A dominant theme in the Occupy movement that is roiling urban centers in the US is the extreme wealth inequality, expressed in the slogan of the 1% vs the 99%. Those who have lost their jobs or their homes or both are well aware of the extent of poverty in their community, but the wealthy class and the media they own do not dwell on the uncomfortable statistics demonstrating this inequality. That may be changing. A PBS Newshour special (Aug 16, 2011), entitled Land of the Free, Home of the Poor, took on this project.
Here are some extracts from it, with statements by several different commentators:
Inequality in America. It’s a subject that’s getting more attention in light of the weak economy and the ongoing debate around budget cuts and raising revenues… People don’t understand how much wealth the top 20 percent have. They actually have 84 percent of the wealth. And more disturbingly, people don’t understand how little wealth the bottom of the distribution have. The bottom 40 percent of the U.S. have about 0.3 percent of the wealth, basically zero. … In the last 30 years or so, the share of national income that has gone to the upper 0.1 percent rose by 10 percentage points. That is one of the most astounding patterns I have ever seen in data. People sometimes say, oh, the rich, it’s the upper 10 percent, it’s the upper 5 percent. No, no, this is the 0.1 percent.
The program featured an interview with one of the wealthiest men in the world billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, who has argued in favor of higher taxes on the wealthiest. He said:
It should be a land of opportunity. But the market system has led to extremes. Everybody in this country owes their good fortune in some way to the rest of the country.
A wonderful statement and valuable reminder.
Buffett says: Yes, there’s been a class war in the United States. And my class, namely the super rich people, have won.