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Is America turning against the 1 percent?

By January 21, 2014No Comments

Two thirds of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the distribution of income and wealth. “This includes three-fourths of Democrats and 54% of Republicans…Republicans, at 45% very or somewhat satisfied, express the highest satisfaction with the current wealth disparity in the U.S. Democrats are much less satisfied, at 24%, with independents closer in satisfaction to Democrats, at 28%. Furthermore, almost half (43%) of Democrats and independents express strong dissatisfaction with the current state of wealth and income distribution…54% of Americans are satisfied, and 45% dissatisfied, with the opportunity for an American “to get ahead by working hard.” This measure has remained roughly constant over the past three years, but Americans are much less optimistic about economic opportunity now than before the recession and financial crisis of 2008 unfolded. Prior to that, at least two in three Americans were satisfied, including a high of 77% in 2002.” Rebecca Riffkin for Gallup.

IMF warns that inequality is a big threat. “The International Monetary Fund has highlighted the threat posed to the global economy by growing income inequality as the world’s business and political leaders prepare to head off to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, is concerned that the fruits of economic activity in many countries are not being widely shared. The World Economic Forum has identified the gap between the rich and poor as an important theme for this year’s gathering.” Chris Giles in The Financial Times.

@JohnJHarwood: “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything…”

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world. “The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker. The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called ‘global elite’ is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of ?1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.” Graeme Wearden inThe Guardian.

Explainer: 4 ways that Martin Luther King wanted to battle income inequalityNed Resnikoff in MSNBC.

Will tech keep helping labor? Or could it start to hurt? ” 2013 paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of the University of Oxford, argued that jobs are at high risk of being automated in 47% of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted. That includes accountancy, legal work, technical writing and a lot of other white-collar occupations…The case for a highly disruptive period of economic growth is made by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors at MIT, in “The Second Machine Age”, a book to be published later this month. Like the first great era of industrialisation, they argue, it should deliver enormous benefits–but not without a period of disorienting and uncomfortable change.” Ryan Avent in The Economist.

Marriage has its limits as a path out of poverty. “First, because changing the decades-long downward trend in marriage rates is not very realistic, and swims hard against a tide that exists for some good reasons. Second, because policy interventions to encourage marriage have been shown to be quite ineffective against that tide. Third, though this is not the intention of many marriage advocates, marriage advocacy can make it harder to deepen policies to support single parents. And fourth, because it fails to recognize some of the important gains made by single mothers that push against poverty.” Jared Bernstein in The New York Times.

What happens when the poor receive a stipend? “n 1996, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains opened a casino, Jane Costello, an epidemiologist at Duke University Medical School, saw an opportunity. The tribe elected to distribute a proportion of the profits equally among its 8,000 members. Professor Costello wondered whether the extra money would change psychiatric outcomes among poor Cherokee families…The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor.” Moises Vasquez-Manoff in The New York Times.

POLK: For the love of money. “In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted. Eight years earlier, I’d walked onto the trading floor at Credit Suisse First Boston to begin my summer internship.” Sam Polk in The New York Times.

@markknoller: Answering MLK’s ‘Where do we go from here?’ VP Biden calls for immigration reform, raising minimum wage, and an end to income inequality.

KRUGMAN: The undeserving rich. “[T]he myth of the undeserving poor persists, and so does a counterpart myth, that of the deserving rich. The story goes like this: America’s affluent are affluent because they made the right lifestyle choices. They got themselves good educations, they got and stayed married, and so on. Basically, affluence is a reward for adhering to the Victorian virtues…[T]he main thing about this myth is that it misidentifies the winners from growing inequality. White-collar professionals, even if married to each other, are only doing O.K. The big winners are a much smaller group…Mainly they’re executives of some kind, especially, although not only, in finance. You can argue about whether these people deserve to be paid so well, but one thing is clear: They didn’t get where they are simply by being prudent, clean and sober.” Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

SUROWIECKI: The cult of overwork. “For decades, junior bankers and Wall Street firms had an unspoken pact: in exchange for reasonably high-paying jobs and a shot at obscene wealth, young analysts agreed to work fifteen hours a day, and forgo anything resembling a normal life…Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating.” James Suroweicki in The New Yorker.


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.