Posts Tagged ‘Public discontent’

The rich are richer, the rest of us are poorer

July 13, 2015

inequality1108k_0Source: The Economist.

Americans of all stripes, from the Tea Party to the Occupy movement, are angry.  They think government doesn’t represent them.

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, thinks they’re right about that.  He said he knows congressional representatives whose mail was running 1oo to 1 against “fast track” approval of trade agreements who  nevertheless voted for it.

But, he explained, the reason for their anger is more deep-seated—

For most Americans, life simply is getting harder.  This was painfully obvious from a Sage Foundation study last year, following up on an article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  The study looked at changes in the wealth of American households over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.  The study found that median net worth had dropped by 36 percent, from $87,992 to $56,335.

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson

Let me repeat that: The net worth of the average American household dropped by more than one-third in ten years.  The decline from the 2007 peak was almost 50 percent, in just six years.  (Most of that loss was in the value of one’s home — home is where the heartache is.)

That’s why everyone is so angry.

The net worth decline of someone at the 25th [75th] percentile (meaning that three-quarters of all household are richer than you) was even more extreme — from $10,129 to $3200.  And among the bottom five percent, whose net worth is negative, their debt tripled.

Only the top 10 percent of all Americans improved their standards of living during that decade.  As the study summarized, “wealth inequality increased significantly from 2003 through 2013; by some metrics inequality roughly doubled.”

via Rep. Alan Grayson.

My friends who are content to always vote for the “lesser evil” are correct in one respect.  Things could be worse—a lot worse—than they are now.

But I don’t believe the present situation is sustainable.   The anger of the American people will boil over at some point.  If change for the better seems impossible within the current political and economic system, democracy and constitutional government will be at risk.


Why Is Everybody Angry?  I’ll Tell You Why by Rep. Alan Grayson for the Huffington Post.

The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less by Anna Bernasek for The New York Times.

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality and the Great Recession by Fabian T. Pfeffer, Sheldon Danziger and Robert F. Schoeni for the Russell Sage Foundation.

When will we be not willing to take it anymore?

June 6, 2011
Average number of weeks the unemployed were without work.  Click to view.

Yesterday I had a long lunch with a friend of mine who is struggling to survive in today’s job market.  He gets by with a patchwork of part-time and temporary jobs, but has not met with success in getting a regular job in spite of doing everything humanly possible.

He took out a student loan in order to get an advanced degree in his field, and found that his degree makes him less, not more, employable.  His experience is that employers don’t want highly qualified specialists.  They want jacks-of-all-trades who are willing to work cheap, which is what my friend has become.  This does not discourage him.  He is determined to do whatever it takes.  His situation is not unusual.  It is very common.

I said as much, and he pointed out that he is fortunate, compared to the vast majority of people in history, and in the world today.  The vast majority would be glad to get a sack of flour, or a sack of beans, potatoes or rice.  In New York, London and Paris of 150 years ago, an unemployed person could literally starve to death.  Yet here we were, eating delicious food in one of the Rochester area’s all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets.

Neither my friend nor I lives lavishly by American standards, but we don’t lack food, clothing, shelter or medical care.  Compared to the victims of the Haiti earthquake or the Pakistan floods, or even our journalist and teacher peers in places like Lagos, Cairo or Bangkok, we have wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

I don’t claim that present conditions are unendurable.  I would be willing to accept greater economic austerity to achieve some valid purpose, to invest in the future for my little grand-nieces.  What angers me is that current economic insecurity serves nothing except the sense of entitlement of those who hold the levers of economic power.