to grow.

Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute released their annual review of US economic policy which includes a wide variety of data on family incomes, wages, jobs, unemployment, wealth, and poverty that allow for a clear, unbiased understanding of the economy’s effect on the living standards of working Americans.

As the Census reports, “the nation’s official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.0 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. After three consecutive years of increases, neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates.”

New data on the continued rise in inequality—where income inequality increased by 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2011—prompted Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to underscore that the nation’s wealthiest should begin to share in the sacrifices that will be needed to correct the economy in the coming years.

“Given the need for substantial sacrifice and the skewing of income gains to those at the top,” he said in a statement, “it is difficult to justify extending the rather lavish tax cuts for high-income individuals that policymakers enacted in 2001 and 2003, which average $129,000 a year for people who make over $1 million a year, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.”

The Economic Policy Institute, which on Tuesday released its 12th annual “State of Working America” report, listed the key numbers from the Census report:

Poverty
•15.0%: The share of the population in poverty in 2011
•21.9%: The percent of children under 18 in poverty
•46.2 million: The number of people in poverty in 2011
•$22,811: The poverty threshold for a family of four with two children
•44.0%: The share of the poor population in “deep poverty,” or below half the poverty line
•2.3 million: The number of people unemployment insurance kept out of poverty in 2011
•21.4 million: The number of people Social Security kept out of poverty in 2011
•5.7 million: How many fewer people would be in poverty if the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit was included in the Census definition of money income
•3.9 million: How many fewer people would be in poverty if food stamps (SNAP) were added to money income
Income
•-1.7%, +5.1%: The change in average household income between 2010 and 2011 for the middle 20 percent, and the top 5 percent, respectively. The disparity means income inequality increased in 2011.
•$7,887, -12.4%: The decline in median working-age household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively
•$6,518, -16.8%: The decline in median African-American household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively
•$4,695, -10.8%: The decline in median Hispanic household income from 2000 to 2011 in level terms and percentage terms, respectively
•$50,622, $48,202:  Median earnings for a man working fulltime, full year in 1973 and 2011, respectively
•$28,699, $37,118:  Median earnings for a female working fulltime, full year in 1973 and 2011, respectively
Putting the Census numbers in the context of public policy in their new report, EPI explains how economic policies, including policymakers’ actions and failures to act, have continuously undercut the ability of workers to benefit from economic growth in the United States. Its primary findings include:

•America’s vast middle class has suffered a “lost decade” and faces the threat of another. The wages of typical Americans, including college graduates, are lower today than they have been in over a decade. Because hourly wages and compensation failed to grow after the 2001 recession, household incomes had declined even before the Great Recession. Furthermore, forecasts of high unemployment for many years ahead suggest that another lost decade for typical American workers and their families, as measured by wages and income, has already begun.
•Income and wage inequality have risen sharply over the last 30 years. Income inequality has grown sharply since 1979, a fact that is universally recognized by researchers. The trends that have driven this growing inequality in overall incomes are growing concentration of both capital income (the returns to financial assets) and labor income (wages and benefits), as well as a shift from labor income toward capital income.
•Rising inequality is the major cause of wage stagnation for workers and of the failure of low- and middle-income families to appropriately benefit from growth. The typical worker has not benefited from productivity growth since 1979, though there has been sufficient economic growth to provide a substantial across-the-board increase in living standards. Instead, higher earners have reaped a disproportionate share of wage income, and the top one percent of households have received a disproportionate share of all income growth. Aside from the period of strong growth in the late-1990s, wages for low-and middle-wage workers were stagnant from 1979 to 2007, and incomes for lower- and middle-class households grew slowly.
•Economic policies caused increased inequality of wages and incomes. Inequality between the very top wage earners and all others grew from 1979 to 2011 except during stock declines, driven by growing executive compensation and an expanded and increasingly highly-paid financial sector. Inequality between the top wage earners and middle-wage earners also grew from 1979 to 2011. A number of policies played a role in this growth, including those that: (1) targeted rates of unemployment too high to provide reliably tight labor markets for low- and middle-wage workers; (2) hastened global integration of the U.S. economy without protecting U.S. workers; (3) failed to manage destructive international trade imbalances; (4) allowed employer practices hostile to unions to flourish; (5) privatized and deregulated industry, including the financial sector; and (6) eroded labor standards. Inequality between middle-wage earners and the lowest wage earners grew only in the 1980s, fueled by the erosion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage and, again, the targeting of rates of unemployment that were too high. Tax and budget policies have compounded the inequalities that have been generated in market-based, pre-tax incomes.
•Claims that growing inequality has not hurt middle-income families are flawed. Some recent studies have suggested that measures of comprehensive income since 1979 show that middle-income families have seen adequate income growth. Rather, incomes for the middle class have not grown as fast as average incomes, and middle-income growth was much slower between 1979 and 2007 than it was between 1947 and 1979. Furthermore, more than half of the income growth between 1979 and 2007 was made up of government transfers, which reflects the strength of programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not the strength of the labor market. In fact, higher household labor earnings can be traced to increasing work hours, not higher wages. Finally, the data on comprehensive incomes are technically flawed because they count rapidly rising health expenditures made on behalf of households by employers and the government as income, without taking excessive health care inflation into account.
•Growing income inequality has not been offset by increased mobility. There is no evidence that mobility—changes in economic status from one generation to the next—has increased to offset rising inequality, and some research shows a decline.
•Inequalities persist by race and gender. Key economic measures, including unemployment, wealth, and poverty (particularly child poverty), continue to show staggering disparities by race and ethnicity. Gender disparities also persist, and while gaps in labor market outcomes have closed in recent decades, a number have done so because men lost ground, not because women gained it.
“The State of Working America, 12th Edition” includes new and compelling data on:

Income

•the components of the Congressional Budget Office’s “comprehensive income” growth for the middle class (health care insurance, wages, pensions, work hours, government benefits)
•the growth of capital income by income group and the growing concentration of capital incomes
Mobility

•the stagnation of economic mobility
•the poor performance of the U.S. economy in international rankings of mobility
Wages

•flat or falling wages for college graduates in almost every occupation over the past 10 years
•wage trends by education, decile, gender, and race/ethnicity
•the growth of wage inequality for the three key wage gaps: between the top one percent and others, between the top and middle (95/50 wage gap), and between the middle and bottom (50/10 wage gap)
•the impact of rising health care costs on wage growth and wage inequality
•the factors driving the gap between productivity and median hourly compensation growth
•the role of the financial sector and CEO compensation in fueling the top one percent’s income growth
Jobs

•the extent to which changes in the labor force participation rate are due to the weak economy or are structural/demographic
•why current unemployment is cyclical and not structural
Wealth

•the decline of median wealth between 1983 and 2010 (while wealth at the top grew strongly)
•the collapse of wealth in African American and Hispanic households
•the role of housing equity’s collapse on middle class wealth
•the increasing concentration of stock ownership
Poverty

•the factors driving high poverty and low-end wages
•the large role income inequality plays in growing poverty (as opposed to demographic factors like family formation)
•the contribution of longer work hours to low-income families’ income
•the relatively small role tax and transfer policy plays in reducing poverty in the U.S. in comparison to peer countries
•high child poverty rates in comparison to peer countries

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/09/12-8

The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace the Cruelty of Paul Ryan and Other Right-Wingers

By Joshua Holland [2] AlterNet [1]  August 14, 2012  |  

Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters [3]simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”

In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children’s healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohn described [4] the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:

Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.

Ryan’s “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan [5][5]ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent (PDF [6]). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?” Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers [7], with some shouting, “yeah!”

Ryan’s motives aren’t purely ideological; he’s been a magnet for dollars from big GOP donors for years (the $5.4 million [8] in his House campaign account is among the largest war-chests for any representative this cycle). But what about the ordinary people who embrace this kind of ‘screw ‘em, I got mine’ ideology? How can presumably decent people on the Right – people who care about their families and their communities – appear to be so cruel? Don’t they grasp the devastating real-world consequences of what it means for a society to just “let him die”?

While some answers to that question are relatively straightforward, even intuitive, research into the interplay between cognition and ideology offers a deeper understanding of what appears on its face to be an extraordinary deficit of basic human empathy.

Drilling Down

The simplest explanation for this apparent disconnect is the increasing polarization of our media consumption. People on the right tend to consume conservative media, and if you get your news from Fox and listen to Limbaugh, you too would think that Ryan’s roadmap is simply a “serious” proposal to cut the deficit (never mind that it would cut taxes at the top by so much that the budget wouldn’t be balanced for decades to come).

But it goes a bit deeper than that. The contempt a good number of Americans hold for the social welfare state has long been understood through the prism of race. In his classic book, Why Americans Hate Welfare [9], Martin Gilens found that while significant majorities of Americans told pollsters that they wanted more public spending to fight poverty, many were opposed to welfare programs because of widespread “perceptions that welfare recipients are undeserving and blacks are lazy.”

That finding has been confirmed in a number of studies since then. But more recently, psychological research – and some neurobiological studies – have found something else: Liberals and conservatives don’t just differ in their opinions, they have fundamentally different ways of processing information, which in turn leads them to hold markedly divergent sets of facts.

Even more frustrating for those who view politics as a rational pursuit of one’s self-interest, facts don’t actually matter that much. We begin evaluating policies emotionally, according to a deeply ingrained moral framework, and then our brains often work backward, filling in – or inventing — “facts” that conform to that framework.



Dueling Morality Tales



It’s long been understood that people evaluate policy ideas through partisan and ideological lenses. That’s how, for example, a set of conservative, market-oriented healthcare reforms cooked up at the Heritage Foundation and pushed by Republicans for years can suddenly become a Maoist plot when embraced by a Democratic administration.



But according to George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at UC Berkeley, one has to look beyond mere partisanship to really get the differences in how we process information. Lakoff describes what might be called a hierarchy of understanding, beginning with our conceptions of morality and then evaluating the details through that lens.

In The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic [10], Lakoff and co-author Elisabeth Wehling explain that the human “brain is structured in terms of what are called ‘cascades.’”



A cascade is a network of neurons that links many brain circuits. All of the linked circuits must be active at once to produce a given understanding.

Simply put, the brain does not handle single ideas as separate entities: bigger context, a logical construct within which the idea is defined, is evoked in order to grasp its meaning.

Cascades are central to political understanding, because they characterize the logic that structures that understanding.


While liberals and conservatives often see their counterparts as horrible people these days, the reality, according to Lakoff, is that they’re processing information through very different, and often diametrically opposed moral frameworks.



In a recent interview [11] with AlterNet, Lakoff said, “Conservatives have a very different view of democracy, which follows their moral system.”



The basic idea in terms of economics is that democracy gives people the liberty to seek their self interest and their own well-being without worrying or being responsible for the well-being or interest of anybody else. Therefore they say everybody has individual responsibility, not social responsibility, therefore you’re on your own. If you make it that’s wonderful. That’s what the market is about. If you don’t make it, that’s your problem.



But it’s not just about the moral imperative to be self-sufficient – that’s always been central to the right’s moral worldview. But beginning in the early 1960s, with the advent of the Right’s deeply flawed “culture of poverty” narrative [12]*, a defining morality tale about the public sector has been about how it does nothing but foster “dependency.” This, according to today’s conservatives, makes virtually every form of government intervention in the economy profoundly immoral, as it keeps a segment of the population mired in poverty for generations.



This powerful story has only become more deeply entrenched in the conservative worldview with the growing influence of Ayn Rand. Randwasn’t only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well. Her books provided wide-ranging parables of a world made up of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor.

While Ryan recently disavowed [13] Rand’s philosophy, he’s on the record saying that Rand “makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” On another occasion, he said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” 


This philosophy is constantly reinforced. According to Lakoff, most people have both liberal and conservative moralities that vie for prominence as our brains process information. One “neural circuit is in mutual opposition to another neural circuit” he told AlterNet, and “each of those two inhibit each other.”

For the Fox News crowd, the circuitry of conservative moralism is charged again and again every day. “When one of those circuits is activated over and over, more than the other, the stronger it gets and the weaker the inactive one gets,” said Lakoff. “The stronger one of these circuits gets, the more influence it’s going to have over various issues.”



Shutting Down the Thinking Brain



Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman refined earlier theories about how the brain functions on two levels – one instinctive and very quick, the other slower and more deliberate. He described the first as intuitive processing, or “system one cognition,” and the other as a process of reasoning, or “system two cognition.”



And the key point here is it appears that when system one is active, system two shuts down. Or, to put it another way, when we perceive an issue in emotional terms (system one), we make a quick judgment in which we don’t think much about the details. This is common in our daily lives, but takes on real signifigance in our political culture, and while this tendency isn’t limited to a particular ideology, some research suggests that political conservatives are more likely to rely [14] on the kind of snap judgments associated with system one cognition than liberals.



(In his book, The Republican Brain [15], Chris Mooney suggests that there may be powerful evolutionary benefits for having an instinctive, knee-jerk process take over at times. If you were an early human wandering on the savanna and heard a rustling noise in the brush, it was to your advantage to instantly assume there’s a lion coming and have your fight-or-flight instinct kick in. If you paused to weigh the evidence of whether or not it might be a lion, there would be a good chance that you wouldn’t pass your genes onto future generations.) 



Given the cascade of cognition – from a broad moral frame, to the way a specific issue is framed in our discourse and finally to the nitty-gritty details that most people ignore – and given how the fast, instinctive processing can overwhelm our more deliberative, reasoned cognitive process, it’s easy to understand how so many people on the right could be immune to the real-world consequences of doing things like cutting healthcare for poor children. It simply follows – from the overarching moral frame of dependency — that this kind of “tough love,” while perhaps painful in the near term, is ultimately beneficial for those feeling that pain.

Isn’t That a Contradiction?



It is a contradiction in one sense. But researchers have long observed that humans have an excellent capacity to hold contradictory beliefs. A recent study [16] at the University of Kent, for example, found that those who believe Princess Diana was murdered are also more likely than most to think her death was faked.



A number of researchers have posited that we stave off painful cognitive dissonance by a process called “motivated reasoning,” whereby we seek out plausible explanations for complex phenomena in order to make things fit into our previously held belief systems.

Drew Westen, Pavel S. Blagov, Keith Harenski, Clint Kilts, and Stephan Hamann at Emory University describe ([17]) motivated reasoning as a process by which, “people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.” This, say the researchers, results in “a form of implicit emotion regulation.”



Writing in the New York Times [18], David Redlawsk, a political scientist atRutgers, explains that “we are all somewhat impervious to new information, preferring the beliefs in which we are already invested.



We often ignore new contradictory information, actively argue against it or discount its source, all in an effort to maintain existing evaluations. Reasoning away contradictions this way is psychologically easier than revising our feelings. In this sense, our emotions color how we perceive “facts.”



Everyone does this, but some research suggests [19] that political conservatives, perhaps because they are more set in their views, and more averse to cognitive dissonance, tend to display more motivated reasoning than liberals.



When you hear someone like Paul Ryan proposing, for example, to shift $4,700 [20] in health costs onto the backs of seniors living at the poverty level by 2022, it’s important to understand that the consequences of those actions – the factual, real-world results of these policies – are often inconsequential to like-minded people on the Right not because they’re (necessarily) bad people, but for the simple reason that the consequences don’t register. 


While a half-dozen analyses paint a sharp picture of the cruelty inherent in the Ryan plan, it is this process of motivated reasoning that allows conservatives to simply block out any details that contradict their ideas about the need to avoid fostering a “culture of dependency.”

And here, one of the apparent differences between conservative and liberal cognitive styles comes into play: the “backfire effect.” The term was coined by political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, who found that when conservatives’ erroneous beliefs were confronted by factual rebuttals, they tended to double-down on those beliefs. The same dynamic wasn’t observed with liberals (they weren’t entirely swayed by the facts, but didn’t show the same tendency to believe false information more strongly after being presented with them).

This is not to suggest that Ryan’s plan – now effectively Romney’s as well, despite some efforts to distance himself from it — won’t prove toxic to most people when they get a sense of what it does. That’s because, as Lakoff notes, there are very few people who hold a primarily conservative or liberal moral framework – most have a bit of both. But it does help explain why seemingly ordinary citizens can embrace such such cruel public policies. It also suggests that Ryan’s vision can’t be attacked with facts and figures alone; it has to be challenged with a progressive moral vision of a society that values fairness and understands that in a modern economy, the public sector serves and sustains the private.

* Cultural explanations for why some groups do better than others go back a long way, but the modern iteration of the “culture of poverty” narrative originated with sociologist Oscar Lewis’s 1961 book, The Children of Sanchez.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/conservative-psyche-how-ordinary-people-come-embrace-cruelty-paul-ryan-and-other-right

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/joshua-holland
[3] http://digbysblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/they-refused-to-believe-any-politician.html
[4] http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/106029/ryan-romney-vp-budget-cuts-medicare-medicaid-voucher-tax-cut
[5] http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/03/20/10780200-the-opposite-of-seriousness
[6] http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/06-04-12%20Values%20Release.pdf
[7] http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnntea-party-debate-audience-cheers-letting-uninsured-comatose-man-die/
[8] http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00004357
[9] http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780226293646
[10] http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Blue-Book-Democratic/dp/147670001X
[11] http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/156057
[12] http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/151830/debunking_the_big_lie_right-wingers_use_to_justify_black_poverty_and_unemployment_/
[13] http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/04/26/ryan-now-rejects-ayn-rand-will-the-real-paul-ryan-please-come-forward/
[14] http://www.alternet.org/story/155210/why_is_the_conservative_brain_more_fearful_the_alternate_reality_right-wingers_inhabit_is_terrifying
[15] http://www.amazon.com/The-Republican-Brain-Science-Science/dp/1118094514
[16] http://kent.academia.edu/RobbieSutton/Papers/1275313/Dead_and_alive_Beliefs_in_contradictory_conspiracy_theories
[17] http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/jocn.2006.18.11.1947
[18] http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/04/21/barack-obama-and-the-psychology-of-the-birther-myth/a-matter-of-motivated-reasoning
[19] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/14/AR2008091402375_pf.html
[20] http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3473

http://www.alternet.org/print/election-2012/conservative-psyche-how-ordinary-people-come-embrace-cruelty-paul-ryan-and-other-right

US Poverty Rate Reaching 50-Year High by Common Dreams staff

Common Dreams, July 23, 2012 

Economist Dean Baker: “The real tragedy is that this economic collapse was totally preventable before the fact and it could be quickly overcome even now with the right policies.”
- Common Dreams staff

Poverty in the U.S. is on track to be at its highest level in 50 years, according to analysis collected by the Associated Press.  Meanwhile, social safety nets are being pulled out from under those in need, leaving them in a spiral downward with little hope of escape.

The consensus of the more than dozen economists and think tanks the AP surveyed, both left- and right-leaning, was that the poverty level — 15.1 percent in 2010 — would reach as high as 15.7 percent for 2011. Even the 2010 figures represent a record breaking number.  The Census Bureau states that “the number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.”

A mere tenth of a percent increase to 15.2 percent would make the poverty level match 1983′s rate, which was the highest since1965, AP reports.

Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that “a rise in the poverty rate is the entirely predictable result of a high unemployment rate and cutbacks in various forms of government support” and sees little chance of a change in course.

“The real tragedy is that this economic collapse was totally preventable before the fact and it could be quickly overcome even now with the right policies. However, in both cases there is not the political will. The interest groups that dominate U.S. politics are just fine with the current situation,” Baker stated.

The safety net allowing some to scrape by are at risk, with unemployment insurance, food stamps and welfare getting cut.  But Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy, tells the AP, “The issues aren’t just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy.”

Edelman, author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, also highlighted the problem of low-wage jobs affecting poverty when he spoke to Bill Moyers in June.  “[W]hat I’m worried about is the longer term continuance of this plethora of low-wage jobs. “Of the inability of people at the bottom, and not just the poor, I’m talking about the whole lower half. The way the median wage absolutely stagnated beginning 1973. The economy grew over the last 40 years basically doubled in size. And the entire lower half got none of that. The median wage went up 7 percent in 40 years. A fifth of a percent a year,” Edelman said during his interview with Moyers. 

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/07/23-2

Economic Justice – inequality

Poverty strains cognitive abilities, opening door for bad decision-making, new study finds

The Astonishing Collapse of Black and Latino Household Wealth

We’d All Be Much Wealthier If We Acted Like a Society—Instead We Prop Up the Private Wealth of a Small Number of Elites By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog, August 23, 2013

Inequality Rages as Dwindling Wages Lock Millions in Poverty – Jan­u­ary 15, 2013 by Com­mon Dreams — Jon Queally, staff writer – New study shows just how hard ‘work­ing poor’ got hit in wake of 2008 crisis – The offi­cial unem­ploy­ment rate in the US may be slowly tick­ing down, but the rank of those who clas­sify as ‘the work­ing poor’ has con­tin­ued to skyrocket…Along with over­all income inequal­ity growth in the US, a new report by Work­ing Poor Fam­i­lies Project says that over 200,000 fam­i­lies fell into poverty in 2011 even with both par­ents working…The growth in the ranks of the work­ing poor coin­cides with con­tin­ued growth in income inequal­ity. Many of the occu­pa­tions expe­ri­enc­ing the fastest job growth dur­ing the recov­ery also pay poorly…

How the Billionaires Class Is Destroying Democracy By Thom Hart­mann and Sam Sacks, 19 Jan­u­ary 2013  Op-Ed, Truth-out.org …It’s not the pow­er­less who cor­rupt democ­ra­cies… it’s the pow­er­ful who cor­rupt democ­ra­cies. And money is the source of that power…America’s fis­cal prob­lems are a direct result of the Bil­lion­aire Class work­ing behind the scenes of our democ­racy and syphon­ing off mas­sive amounts of wealth for them­selves while pay­ing lower taxes than they’ve paid in a half-century…

Wealth equality in America – video showing wealth inequality – people’s perceptions, the ideal and reality – went viral weekend of March 3, 2013

Why Is Poverty, Inequality Growing?

The New Values Voters: The Economy

** US Poverty Rate Reaching 50-Year High by Common Dreams staff

** The ‘Merit-Based Society’ by Thomas B. Edsall

** America Has Woken Up to the Reality: Inequality Matters By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, BillMoyers.com, January 17, 2012 – posted on Alternet.org - …The number of people living in poverty is increasing and is expected to increase further…we now have the largest number of long-term unemployed people in the United States since records were first kept in 1948… Nor are we talking about everybody earning the same amount of money – that’s the straw man apologists for inequality raise whenever anyone tries to get serious. We’re talking what it takes to live a decent life…There was an unwritten bargain among generations: we didn’t all get the same deal, but we did get civilization. Now the bargain’s being shredded….  And that’s why so many are so angry. Not at wealth itself. But at the powerful players who win by fixing the game instead of by honest competition; at the crony capitalists who resort to tricks, loopholes, and cold cash to make sure insiders prosper – and then pull up the ladder behind them. …a collective cry, loud and clear, has gone up from countless voices across the country: Enough’s enough. We won’t know for a while if what we’re hearing is a momentary cry of pain, or whether it’s a movement – like the abolitionists and suffragettes, the populists and workers of another era, or the civil rights movement – that gathers forces until the powers-that-be can no longer sustain the inequality, injustice, and yes, immorality of winner-take-all politics and a winner-take-all economy.

** Murder, Suicide and Financial Ruin: How the Class War Is Destroying Americans’ Lives By Mark Ames, Consortium News, April 17, 2012

** Inequality in America, The Nation, June 30, 2010

Half Of American Households Hold 1 Percent Of Wealth by Dan Froomkin

The 99 Percent Spring and Extreme Inequality by Chuck Collins, HuffingtonPost.com, May 4, 2012