Thursday, July 05, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?!

If we divided the income of the US into thirds, we find that the top ten percent of the population gets a third, the next thirty percent gets another third, and the bottom sixty percent get the last third. If we divide the wealth of the US into thirds, we find that the top one percent own a third, the next nine percent own another third, and the bottom ninety percent claim the rest. (Actually, these percentages, true a decade ago, are now out of date. The top one percent are now estimated to own between forty and fifty percent of the nation's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%.)

A some what easier way to understand the great disparity in American wealth distribution is to look at it this way (from 2001 statistics): Assume there are a hundred people with $100.00 to split. No one expects it to be split exactly evenly, at a dollar a piece, but everyone expects some fairness in the split. Now let’s say it is split up this way:

1 person gets $38.10
4 people get $5.32
5 people get $2.30
10 people get $1.25
20 people get .60
20 people get .23
40 people get ½ cent each

This is how our economic system has divided the wealth of our nation.

Now I ask you, what’s wrong with this picture? Our economy produces tremendous wealth, but it also produces tremendous poverty. Those in the top percentages of wealth want you to resent the poor and think of them as welfare leeches, and yes there are lazy people, but there are also a vast quantity of hard working citizens who live in poverty and shrinking numbers of middle class men and women. That is because the problem is systematic and not individual. There is plenty to go around, but it’s not being distributed fairly or adequately. It goes to the top and leaves the rest of us to fight for the crumbs.

I believe it is not enough to create a strong economy. It is just as important to ask how the benefits of that economy are being distributed throughout the population. A truly democratic society needs to find ways to manage the economy to benefit the whole population. This isn’t being done. Recent economic booms have had little if any effect on improving the conditions of the masses, but the top one percent of the wealthy in this country made huge gains. Can this be considered prosperity? Do we want to continue to gear our national policies to repeat this performance?

Let’s look at it from another angle. The extremely rich can use their influence very effectively. A single billionaire can get the undivided attention of any politician he wants, anytime he wants. If he doesn’t get what he wants he can in fact, “fight city hall”, the statehouse or even the federal government. Average Americans must pool their resources, and join their individual power together with many others to have any sort of influence at all. This is a difficult thing to manage typically. So I ask you, who wins when it comes to electoral votes? Whose interests are being represented in Washington?
Can democracy meaningfully exist where the distribution of wealth, and thus the distribution of power, is this concentrated?


Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I guess this is why our leaders care more about the rich than the average American.

I can't understand why we have average Americans voting for Republicans when they have nothing in common.

If they try to say it's because of morals, then they are really stuck on stupid.

The Republicans morals are for the money they can make and that's it.

Money runs this country leaders and average Americans work for them. That's all we are good for with these people.

7/05/2007 5:26 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

Let's Talk, you are absolutely right. I have always been amazed when I meet or see working class people who vote Republican. You really have to give some kudos to the republican party propaganda machine for managing to convince so many average citizens to vote against their own best interests. It's sad, that so many people are so easily lead around by their own ignorance of what they are truly voting for. Thanks for your great input on the subject.

7/05/2007 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

You mean the trickle down effect isn't working?

I too share your confusion, a poor republican makes as much sense to me as a gay republican, but they both exist, I always want to ask them what has your party done for you personally, my guess is SQUAT!

....just one of those mysteries in life.

7/06/2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger James Shott said...

Leo, your post proceeds from the premise that absolute equality is possible and desirable. I suggest to you that it is most likely not possible in any form that makes sense, and that when you consider the circumstances under which absolute equality could exist, hardly anyone would accept it.

Why, for example, should I have as much as you have if I sit on my can while you work yours off? If there is no incentive to produce something of value (in the form of work), who will be willing to work and produce? What is the point, if everyone gets the same whether they do anything or not?

This is the grand fallacy of the redistribution of wealth theory: when you take away incentive, the ability to earn more and thus have more, you remove the engine that causes people to produce, and if nobody produces anything, you can't distribute it to the members of the society/community.

7/07/2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

Jenn, yeah gotta love those trickle down economic theories, they work so well!-lol Thanks for the comment.
James, no actually my post proceeds from the premise that it is not good for our country or its people for the top one percent of the population to have ninty percent or more of the wealth. I think it's rather a stretch to say that because I would like to see more fairness in the way our wealth is distributed, that I am calling for equal distribution, I am not. What I am calling for is a serious examination of the FACT that while more and more people in the U.S. go homeless, or struggle for the basic necessities, others accumulate more wealth than they could ever actually spend. I'm sorry if you disagree, but I find that disgusting and morally repulsive. What do you find so appealing about it? I doubt quite seriously you are one of the top 1 percent or even the top ten. Do you think that if you earn say, over a hundred thousand you have more in common with that elite echelon? If you do think that, I hate to break the news to you, but even earning that much you have much more in common with the poorest of the poor. Thanks for the comment.

7/07/2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

Ouch! Leo, you put a smile on my face with that comment.

7/08/2007 3:28 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

Let's talk, lol, glad you're grinning, thanks.

7/08/2007 5:26 AM  
Blogger James Shott said...

What I am calling for is a serious examination of the FACT that while more and more people in the U.S. go homeless, or struggle for the basic necessities, others accumulate more wealth than they could ever actually spend.

There are many factors that determine why some have a lot and others have little, including opportunity, education, motivation, skill, experience and intelligence. The personal assets in that list are not evenly distributed. Some people are smarter than others. Some people work harder than others. Some people are better educated than others. Some people are more highly motivated than others. And, yes, some people have more and better opportunities than others.

Obviously, you’ve thought about this a little and so you must have some plan to accomplish this goal.

Now, if you can resist the temptation to try to insult me again, please share Leo’s Method of Redistributing Wealth in an Unequal Way That is Better Than the Current Free-Market Approach.

Or are you just one more of the legion of Americans that complain about the status quo but has no clue how to make things better?

7/09/2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

James, so let me get this straight, in order to be entitled to voice an opinion on the state of the country, I must be able to solve the issues of the country? If that's the case I know an awful lot of Americans who better shut up, starting with our President.-lol I am not an economist James, and I'm guessing your not either, but I will be happy to share a few ideas that I believe would help. First, I would roll back Bush's tax cuts. Second, I would institute a national healthcare plan, which would allow all Americans to receive their medical care and prescriptions either free or for a minimumal fee, based on their income level. Third I would institute public funding only of campaign finances, to cut the big business lobbying out of our political system, which would allow average Americans to have a voice in our government once more. Fourth, I would defund the war in Iraq and use the billions to help fund, my other ideas, such as national healthcare. Fifth, I would make income tax one specific percentage for all Americans, which would allow those with less income to pay less than those with larger incomes. Sixth, I would raise the minimum wage to a standard that would allow all working Americans to live above the poverty line. Seventh, I would institute or create a government organization that would allow young Americans (highschool age) to pledge/contract themselves to work for say four years or so after college in poor communities, in exchange for a free college education (much like our military service academies, do now to gain qualified officers). I would also institute two years of mandatory military service for all Americans, from say 18 to 20 years old, which I'm sure would be wildly unpopular, but would serve to strenghten our military, and make sure that the burden of military service is borne more equally among all classes, upper, middle and lower. (I'm guessing it would cut WAY DOWN on the willingness to engage in unnecessary wars as well!) Eighth, I would create incentives for businesses to manufacture their products here in the U.S. and on the flip side financially penalize companies that choose to move manufacturing facilities overseas. Last, but certainly not least, I would call for all Americans to be willing to once more sacrifice for the good of their country, and I would cite the sacrfices of previous generations of Americans, such as the World War II aged citizens. I would call for Americans to cut back on their energy usage, especially fossil fuels and would be upfront and honest about this nations need to free itself from the grasp of foreign oil. I would call for my fellow citizens to pledge themselves to help wage war on poverty in this nation, to join community service organizations, to start more etc., to give of themselves for the betterment of the country, because it's simply the right thing to do, and true morality and patriotism come with a cost. I would then let the country see me leading by example, by donating as much of my money and time as I possibly could to help the less fortunate. I believe Americans are a generous and good hearted people, who would willingly step up to the plate if inspired by good leadership. Those are my thoughts on the subject James. I have no doubt that since it is well nigh impossible for our government to accomplish anything, trying to institute any or all of these ideas would be difficult to impossible, but if I were a candidate for President or high office, this is what I would run on and if elected I would do my damnedest to make it happen. If that meant I made tons of political enemies and was not reelected, so be it.

7/09/2007 3:39 PM  

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