The Wealth & Income Gap

Our country’s ‘wealth’ can be measured in income, accumulated wealth or the Dow Jones, but it can also be measured in completely different terms: quality of life, family security, confidence in the future. Guess what our leaders currently use to measure our economic health?

stand-and-rock-poster-12_10Before we dive into wealth inequality, a pitch for something to do this Friday night at the Skylight. Music from some incredible musicians, no cover, but the hope that you will donate and all the proceeds to our Water Protectors in North Dakota. How good is that? For more informations, click here to get to the Facebook event page. There will be some tremendous local music and an opportunity to contribute to people who are putting their lives on the line, in freezing weather, for us and the planet. And while we are talking about Facebook, how about looking directly to the right and clicking “like” for our Facebook page where articles and video are shared daily. Then share these resources with your friends to encourage their getting involved. Look for our next blog on Saturday, focusing on ORGANIZING:  How and why?

Wealth Disparity.  And It Isn’t A Subtle Disparity

Most every national news broadcast includes a summary of what the stock market did today. The Dow Jones has become the single piece of data consistently used to measure the economic health of our country. Yet, this index says nothing that means anything to us: what we earn, how hard we have to work to earn it, or what earn can buy with the money we earn. The Dow measures short term profits for mega corporations that while governing our lives, have little to do with the quality of our lives. The picture at left tells you all you need to know about who benefits most from these corporations. Them. The not us. So then what is the Dow?

profits-vs-wagesIncreasingly this index really measures the very short-term profits of an increasingly concentrated set of multi-national corporations, many of whom do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of most of our lives.

  • The financial sector increasingly invests in risky funds that most of us can’t understand, except that we know that in 2008, it didn’t work out very well (at least for us) and that they are at it again;
  • The pharmaceutical industry receives billions of tax dollars to help it develop products that are then sold at huge profits to people like us who all too often have absolutely no choice but to pay whatever exorbitant prices pharma demands;
  • The healthcare industry insures us when we are healthy and demands co-pays and premiums while we need a check up or when we are hurt or ill, and then too often abandons us entirely when we are really sick or charges us prices we can’t possibly pay;
  • The agribusiness industry is more interested in making things easy to prepare and taste sweet, salty, or fatty, so we will buy their products and they have almost no interest in our health or the health of our planet–and let’s not even start with Monsanto risking the entire food chain with the development of GMOs;
  • The hi-tech industry has untold amounts of data on us, our buying habits, and likely our political ideas and actions, data that could someday be part of each our NSA profile and as we are learning, this industry is, in not so subtle ways, shaping the information or misinformation that we share;
  • The energy industry does primarily what it has known how to do for decades, drill and pollute and it has no apparent interest in our planet, our water or our future; and
  • The media industry which increasingly narrows what we know and feeds all to many of us entirely misleading information that is explicitly intended to misdirect our frustrations away from the correct targets (all of the above).

Add to this, the military industrial complex and you have a very high percentage of the Dow Jones Average. So let me ask you a question: To what degree does the success of this index have anything to do with your life?  Are their profits remotely as important to you as your personal health? your families stability? your personal sense of security? your happiness?  I think not. We will examine how we might better measure our collective quality in a future blog, but for now let’s stick with wealth because to a significant degree it ties back to our ability to access housing, healthcare, education and a sense of security that we will be ok.

wealth-gap2The graphic at left depicts how wealth is distributed in this country in 2009. As the picture depicts, the top 5% of the people of our country own over 65% of our nation’s wealth. And that wealth gap has only gotten worse, much worse, over the last seven years. As bad as this distribution is in the US, when you look at the world’s wealth accumulation, the distribution is even worse with 68.7% of the world only owning 3% of the wealth andwealth-gap-world 0.7% of the population owning 41% of the wealth. Take a moment to ponder this. Is this fair?  Do the .7% of the world’s population really work that much harder than the rest of us? Recall that most all of the world’s multinationals entirely rely upon the labor of the 90% of the world that does most of the work, many of whom work long hours, for a pittance, in horrendous conditions, while those in the 1% sit in office suites far from the masses.

There is a tremendous video that I have seen many times. In just 6 minutes it will give you an idea of how fundamentally unfair our economic system is. In future blogs we will examine the many moving parts at play in how the 1% have ensured that they can continue to greedily gather more and more of the world’s resources, leaving the rest of us working harder and harder. And, of course, the irony is that all of us working harder and harder are doing so in some fashion in support of the economic system that enslaves us. After watching the video please take a look at my last comment, as it is the most important 25 words in today’s blog.

I have presented this information to reasonably conservative people and they will tell me that those at the top have earned it, that those at the bottom have every opportunity to make it to the top. These folks connect dots very differently than I do and than most of the subscribers to this blog. And so, over the next few weeks and months, we will invest heavily in learning to understand the perspective of those who can look at the charts and videos in this piece and somehow not reach the level of outrage I have every time I look at this injustice. We need another way of communicating that penetrates the frames that deflect even the most compelling narrative.

And so this is why I have said this is a marathon. Conservatives in this country have spent $3 billion on research, language, word choice, cognition and the human heart and they play our strings with precision. Given we don’t have billions or decades, we need to get clever…and quickly.





Categories: Economic justice, Justice, wealth inequality

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