Class War and Inequality in America – Some Startling Facts and Perspectives

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.

3 Responses

  1. Well, maybe something more nefarious is coming. When people have no money or power in government, slavery is the next thing. Reduce their education, opportunity and voice or ability to complain and you wonder why the only think between us the people and the abyss is a president trying to keep this maddening whole going for another 4 years. My passport is ready if a republican is back in power….anywhere but here.

  2. This whole period we are in now, reminds me of about 1965-1966…the underground was “stirring”…”turn on…tune in and drop out”…was just coming into vogue… the real upheaval came over the following 3 or so years…and here we are again…only this time…they are all set up and ready for the dissenters…we have now seen the beginnings last year of “populus uprising”…this will only increase as time moves forward.

    Obama’s new legislation will silence dissenters and try to stem the tide of protest by labelling anyone who they decide to target as a “belligerent” to the State…due process of law… will of course, be suspended:

    It is time to get the Boomers off their asses and help the kids in the streets!! After all…we have been through this before over different issues…where are the Boomers right now?….where are the old Rock Stars and all those who gained fabulous wealth and fame during the 60’s from the “youth movement”?…all sitting silently on their asses, while the world burns down around us…that’s where…we can make a difference…it is not “too late”…we just have to organize and get the Boomers active…they are the largest demographic in the developed Western World…and they have to starting “voting with their wallets” through boycotts in conjunction with the ballot box…try getting a few million Boomers off their behinds and into the streets and we’ll see how long ” politics and business as usual” carries on.

    Ralph…I emailed you…check it out.

  3. First They Came …. poem by Martin Niemöller

    “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

    — by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, best known as the author of the poem First they came….

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