Sunday, April 10, 2011

Clear as clear can be

Most people generally know that the super-rich have been getting richer and almost everyone else poorer for the last decade or or so. But I wonder how many of us know how extreme the redistribution of income has become since the Reagan Administration (which set the US firmly on the path of taking income from the middle and poorer classes and giving it to the super-rich). I've just seen a bar chart, composed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that makes it all so painfully clear (the way Niall Harrison's pie charts do for the gender imbalance in sf reviewing):

As Zachary Roth notes for Yahoo News,
the 30 years following the Second World War were a time of broadly shared prosperity: Income for the bottom 90 percent of American households roughly kept pace with economic growth.

But over the last 35 years, there's been an abrupt shift: Total growth has slowed marginally, but the real change has been in how the results of that growth are distributed. Now, the bottom 90 percent have seen their income rise only by a tiny fraction of total growth, while income for the richest 1 percent has exploded by upwards of 275 percent.

One can argue about why this is happening. Some say it's the result of a decline in workers' bargaining power as labor unions have weakened, while others blame the rise of offshoring and outsourcing. But despite the best efforts of some commentators, there's really no serious debate about the overall realignment of income in our age: The already super-rich have vastly increased their share of the pie--at the expense of everyone else.

It's important to bear in mind this extreme trend of redistribution of income in the US when we see Republican governors, legislatures, and the US Congress (and, yes, the POTUS as well) doing everything they can to give all the power and all the say to a tiny handful of people and stripping young people of their right to vote, workers of their right to collective representation and bargaining, and all of us of decent, affordable healthcare, support for those with disabilities, a reasonable retirement, and a safety net for families who have lost their homes and livelihoods.  I'm just saying. 

No comments: