Social Inequality in America
by Stephen Lendman
Islamic Awakening requested an article on this topic. Later publication will follow. Specific questions were raised.
Related issues include imperial priorities, permanent wars, political injustice, wealth and privilege at the expense of popular needs, and deepening hardships affecting millions of Americans.
America’s social contact is targeted for elimination. Bipartisan complicity plans it.
Fiscal cliff doublespeak duplicity conceals what’s planned. Robbing poor Peter to pay rich Paul is policy. Much worse lies ahead.
Feeding America addressed how yearend agreement terms affect hunger. Severe harm was inflicted or plans are to do so. Food stamps and other anti-hunger programs will be cut when they’re most needed. Nutrition programs weren’t renewed.
Charitable deductions will be limited. Less will feed hungry people. Food banks already struggle to cope. Demand way exceeds resources.
Destroying America’s social contract matters more than public need. Social injustice is official US policy. Class war raged for decades.
Corporate giants, super-rich elites, Washington, states and local communities waged it against ordinary Americans and won.
Since the 1970s, taxes were shifted inordinately onto middle and low income earners, as well as others most disadvantaged.
Super-rich Americans game the system. Clever lawyers and accountants ease their burden. New ways are found to pay less.
Major corporations pay minimal taxes. Nominal rates are 35% of profits. Out of sight and mind, Obama, Republicans, and key Democrats agreed to 28%.
In the past two years, about 12.4% of profits were paid. Expect much less ahead.
Some profitable companies pay nothing. Others get large rebates. They benefit from tax laws they write. Ordinary Americans bear greater than ever burdens. The worst is yet to come.
Californians did the unthinkable. Last November, they backed a ballot initiative to raise taxes. Ordinary people pay it. Rich ones and corporations game the system to avoid it. Tax laws make it easy to do.
Social inequality in America is unprecedented or close to it. It matches or exceeds 19th century harshness. Protracted Depression conditions affect Main Street.
Poverty, unemployment, homelessness and hunger approach record levels. Millions struggle to get by. Credit cards are maxed out to do it. Retirement savings are tapped.
They’re used to pay bills or get loans. Vanguard is one of the largest 401(k) money managers. It said households using either method rose 12% since 2008.
HelloWallet offers Americans “institutionalized financial advice.” It said 30% of households earning less than $50,000 annually used one method or the other.
Aon Hewitt surveyed 110 large employers. Nearly one-third of their employees had outstanding loan balances against retirement accounts. Nearly 7% had hardship withdrawals. About 42% cashed in plans when changing jobs. Doing so harms retirement security.
Last November, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a report titled “Pulling Apart.” It discussed growing US income inequality.
It said growth “since the late 1970s has not been a geographically isolated phenomenon.”
“Nationwide, income gaps between the richest households (as well as) poorest (and) middle-income (ones) widened significantly since the late 1970s.”
“The incomes of the country’s richest households climbed substantially over the past three decades, but middle and lower income households have seen only modest increases or actual declines after adjusting for inflation.”
Realized capital gains were excluded. Study authors warned its “results show somewhat less inequality than would be the case” by including them.
Findings were bad enough. “Nationally, the richest fifth of households enjoyed larger average income gains in dollar terms each year ($2,550 inflation-adjusted) than the poorest fifth experienced during the entire (previous) three decades ($1,330).”
In the late 1970s, the America’s richest fifth households had 5.2 times as much income as the poorest one-fifth. By the mid-2000s, it was 8.3 times. Disparity rises annually. It may now exceed 10 times. In another decade or less it could double today’s level.
Socially destructive government policies bear full responsibility. Wealth and privilege alone matter. Ordinary households are sacrificed. Popular needs go begging.
Inequality is institutionalized. Around 100 million working age Americans are jobless. Most others are underemployed. Millions struggle to pay rent, service mortgages, cover medical bills, heat homes, and manage other daily expenses.
America’s 1% has more wealth than the bottom 95%. Income inequality is greater than in almost all other developed countries. Chile, Mexico and Turkey alone rank higher.
Until the mid-1970s, younger generations outdid older ones financially. Wages rose in real terms. They no longer keep up with inflation.
High-paying jobs disappeared. Offshoring lost them. Low-paying/poor benefit ones replaced them. Most are temp or part-time. Many don’t pay enough to live on.
Plans call for increased harshness. Paul Craig Roberts says America’s “economy is not going anywhere but down.” Government/corporate race to the bottom priorities assure it.
“Media spin” manufactures “recovery out of thin air.” says Roberts. Hard-pressed Americans can explain things better than talking-head economists paid to lie.
Protracted crisis conditions exist. Worse times lie ahead. Social benefit cuts sustain Wall Street, other corporate favorites, militarists, and America’s super-rich.
Ordinary households sacrifice to enrich them. They’re held hostage. Their future includes neo-serfdom and debt peonage.
For decades, real wages haven’t kept up with inflation. Benefits steadily eroded. High-paying manufacturing and service jobs went offshore. Low-wage countries got them. Automated production claimed more.
Technology driven productivity pressures workers to toil longer for less pay and fewer benefits. Corporate monopolies and oligopolies control production, commerce and finance.
Class war isn’t new. Today it rages. Popular interests are no match for wealth and privilege priorities.
America’s middle class is disappearing. The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. Complicit with Wall Street and other corporate favorites, the economy was wrecked. Ordinary households were sacrificed for profit.
Capitalist excess bears full responsibility. It’s too corrupted, dysfunctional, and exploitive to fix. Political criminals and corporate crooks run America. They benefit at the public’s expense.
America isn’t fit to live in. Change depends on dismantling it and starting over. Key is putting money power back in public hands where it belongs. Social justice depends on making banking a regulated public utility.
Banks too big to fail shouldn’t exist. Insolvent ones should be shut down. Others should be broken up and regulated. Banksters profiteering from fraud should be prosecuted and imprisoned.
America’s resources should be used for growth. Job creation should be prioritized. People with money spend it. Corporations and super-rich elites should bear the greatest tax burden.
Popular needs should be responsibly addressed. America’s manufacturing base should be rebuilt. Neglected infrastructure rebuilding is vital.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicare, public pensions, and other vital social benefits should be protected, sustained, strengthened, and improved.
Anti-trust laws with teeth are needed. Monopolies and oligopolies should be broken up and controlled. Energy, healthcare, communications, and other vital industries should be regulated as public utilities.
Profiteering at the public’s expense should be criminalized. A better world is possible. Wishing won’t make it so. Nor will elections throwing out old bums for new ones.
Ordinary people are responsible for their own well-being. Their futures lie in the balance. Sustained commitment can assure better ones. If that’s not worth struggling for, what is?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.