• Piketty’s Reality? The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

    May 22, 2014

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Economy, Minimum Wage, Post-Constitution America




    Robert Reich, once Clinton the First’s Secretary of Labor and now a professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has emerged as one of the clearest pre-Piketty voices on income inequality and how it is affecting America. He asks why, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their coming demise, our middle class remains complacent.

    So why is there no revolution brewing?

    Reich’s reasons– a working class paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has, debt-laden students who are no longer a major force for social change, and an American public so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible– are valid. His idea that somehow some kind of reform is still possible is less so. Let’s look into this.

    The Reality of Wealth

    The gap between most Americans and those who sit atop our economy continues to grow. For two decades after 1960, real incomes of the top five percent and the remaining 95 percent increased at almost the same rate, about four percent a year. But incomes diverged between 1980 and 2007, with those at the bottom seeing annual increases only half of that of those at the top.

    This is not some aberration. Instead, lower savings and hyper-available credit (remember fraudulent Countrywide mortgages and usurous re-fi’s?) put the middle and bottom portions of our society on an unsustainable financial path that increased spending until it triggered the Great Recession of 2008. Meanwhile, America’s the top earners’ wealth grew even as those responsible for the collapse were never punished and the companies involved received federal bail-out money (the money came from taxes paid in part by those destroyed in the Recession.) In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom ninety percent became poorer. The recession represented the largest redistribution of wealth in a century.

    How did the most wealthy achieve this? The reality of possession.

    The Reality of Possession

    A rising tide lifts all yachts, as historian Morris Berman observed. Less than half of Americans do not own any stock at all. The wealthiest of Americans own over 80 percent of all stock, and 40 percent of America’s land.

    It is worse on an international scale. Only 85 human beings own half of all the world’s wealth. Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

    Short answer: The rich just get richer. They have no interest in reform or change. Things are working just fine for them. It is the reality of the system.

    The Reality of the System

    Walmart associates make minimum wage. Most associates are nowhere near full-time, so their take home pay is well below the poverty threshold.

    In return for paying below-poverty wages, Walmart makes over $18,000 per employee, including $13,000 in pre-tax profits, after paying salaries, plus taxpayer subsidies of $5,815 per worker in the form of food stamps paid by the government to keep the workers nearer the poverty line than below it, and tax breaks given to “create jobs.”

    The top four members of the Walmart family made a combined $28.9 billion from their investments last year. Less than a third of that would have given every U.S. Walmart worker a $3.00 raise, enough to end the public subsidy, though the four Walmart scions would have to make due with only $20 billion a year. But why bother to change when the reality of politics is so much in the company’s favor?

    Essentially the interests of the 99 percent are in direct conflict with those of the one percent. The only hope lies in the reality of politics.

    The Reality of Politics

    Over large swaths of the earth, there are no elections. In some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East and Asia, there is not even the pretext of anyone choosing a government. Most governments are controlled by family ascension, not unlike the scene in the Middle Ages. In many other places, elections are simply public stage plays, with the actual winners decided by corruption and manipulation. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that power and wealth work together.

    Such is the case now in the United States. According to Professor Lawrence Lessing, that with the concentration of wealth, 132 people in the U.S. essentially control elections. They do so by donating, just that handful of people, over 60 percent of the SuperPac money. Those 132 people represent 0.000042 percent of the total number of voters; most other contributions to candidates are small, many below $200. How much is your vote worth?

    It is not a coincidence that in 2016 the presidential race will likely again be a Clinton versus a Bush.

    By reducing the ostensible choices to two, and by making the choice a false one as both candidates will differ little in their practices toward wealth and corporate profits, a very few super rich (indeed, a tiny subset of even the vaunted one percent) control the government. It is impossible under such circumstances for the government to create laws again the interests of the wealthy; after all, they work for them. The reality of change is that there is no reason to change.


    The Reality of Change

    The world has seen this before, for the West, during the Middle Ages, when feudalism was the dominant social and political state. A very, very few owned most everything of value. The 99 percent majority– serfs then, associates now– worked for whatever the feudal lords allowed them to have. In our more modern version of society, even the skilled artisan class that helped lift us out of the dark times may not exist as those activities (programming, services to the rich, medicine) are largely outsourced to places on earth were the pay even for skilled work is low.

    Spayed, we’ll all accept it. Noisy but ineffective dissent will exist as a kind of entertainment, a diversion. The few real leaders among us will fall quickly under an almost-complete surveillance state coupled with militarized police. There thus, with apologies to Reich and Piketty, may be no means to foment a revolution, nor real reform. It remains possible, if not likely, that our nation will find itself in a new birth of feudalism, progress and growth a mere historical blip.

    Still don’t believe me? Remember, at the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages only two thousand people owned all the land between the Rhine and Euphrates rivers. In 2014, 85 people own half of the world’s wealth.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

  • Recent Comments

    • GreatWriting said...

      1

      Complements to great writing!

      From an outside point of view I have never understood the lack of democratic option and process in the US. How is it possible that a country of over 300 million literates only have two real parties to choose from? Many other (smaller and larger) countries whose people are endowed with lower educational standards and hence intellectual capability offer the electorate wide specturm of choices. Why not the US?

      I expect – and hope – however that the change in the political landscape will mimic that of the beer market. In the 80’s less than 10 brewers had an oligopolistic dominance of the beer market. In the 90’s the micro breweries took off and now there is plenty of choice.

      The emergence of real political alternative (i.e. more parties) in the US is THE black swan that I hope will appear within the next decade. It will be a struggle, but can only contribute to making the US and the world a better place.

      05/22/14 2:15 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      2

      Thank you for the compliment. I think we need to take your idea a step further, to create the More Beer Party!

      05/22/14 2:23 PM | Comment Link

    • Ken Barrows said...

      3

      Bad as it is, I think the richest 85 people own as much as the bottom half (3.5-3.6 billion) of the world’s population. A small “middle class” still exists.

      05/22/14 6:41 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      4

      True. The problem is that small middle class is shrinking. We’re not at 1-99 yet, but headed out that way…

      05/22/14 7:37 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      5

      quote”The emergence of real political alternative (i.e. more parties) in the US is THE black swan that I hope will appear within the next decade. It will be a struggle, but can only contribute to making the US and the world a better place.”unquote

      Better place indeed. Maybe in a parallel universe. However..let’s move on..
      quote”Spayed, we’ll all accept it. Noisy but ineffective dissent will exist as a kind of entertainment, a diversion. The few real leaders among us will fall quickly under an almost-complete surveillance state coupled with militarized police. There thus, with apologies to Reich and Piketty, may be no means to foment a revolution, nor real reform. It remains possible, if not likely, that our nation will find itself in a new birth of feudalism, progress and growth a mere historical blip.”unquote
      While Senator Church’s dire warnings give creedence to Peter’s assessment..I have a different view.
      As of yesterday, due to the MSM and the now known amount of online military propaganda, unbeknownst to 99.9% of the DCOTP(tm), the House vote to bring the USA FREEDOM ACT,(which is the biggest mockery of the Constitution in hisory)into law, has been truthfully identified by Jennifer Granick, as a secret usurpation of the Constitution…ie..a COUP D’ETAT…

      quote” Given the program’s constitutional infirmities, it is more important than ever that Congress end this misuse of the USA PATRIOT Act. However, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified earlier this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the NSA might continue its bulk collection of nearly all domestic phone call records, even if Congress does just that. The USA FREEDOM ACT has bipartisan sponsorship from dozens of lawmakers, all of whom agree that the core purpose of the bill is to end NSA dragnet collection of Americans’ communication data. Yet, Cole said that the reform legislation wouldn’t necessarily inhibit the NSA’s surveillance capabilities because “it’s going to depend on how the court interprets any number of the provisions that are in [the legislation].” Comments like this betray a serious problem inside the Executive Branch. The Administration and the intelligence community believe they can do whatever they want, regardless of the laws Congress passes, so long they can convince one of the judges appointed to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to agree. This isn’t the rule of law. This is a coup d’etat” unquote

      http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2013/12/common-law-coup-detat-how-nsas-creative-interpretations-law-subvert-congress-and-rule

      Not only is this act a slap in the face of America, it actually CODIFIES every illegal NSA activity that Edward Snowden gave his life up to expose. And, it was written in secret, by non other than the scumbags Mike Rogers et al, who, over the course of a month, watered down the original bill to the point even Zoe Lufgren was astounded to the point she tried to amend it, but was persuaded to drop her amendment during a break in session, whereby some sort of information influenced her decision. whudda thunk. I can only imagine. Shades of Russel Tice.

      My point being. All it will take now, is the Senate, to confirm once and for all, they have totally ignored Senator Church’s grave warnings. Make no mistake. This country is free falling towards the bottom of that abyss. Should they vote to make the Freedumb Act into law..this country as we knew it is FINISHED. And like Senator Church said..once this happens..there won’t be a damn thing we as a citizenry can do. Except REVOLT. Mark my words, once this goes into effect, the jackbooted Stazi militarized police state won’t be far behind, with parallel construction via the SOD, the NSA/FBI domestic surveillance, the FBI domestic murder authorization, weaponized drones, and ubiquitous cam and license plate monitoring..GPS auto location, RFDI implants and god knows what else. All I know is this isn’t the country I pledged allegiance to anymore. It’s a counterfeit. A fraud. A sham. A lie and an abomination. I submit, should we not tell our children what they are facing…down the road, they, their children, and their great grandchildren will SPIT ON OUR GRAVES for being goddamned cowards. Should this bill pass into law..there is only ONE POSSIBLE THING LEFT. You know it. I know it. And they know it. Otherwise..this country will sink into Totalitarianism as sure as the sun rises in the east and it is OUR progeny who will be forced to live under it..forever. If I were them, I would be PISSED OFF at the failure of this generation to USE what we have at our disposal. Namely …300 MILLION GUNS..because when paper votes are useless. Only a gun will give you a FINAL VOTE.

      05/23/14 3:48 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      6

      ps. ..day before yesterday, a Senate hearing took place that the MSM pretty much blacked out. The Senate Foreign Relations committee held a hearing, to debate and discuss with Executive branch officials, the future of the AUMF, whereby the Senators tried to question the administration witness’s about the nature and extent, of Presidential war powers. I couldn’t believe it. In effect, these witness’s pretty much confirmed Senator Church’s warning.

      quote..“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a DICTATOR ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“ unquote

      http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/authorization-for-use-of-military-force-after-iraq-and-afghanistan-05-21-14

      Dictator. Indeed. Watch the video. And then get back to me. I submit you will see something you won’t believe. In essence..these scumbag witness’s pretty much confirm the reality, although it took these Senators to the point of collective contempt to pry the answers out of them. Here is a succinct summation…

      http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/22/aumf-m22.html

      05/23/14 4:10 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      “… in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their coming demise, our middle class remains complacent. So why is there no revolution brewing?”

      Because the MSM won’t report it. Meanwhile, The New York Times continues to print all the shit that it deems fit to print.

      https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/05/23/response-michael-kinsley/

      05/24/14 11:24 AM | Comment Link

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