Wednesday, September 08, 2010

You Asked For It

Two interesting studies highlighted by Digby. The first;

As research from Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels demonstrated several years ago, American politicians are powerfully affected by the views of the rich, and this has nothing to do with any recent electoral trends.

Rather ... things have been this way for a long time. Using data from voting records in the early 90s, it shows that the responsiveness of senators to the views of the poor and working class is....zero. Or maybe even negative. And that's true for both parties. The middle class does better — again, with both parties — and high earners do better still. In fact, they do spectacularly better among Republican senators. And this disparity has almost certainly gotten even worse over the past two decades.


And the reality;

The Great Compression ended in the 1970s. Wages stagnated, inflation raged, and by the decade's end, income inequality had started to rise. Income inequality grew through the 1980s, slackened briefly at the end of the 1990s, and then resumed with a vengeance in the aughts. In his 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal, the Nobel laureate, Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman labeled the post-1979 epoch the "Great Divergence."

It's generally understood that we live in a time of growing income inequality, but "the ordinary person is not really aware of how big it is," Krugman told me. During the late 1980s and the late 1990s, the United States experienced two unprecedentedly long periods of sustained economic growth—the "seven fat years" and the " long boom." Yet from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.

[I]ncome distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States. Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic.

This goes on, because it can. Most people don't realize they're working like crazy in order to make somebody else very wealthy. It's simply American capitalism, and we're all conditioned to believe that we have to spend the vast majority of our lives working for a basic existence.

And we have it better than most people in the world.

This paradigm won't change, of course. What are you going to do about it? Nothing. You'll get up in the morning and go to work. You'll take what you can get. You'll think it's okay and the nights and weekends are enough to do the things you want to do. This goes on for decade.. after decade.

Nobody has any choice but to take it. Well, some people have a choice... but not everyone can own their own company, or be a highly paid artist, etc. We do what we have to.. and we think we're playing by the rules we're supposed to.

I don't think the way things are going is sustainable. It might make a good plot for a book. What happens when it's no longer a sustainable paradigm.. this economic and political system we have.

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