Archive for the ‘Wealth Disparity’ Category

We’ve been brainwashed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

It’s no accident that Americans widely underestimate inequality. The rich prefer it that way.

How, in a democracy supposedly based on one person one vote, could the 1 percent could have been so victorious in shaping policies in its interests? It is part of a process of disempowerment, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement that produces low voter turnout, a system in which electoral success requires heavy investments, and in which those with money have made political investments that have reaped large rewards — often greater than the returns they have reaped on their other investments.

There is another way for moneyed interests to get what they want out of government: convince the 99 percent that they have shared interests. This strategy requires an impressive sleight of hand; in many respects the interests of the 1 percent and the 99 percent differ markedly.

The fact that the 1 percent has so successfully shaped public perception testifies to the malleability of beliefs. When others engage in it, we call it “brainwashing” and “propaganda.” We look askance at these attempts to shape public views, because they are often seen as unbalanced and manipulative, without realizing that there is something akin going on in democracies, too. What is different today is that we have far greater understanding of how to shape perceptions and beliefs — thanks to the advances in research in the social sciences.

It is clear that many, if not most, Americans possess a limited understanding of the nature of the inequality in our society: They believe that there is less inequality than there is, they underestimate its adverse economic effects, they underestimate the ability of government to do anything about it, and they overestimate the costs of taking action. They even fail to understand what the government is doing — many who value highly government programs like Medicare don’t realize that they are in the public sector.

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Obama tries again to end oil subsidies

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

– The profit levels of the big oil companies are obscene but no one has the political will in Washington to remove their obviously unnecessary subsidies.   Can there be any doubt that the U.S.’s political processes are controlled by big money from behind the scenes?

– Dennis

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President Barack Obama is calling anew on Congress to end tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry, saying America needs to develop alternative sources of energy in the face of rising petrol prices.

Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address that he expected Congress to consider in the next few weeks halting US$4 billion ($4.85 billion) in tax subsidies, something he hasn’t been able to get through Congress throughout his presidency.

The vote would put lawmakers on record about whether they “stand up for oil companies” or “stand up for the American people. They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century or they can place their bets on America’s future”, Obama said.

Industry officials and many Republicans in Congress have argued that cutting the tax breaks would lead to higher petrol prices, raising costs on oil companies and affecting their investments in exploration and production.

The measure is considered a long shot in Congress, given that Obama couldn’t end the subsidies when Democrats controlled Congress earlier in his term.

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The Middle Class Really Is in a Three-Decade Slump

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

– I’ve heard/read this before; that the average working man in the USA has seen what he/she can buy with their wages drop year by year ever since the mid-70’s.    Where might all that money be going?   Ask the 1%.

– Dennis

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Did middle-class incomes really decouple from overall economic growth in the mid-’70s? If you look at median family income vs. GDP per capita, the answer is yes. From 1950 through 1975, both grew at about the same rate. After that, median family income grew quite a bit more slowly than GDP per capita.

But wait! You need to make sure to calculate inflation the same way for both measures. And maybe GDP per capita is a bad measure. Plus you need to account for health insurance and other benefits when you calculate median income. And the number of people per household has changed over time. These are all legitimate issues. So Lane Kenworthy redrew the chart to compare apples to apples: median household income vs. average household income. Medianincome shows only the movement of households that are smack in the middle of the middle class, while average income is similar to overall economic growth since it depends on total national income.

In the chart below, the black lines are the original comparison. The red lines are the new comparison. As you can see, there’s really not much difference. “Decoupling,” say Kenworthy, “is real and sizable.” The rich really are hoovering up a much bigger share of national income than they used to. The only thing left to argue about is why, not whether.

– To the article and its charts…

 

 

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

– I love the irony.   Our ‘superiors’ tell us to be good little girls and boys; stand in line, no pushing, wait your turns.   And, they are off like shots racing for the prizes they convinced all of us to wait patiently for.   Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me.

– Dennis

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Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lowerclass individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lowerclass individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

– To the study paper, itself:  

– Thanks to New Zealand’s National Radio program, ‘This Way Up’, for alerting me to this study.

– For an audio clip of the ‘This Way Up‘ episode, see Naked Science on 10 March 2012:  

 

US Census Bureau: 1/2 Americans Low-income or Poor

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many formerly middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That’s up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three straight years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder — 6.9 million — earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

– More…

– Research thanks to John P.

 

Medical costs in New Zealand

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

– This is for my U.S. readers.  It just isn’t right that a small country like New Zealand (and many others that are not so small) can do this and the U.S. cannot.  Why?   – –

– Corporate greed – plain and simple.   They’ve got you in their grips and they are not going to let go.

My last prescription bill

My last prescription bill

– Oh, and the three dollars is only for the initial prescription for each.  Refills are free.

The Wealth Gap – Inequality in Numbers

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Until protesters took to the streets last year, first in New York and then in financial centres across the world, inequality had been a low-key issue.

Not any more.

With the political temperature rising, a stream of new analysis is revealing how sharply inequality has been growing.

In October, the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) caused a storm by revealing how big a slice of income gains since the late 1970s had gone to the richest 1% of households.

The message was dramatic.

Over the 28 years covered by the CBO study, US incomes had increased overall by 62%, allowing for tax and inflation.

But the lowest paid fifth of Americans had got only a small share of that: their incomes had grown by a modest 18%.

Middle income households were also well below the overall average with gains of just 37%.

And even the majority of America’s richest households saw gains of barely above the overall average at 67%.

How does that make sense?

Because the CBO found most of the income gains over the past 30 years had gone to the top 1% of US households. Their incomes had almost trebled with rises of 275%.

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Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Pay for the directors of the UK’s top businesses rose 50% over the past year, a pay research company has said.

Incomes Data Services (IDS) said this took the average pay for a director of a FTSE 100 company to just short of £2.7m.

The rise, covering salary, benefits and bonuses, was higher than that recorded for the main person running the company, the chief executive.

Their pay rose by 43% over the year, according to the study.

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Australia, said the report was “concerning” and called for big companies to be more transparent when they decide executive pay.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the pay increases were part of a “something for nothing” culture, since the stock market had not risen to match them.

A statement from IDS said that that figure suggested that “executive largesse is evenly spread across the board”.

Base salaries rose by just 3.2%, although that was above the median rise recorded by IDS this week for average pay settlements of 2.6% for private sector workers.

The latest consumer price inflation figures showed inflation at 5.2%.

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About the Occupy Wall Street movement

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I’ve been reflecting on the Occupy Wall Street Movement. 

First, Bravo to them for understanding what’s happening to the world and for standing up and pointing it out so well.   I hope the movement continues to ‘grow legs’ and I also hope that, like the ‘Arab Spring’, it results in real and fundamental changes.

But, my hopes and my projections of likely outcomes live in separate boxes in my head.  And while I am deeply pleased at the OWS movement, I don’t think it will result in more than superficial change.

The problem, as I just wrote to a friend in a private E-Mail, is

“The people with power and money like, Dick Cheney for instance, are not going to give up their perks because the demonstrators make them feel guilty.   Rather, if they begin to feel the heat, they will direct that a series of measures be taken by their political handmaidens to make it look like changes are being effected when, in fact, the changes will be mostly form and very little substance.  

They will institute ‘a dazzle the bozos campaign'”.

A great strength of the new movements like the Arab Spring and OWS are their decentralized natures; they have no single head to cut off to stifle them.   But, it their weakness as well as their ‘intelligence and perceptive depth’ is limited to the average of the group since they are all independent actors.

Those who control the Multinationals and who direct our politicians like sheep with their money are far far brighter than that average and they will obfuscate the issues and make great shows of doing something through the media they control while, in fact, doing very little to disadvantage themselves.

Those are my thoughts.   Only time will tell and I, like so many, am deeply interested to see how it all plays out.

-dennis

 

 

Financial world dominated by a few deep pockets

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Economic “superentity” controls more than one-third of global wealth

Conventional wisdom says a few sticky, fat fingers control a disproportionate slice of the world economy’s pie. A new analysis suggests that the conventional wisdom is right on the money.

Diagramming the relationships between more than 43,000 corporations reveals a tightly connected core of top economic actors. In 2007, a mere 147 companies controlled nearly 40 percent of the monetary value of all transnational corporations, researchers report in a paper published online July 28 at arXiv.org.

“This is empirical evidence of what’s been understood anecdotally for years,” says information theorist Brandy Aven of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

The analysis is a first effort to document the international web of relationships among companies and to examine who owns shares — and how many — in whom. Tapping into the financial information database Orbis, scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland examined transnational companies, which they defined as having at least 10 percent of their holdings in more than one country. Then the team looked at upstream and downstream connections, yielding a network of 600,508 economic actors connected through more than a million ownership ties.

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