Sunday, March 22, 2015


I suddenly feel the need to climb onto my high horse.  This time the subject is economic inequality.

I started reading Jill Lepore's "Annals of Society - Richer and Poorer" in the March 16, 2015 issue of the New Yorker magazine. The article confirms in numbers (using the Gini coefficient)  what some of us have known intuitively for years.  America has the widest economic inequality of any first world nation.  By comparison England, Sweden, France, and Germany have much much lower rates of income inequality.

One of the "hot button" words in America these days is "socialism."  We've had people tell us that they can't stand President Obama because he is trying to turn America into a "socialist" nation.  But in considering the aforementioned short list of countries only Sweden could fairly be classified as "socialist."  France is anything but a "socialist" state.  According to many people we speak with here (former professors, economist, fonctionaires, engineers) France continues to suffer and lumber on under Napoleonic Law, and nothing could be less "socialist" than Napoleonic Law.  Germany is very similar to the US in that it is a Federalist Republic.  England is clearly more like the US in terms of capitalism and business and banking.  So what is the difference between these European nations and the US?

One area is governmental oversight.  We've had conversations with friends and colleagues where some people feel that it's not the role of the US Government to legislate "morality" or "ethics".  Yet when we look at the data, America's most economically equitable period came with the highest levels of government economic oversight.  Caps on corporate greed (some might call it "profitability") were imposed during the second world war.  Companies were limited to earnings of 10 percent a year (overseen by the Office of Price Administration).  It's no surprise then that as regulations on capitalism dramatically decreased starting in the 1970's income inequality increased equally dramatically.

What are some of the economic effects of disproportionate wealth distribution?  None other the Fortune magazine provides part of the answer.

The gap between the Haves and the Have-nots is so wide now that Jill Lepore says in her article that some economists in America feel that democracy is at risk.  I've come to believe that democracy in America is already dead.  When the Haves can buy access to the system of governance, democracies turn into fascist states.  This is what happened in Italy under Mussolini.  Monied interests became the government.

The AFL-CIO tracks corporate greed on their site Paywatch.  Having worked for several companies in my career where "profitability" was upper-most in the executives mind, I've come to understand the role of executive stock options and quarterly revenue reports as the most significant driving force behind the "rewards" (though some might call it "compensation") corporate leaders in America receive (some might say "steal" from the working classes).  I feel that corporate executive wealth is a good indicator.  With money comes the ability to buy influence and power.  The CEO of the company that laid me off was part of the Tri-Lateral Commission that does more than just lobby the US Government.

The very same things that happened in Fascist Italy have already happened in America.  Money runs Government.  In turn, Government responds to the interests of money.  Period.  The will of the people?  No one seems to pay much attention to it.

One example of the influence of money on the formerly democratic nation is the Koch brothers funding of a vast database of voter information.  The goal is to influence elections and it's capabilities exceed the "official" Republican party database.   The system of information helps Republicans identify individuals (yes, I said that right) who's vote might be influenced.  While many are rightly concerned with NSA data collection and it's impacts on freedom and liberty, I have to ask how the Koch brothers database is any better or any different?   I feel in both cases that too much personal information has been concentrated into the hands of those who seek to use it against us.

In an example more directly fascist in nature, corporate monies influences governmental policies on a global scale.  Business writes policy.  Or in the cases where they've not actually taken pen in hand to physically write the words themselves, money provides the required "incentives" and "lubrication" for politicians to craft language of law.  While it could be argued that Democrats do this less often than Republicans, just look at the vast sums of tax-payer money given to insurance companies as part of the Affordable Care Act and you'll understand how little "say" We The People have in anything that passes for governance.

I cast about for a good example of what might happen next in America and, well, I'm stumped.  While the Greeks and Spaniards can rise up and agitate against German austerity measures, Americans sit on their couches seemingly complacently distracted by anything that passes for news, commentary, movies or video-games.  For this reason I can't see anything but continued economic inequality in America.  Where politics has been consumed by banks, business, and money, those who suffer under fascism seem to know their place and fail to raise a hand in their own favor.

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