Reagan enriched, Robin Hood will spoil them

TRILLIONAIRES, BILLIONAIRES:  besides Forbes, even Merrill Lynch studies the RentiersCEOs global élite. According to the latter, the  no. of millionaires increased +22% in China, + 20% India, + 19% Brasil. In Forbes’ top 20, US are just 5, Indians 3.

The most paid CEO in the US in 2007 (this comes from a new DB:  www.haygroup.com/wsj/) was Merrill Lynch’s John Thain with 78.5 million $. Lehman Brother’s dictator Richard Fuld is 5th with JUST 40.2 mn. In the same year (caught by the Summertime subcrime crisis) shareholder’s returns for the two co.s were respectively – 41.3% and -14.2% (they include these amazing and unjustified costs, that might have downsized 10 times, with nothing else than a positive impact on efficiency and returns). 

But behind their success there is an “Age of Divide” (1980-2008 ) that killed the middle classes and skewed the distributions of entitlements, income and wealth. And the process continues: only a Robin Hood MAXI-TAX might stop it. But, in order to return to 20 years ago, it should take 9% of OECD GDP and give it back to wages. As for the US, you see how unique was this Age. Top 1 share

Data from tax records:  Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. Graph: Too Much.

The entire 1928-88 curveis U-shaped. The 1970s were the only parenthesis of relative equality, as far as income is concerned. As for wealth, things are worst: a 34.7% belongs to the top 1%. “The richest 1 percent of Americans currently hold wealth worth $16.8 trillion, nearly $2 trillion more than the bottom 90 percent.”  (source: Too Much, from Fed and Forbes data), write John Cavanagh and Chuck Collins, in the opening paper of the June 30 special issue of The Nation (the most important progessive review in the US) on Inequality.

Doug Henwood begins the issue by placing our current extreme inequality in historical context. We now live, he writes, in a second Gilded Age. Today, as in the robber baron era a century ago, the gap between those at the top and the rest of us is simply staggering. (…)

We need to heed the lesson imparted by those who reversed the first Gilded Age: over the first half of the twentieth century, organized labor and other populist and progressive social movements advanced a program that explicitly aimed to reduce concentrated wealth and power. They and their successors fought hard to lift up the bottom and bring down the top, through efforts as varied as the original GI Bill and high tax rates on high incomes. Thanks to their efforts, our nation went from the Gilded Age of Newport mansions to a postwar era that celebrated a thriving middle class, full of economically secure families who owned their own homes and could afford to send their kids to college. Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati, in their contribution to this special issue, show us how we can do this again. They lay out a practical guide on how to reduce our ignoble concentrations of wealth, a necessary step toward realizing efforts to reduce poverty, invest in green energy systems, rebuild our infrastructure and expand educational and economic opportunity for all.

Any successful mobilization against plutocracy must first dramatize the high price that wealth concentration exacts from the rest of us. In her contribution Barbara Ehrenreich laments a consequence of extreme inequality that few of us have adequately recognized: the plutocratic monopolization of our nation’s beautiful places. Gabriel Thompson tells the story of extreme inequality in one neighborhood–juxtaposing the hedge-fund titans who occupy the top floors of two Manhattan office buildings with the low-wage workers who guard their doorways and deliver their lunches.

Our Gilded Age

by DOUG HENWOOD

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