The old chestnut about the rich keep getting richer is not some propped-up left-wing propaganda. In a recent piece in Vanity Fair magazine, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz calls it straight (link here):
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.
As America vents anger over a possibly murderous mother who got away with it and obsesses over any number of television reality shows, we ignore how the wealth and income gaps in the U.S. have become all the more outrageous.
So many people are struggling right now, and some are downright desperate, while America’s most fortunate and powerful do everything they can to keep executive salaries high and tax rates down. And what’s at stake is more than “just” money. As Stiglitz suggests:
Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe.
America’s plutocrats are laughing at us. They are happy if everyday Americans get caught up in the trivialities of the day, because then we are less likely to see the giant money grab that has been taking place before our very eyes. Instead, we can sit back as the newly unemployed get to watch Donald Trump bellow “You’re fired” to his latest casualty. When are we going to get it?
Hat tip to Susan Thomas for the Vanity Fair piece.