Wealth Inequality in America

 

 

Transcript

There’s a chart I saw recently that I can’t get out of my head. A Harvard business professor and economist asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth was distributed in the United States. This is what they said they thought it was.

Dividing the country into five rough groups of the top, bottom, and middle three 20% groups, they asked people how they thought the wealth in this country was divided. Then he asked them what they thought was the ideal distribution, and 92%, that’s at least 9 out of 10 of them, said it should be more like this, in other words more equitable than they think it is.

Now that fact is telling, admittedly, the notion that most Americans know that the system is already skewed unfairly. But what’s most interesting to me is the reality compared to our perception. The ideal is as far removed from our perception of reality as the actual distribution is from what we think exists in this country.

So ignore the ideal for a moment. Here’s what we think it is, again, and here is the actual distribution. Shockingly skewed. Not only do the bottom 20% and the next 20%, the bottom 40% of Americans barely have any of the wealth. I mean, it’s hard to even see them on the chart. But the top 1% has more of the country’s wealth than 9 out of 10 Americans believe the entire top 20% should have. Mind blowing.

But let’s look at it another way, because I find this chart kind of difficult to wrap my head around. Instead, let’s reduce the 311 million Americans to just a representative 100 people. Make it simple.

Here they are, teachers, coaches, firefighters, construction workers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, some investment bankers, a CEO, maybe a celebrity or two. Now let’s line them up according to their wealth, poorest people on the left, wealthiest on the right. Just a steady row of folks, based on their net worth. We’ll color code them, like we did before, based on which 20% quintile they fall into.

Now, let’s reduce the total wealth of the United States, which was roughly
$54 trillion in 2009, to this symbolic pile of cash, and let’s distribute it among our 100 Americans. Well, pure socialism, all of the wealth of the country distributed equally, we all know that won’t work. We need to encourage people to work, and work hard, to achieve that good old American dream and keep our country moving forward.

So here’s that ideal we asked everyone about. It’s something like this curve. This isn’t too bad. We’ve got some incentive, as the wealthiest folks are now about 10 to 20 times better off than the poorest Americans. But, hey, even the poor folks aren’t actually poor, since the poverty line has stayed almost entirely off the chart. We have a super healthy middle class, with a smooth transition into wealth. And yes, Republicans and Democrats alike chose this curve. Nine out of ten people, 92%, said this was a nice, ideal distribution of America’s wealth.

But let’s move on. This is what people think America’s wealth distribution actually looks like. Not as equitable, clearly, but, for me, even this still looks pretty great. Yes, the poorest 20% to 30% are starting to suffer quite a lot, compared to the ideal, and the middle class is certainly struggling more than they were, while the rich and wealthy are making, roughly, 100 times that of the poorest Americans and about 10 times that of the still healthy middle class.

Sadly, this isn’t even close to the reality. Here is the actual distribution of wealth in America. The poorest Americans don’t even register. They’re down to pocket change. And the middle class is barely distinguishable from the poor. In fact, even the rich, between the top 10 and 20 percentile, are worse off.

Only the top 10% are better off. And how much better off? So much better off that the top 2% to 5% are actually off the chart, at this scale. And the top 1%, this guy, well his stack of money stretches 10 times higher than we can show. Here’s his stack of cash restacked, all by itself.

This is the top 1% we’ve been hearing so much about. So much green in his pockets that I have to give him a whole new column of his own because he won’t fit on my chart. 1% of America has 40% of all the nation’s wealth. The bottom 80%, 8 out of every 10 people, or 80 out of these 100 only has 7% between them, and this has only gotten worse in the last 20 to 30 years.

While the richest 1% take home almost a quarter of the national income today, in 1976, they took home only 9%, meaning their share of income has nearly tripled in the last 30 years. The top 1% own half the country’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The bottom 50% of Americans own only half a percent of these investments, which means they aren’t investing. They’re just scraping by.

I’m sure many of these wealthy people have worked very hard for their money. But do you really believe that the CEO is working 380 times harder than his average employee? Not his lowest paid employee, not the janitor, but the average earner in his company. The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour.

We certainly don’t have to go all the way to socialism to find something that is fair for hardworking Americans. We don’t even have to achieve what most of us consider might be ideal. All we need to do is wake up and realize that the reality in this country is not at all what we think it is.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
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Empathy

empathy-400x400All of a sudden, the word “empathy” is on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.
But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our own actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.
The good news is that empathy can be learned. In my new book, Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution (Random House), I’ve honed six key habits that highly empathic people (HEPs) bring into their daily lives. So what does it take to teach yourself empathy?

Habit 1:
Switch on your empathic brain
The recent big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in how scientists understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also Homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid.
Over the last decade, neuroscientists have discovered that 98% of us have the ability to empathise. They have also identified a ten-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which, if damaged, can curtail our ability to understand what other people are feeling. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we are primed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life.
A good way to start switching on your empathic brain is simply to make a mental note every time you notice an instance of empathic thinking or action in yourself or others. Maybe you will spot your boss managing to see someone else’s point of view, or observe empathic cooperation between your children. Think of it as becoming an “empathy detective”.

Habit 2:
Make the imaginative leap
Highly empathic people make a concerted effort to imagine themselves in other people’s situations, like an actor who occupies the personality of their stage character. Making this imaginative leap can be boosted by “empathic listening”. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within – to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.
We all know, instinctively, that empathy is a great tool for maintaining healthy relationships. Just think of all those times you’ve been arguing with your partner and thought, Why can’t she understand what I’m feeling? What are you asking for? Empathy of course. You want them to step into your shoes, if only for a moment.
That’s why it’s worth practising empathic listening in your relationships. Next time things are getting tense with your partner, focus intently on listening to their feelings and needs – without interrupting (and this might just induce them to return the favour). You might even ask them to tell you about their feelings and needs. It’s amazing how doing this can prevent a niggling annoyance from turning into resentment or a full-scale argument. Ultimately, most of us just want to be listened to and understood.

Habit 3:
Seek experiential adventures
So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging – and potentially rewarding – of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticise him.”
The writer George Orwell is an inspiring model. After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds. The result, recorded in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realised that homeless people are not “drunken scoundrels” – Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality, and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life. He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good – it’s good for you, too.
We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap”, attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next holiday volunteering in a village in a developing country.
Next time you are planning a trip, don’t ask yourself, “Where can I go next?” but instead “Whose shoes can I stand in next?”

Habit 4:
Practise the craft of conversation
Highly empathic people have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. They will talk to the person sitting next to them on the bus, having retained that natural inquisitiveness we all had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. They find other people more interesting than themselves but are not out to interrogate them, respecting the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be the examiner, be the interested enquirer.”
Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and world views very different from our own. Conversations with strangers can really help challenge our assumptions about people, so we get beyond our snap judgments about them based on their appearance or accent. It’s also a great cure for the chronic loneliness that affects one in four Westerners. No wonder happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction.
Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. It involves talking about the stuff that really matters in life, like love, death or politics. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.

Habit 5:
Travel in your armchair
If all of this is sounding a bit strenuous, you can always throw a little “armchair empathy” into the mix. This is about reading books and watching films that catapult our imaginations into other people’s lives that are vastly different from our own. Think of a movie like City of God, which reveals the violent world of two boys growing up in the shantytowns of Rio. Or the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, with its classic line, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” In fact, there has been an avalanche of recent neuroscience and psychology research showing that entering other people’s lives through books and films is one of the best ways of learning to empathise.
It isn’t always easy to find the most inspiring and powerful empathy books and films, which is why – alongside my new book – I’ve just founded the world’s first online Empathy Library at www.empathylibrary.com. You’ll find the very best novels, non-fiction, kids’ books, feature films and video shorts all about empathy.

Habit 6:
Inspire a revolution
Empathy isn’t just something that happens between individuals. It can also flower on a mass scale and start shifting the contours of society itself. Many of those who took part in the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring were motivated by empathy – empathy for those whose lives had been ravaged by the financial crisis, or who had suffered police brutality. An important way to boost your empathy levels is to join with others to take action on empathy-related issues that matter to you – whether it’s child poverty or the fate of future generations whose lives will be affected by our addiction to high-carbon lifestyles. Even taking part in your local choir or playing five-a-side football are ways to engage in communal activities that break down the barriers between people and promote a more empathic world.
Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children. That’s why HEPs support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centres on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence – and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement.
So now you’ve got some ideas for growing your empathy, let me leave you with a question. Who in your life do you need to develop more empathy with – and how might you go about doing it?

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Ireland is a Tax Haven

Ireland. Ireland is a tax haven. The European definition of a tax haven is a country that cuts deals with foreign companies that don’t do any business there.

If Ireland were a legitimate low-tax country, all of Apple’s Irish affiliates would be paying the statutory 12.5% rate on their income. Instead, those Apple affiliates that do pay Irish tax appear to be paying a lower rate due to a special income calculation.

Moreover, the Irish holding company and the Irish principal company have not paid any tax to any government for the past few years. Ireland allows some Irish companies to claim non-residence if they are related to a company that is doing business there. That enables Apple’s Irish principal company—through which most of its sales income flows—to pay tax nowhere.

Nowhere income. Apple’s Irish holding company and its Irish principal company claim tax residence nowhere. These are the two entities through which Apple’s huge foreign revenues flow.

Irish law asks where a company is managed and controlled to determine its tax residence. U.S. law asks where the company was organized, that is, where papers creating it were filed (IRC section 7701(a)(5)). If neither country regards a particular corporation as a resident, no tax treaty mechanism assigns tax residence to the other. Apple’s nonresident Irish subsidiaries are not covered by the tax treaty between the United States and Ireland.

But because so much activity goes on in Cupertino, where the operations are managed, Apple’s foreign income may be considered effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business and taxable by the United States. The pertinent rules exempt income from sales of inventory for foreign consumption when a foreign affiliate with a foreign office materially participated in the sale. Apple may be relying on this exemption. (A fuller explanation is behind the paywall at www.taxanalysts.com .)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/leesheppard/2013/05/28/how-does-apple-avoid-taxes/

Apple has confirmed that two of its Irish subsidiaries pay around 2% in tax, however the company rejected claims that its Irish operation was used to avoid liabilities in the US.

Appearing before a US Senate hearing on tax, Apple’s head of tax policy Phillip Bullock confirmed that two Irish subsidiaries – Apple Operations Europe and Apple Sales International – paid approximately 2% in tax.

When asked about its reasons for operating in Ireland, CEO Tim Cook said that the company had received a “tax incentive arrangement” as part of its decision to establish here in 1980.

Apple pays $193m tax in Australia on $27b revenue as Federal Government vows to capture lost taxes……[06/03/2014]

WE MUST TAX THE RICH!!!

One share of Apple Computer stock, as of the close of trading on January 7, 2013 is worth $523.90 (AAPL on the Nasdaq). According to one investment site, 68% of the shares are held by institutional and mutual fund owners. The largest direct shareholder who owns the most stock is Arthur D. Levinson with 161,812 shares as reported on November 7, 2012.

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The Minority of the Opulent

Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

In the report, entitled Working For The Few (summary here), Oxfam warned that the fight against poverty cannot be won until wealth inequality has been tackled.

The following is a “Must Watch” video from Noam Chomsky given at Marthas Vineyard in the summer of 2013. It is a scathing attack on inequality backed by historical facts. Excellant!

Distribution of income in the United States has been the subject of study by scholars and institutions. Data from a number of sources indicate that income inequality has grown significantly since the early 1970s, after several decades of stability. While inequality has risen among most developed countries, and especially English-speaking ones, it is highest in the United States.

Studies indicate the source of the widening gap (sometimes called the Great Divergence) has not been gender inequality, which has declined in the US over the last several decades, nor inequality between black and white Americans, which has stagnated during that time, nor has the gap between the poor and middle class been the major cause—though it has grown. Most of the growth has been between the middle class and top earners, with the disparity becoming more extreme the further one goes up in the income distribution. Upward redistribution of income is responsible for about 43% of the projected Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years. The Brookings Institution said in 2013 that income inequality was increasing and becoming permanent, reducing social mobility in the US.

A 2011 study by the CBO found that the top earning 1 percent of households gained about 275% after federal taxes and income transfers over a period between 1979 and 2007, compared to a gain of just under 40% for the 60 percent in the middle of America’s income distribution. Other sources find that the trend has continued since then. In spite of this data, only 42% of Americans think inequality has increased in the past ten years. Income inequality is not uniform among the states; as measured by the Gini coefficient: after tax income inequality in 2009 was greatest in Texas and lowest in Maine.

Scholars and others differ as to the causes, solutions, and the significance of the trend, which in 2011 helped ignite the “Occupy” protest movement. Education and increased demand for skilled labor are often cited as causes, some have emphasized the importance of public policy; others believe the cause(s) of inequality’s rise are not well understood. Inequality has been described both as irrelevant in the face of economic opportunity (or social mobility) in America, and as a cause of the decline in that opportunity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_i…

Wealth inequality in the United States, also known as the “wealth gap”, refers to the unequal distribution of assets among residents of the United States. Wealth includes the values of homes, automobiles, personal valuables, businesses, savings, and investments.[2] The top 10% wealthiest possess 80% of all financial assets.[3] Although different from income inequality, the two are related.

A 2011 study found that US citizens across the political spectrum dramatically underestimate the current US wealth inequality and would prefer a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth.[4] Wealth inequality in the U.S. is worse than in most developed countries other than Switzerland and Denmark.[5]

Wealth is usually not used for daily expenditures or factored into household budgets, but combined with income it comprises the family’s total opportunity “to secure a desired stature and standard of living, or pass their class status along to one’s children”.[6] Moreover, “wealth provides for both short- and long-term financial security, bestows social prestige, and contributes to political power, and can be used to produce more wealth.”[7] Hence, wealth possesses a psychological element that awards people the feeling of agency, or the ability to act. The accumulation of wealth grants more options and eliminates restrictions about how one can live life. Dennis Gilbert asserts that the standard of living of the working and middle classes is dependent upon income and wages, while the rich tend to rely on wealth, distinguishing them from the vast majority of Americans.[8]

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The Evil Rich

The world’s 100 richest people earned a stunning total of $240 billion in 2012 – enough money to end extreme poverty worldwide four times over, Oxfam has revealed, adding that the global economic crisis is further enriching the super-rich.
“The richest 1 percent has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process,” while the income of the top 0.01 percent has seen even greater growth, a new Oxfam report said.

For example, the luxury goods market has seen double-digit growth every year since the crisis hit, the report stated. And while the world’s 100 richest people earned $240 billion last year, people in “extreme poverty” lived on less than $1.25 a day.

Oxfam is a leading international philanthropy organization. Its new report, ‘The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt us All,’ argues that the extreme concentration of wealth actually hinders the world’s ability to reduce poverty.

The report was published before the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, and calls on world leaders to “end extreme wealth by 2025, and reverse the rapid increase in inequality seen in the majority of countries in the last 20 years.”

Oxfam’s report argues that extreme wealth is unethical, economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.

The report proposes a new global deal to world leaders to curb extreme poverty to 1990s levels by:

- closing tax havens, yielding $189bn in additional tax revenues

- reversing regressive forms of taxation

- introducing a global minimum corporation tax rate

- boosting wages proportional to capital returns

- increasing investment in free public services

The problem is a global one, Oxfam said:In the UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10 percent now take home nearly 60 percent of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which is now the most unequal country on Earth and significantly more [inequality] than at the end of apartheid.”

In the US, the richest 1 percent’s share of income has doubled since 1980 from 10 to 20 percent, according to the report. For the top 0.01 percent, their share of national income quadrupled, reaching levels never seen before.

“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” Executive Director of Oxfam International Jeremy Hobbs said.

Hobbs explained that concentration of wealth in the hands of the top few minimizes economic activity, making it harder for others to participate: “From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favor.”

The report highlights that even politics has become controlled by the super-wealthy, which leads to policies “benefitting the richest few and not the poor majority, even in democracies.”

“It is time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite,” the report said.
Of relevance too is Thomas Pogge on Poverty


The four-day World Economic Forum will be held in Davos starting next Wednesday. World financial leaders will gather for an annual meeting that will focus on reviving the global economy, the eurozone crisis and the conflicts in Syria and Mali.

NB The idea that the rich are job creators is a myth. Heres what the billionaire Nick Hanauer says:

May Chan and James, all residents of a squat in north London, were arrested on 25 October, just before midnight, after a member of the public called the police to report three men scaling a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish Town. Police arrested the men as they left the area with a holdall and trolley containing food. The total value of the items taken from the bins allegedly amounted to £33. (my comment : the food had been thrown away therefore was worthless)

May, 35, a freelance web designer, said he was relieved the case had been dropped. He said it was a ridiculous charge, and “crazy” to think that prosecution was in the public interest.

Bold mine

 

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Positive Thinking

Heres some things to be positive about admidst all the doom and gloom at how rich fat cats arte shafting us. Here are some tips for living a longer more fruitful life:

 


 

Starting at a very young age I became a voracious ready. I would devour books especially science fiction. Later I would read most of the classics , later most of philosophy. I’ve forgotten much love it and its scary when Homer Simpson says ” When I learn something new it pushes something old out”. Not true fortunately but things do have a priority and old things do appear to get “lost” Here is a reminder for you……..

childrensbookssm

It has been said that we are only limited by our imaginations. In our formative years fostering and nurturing our imaginations is vital.  If we are to find solutions to our problems we need to be imaginative and not just apply outmoded techniques to new problems. Thinking outside the box ……

 

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The 6 Filthiest Facts About The Rich

Donald Trump and his 1% cohorts captured all the income gains in the first two years of the post-recession recovery. (Photo by John W. Adkisson/Getty Images)

Features » August 30, 2013

The 6 Filthiest Facts About the Rich

Unrestrained capitalism has led to an untenable situation.

BY Paul Buchheit, AlterNet

The 400 richest Americans made $200 billion in just one year. That’s equivalent to the combined total of the federal food stamp, education, and housing budgets.

First of all, who are they? Mostly the 1%. But the top 2-5% have also done quite well, increasing their inflation-adjusted  wealth by 75 percent from 1983 to 2009 while average wealth went down for 80 percent of American households. The rest of the top 20% have been prosperous, realizing a 32 percent gain in inflation-adjusted wealth since 1983. The facts to follow are primarily about the richest 1%, with occasional dips into the groups scrambling to make it to the top.

1. Accumulating almost all the wealth

As evidence of the extremes between the very rich and the rest of us, the average household net worth for the top 1% in 2009 was almost $14 million, while the average household net worth for the bottom 47% was almost ZERO. For nearly half of America, average debt is about the same as average asset ownership.

The extremes are just as filthy at the global level. The richest 300 persons on earth (about a third of them in the U.S.) have more money than the poorest 3 billion people. Out of all developed and undeveloped countries with at least a quarter-million adults, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

2. Creating their own wealth

In another alarming testament to wealth at the top, the richest 10% own almost 90 percent of stocks excluding pensions. Consider what that means. The stock market has historically risen three times faster than the GDP itself. Since the recession, as the U.S. economy has “recovered,” 62 percent of the gain was due to growth in the stock market, which surged as much in four years as it did during the “greatest bull market in history” from 1996 to 2000.

Many stock owners see a couple thousand dollars added to their fortunes every time they go online.

But that’s not enough for the very rich. Thanks in good part to the derivatives market, the world’s wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017. The financial industry has figured out how to double or triple its buying power while most of the world has proportionately less.

3. Taking ALL the income gains

If the richest 1% had taken the same percentage of total U.S. income in 2006 as they did in 1980, they would have taken a trillion dollars less out of the economy. Instead they tripled their share of post-tax income. And then they captured ALL the income gains in the first two years of the post-recession recovery.

4. Donating a smaller share than the poorest Americans

Two dependable sources provide pretty much the same information. Barclays reported that those with earnings in the top 20% donated on average 1.3 percent of their income, whereas those in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent. And according to the New York Times, the nonprofit Independent Sector found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes, while those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.

5. Making enough to feed 800 million people

India just approved a program to spend $4 billion a year to feed 800 million people. Half of Indian children under 5 are malnourished.

In 2012, three members of the Walton family each made over $4 billion just from stocks and other investments. So did Charles Koch, and David Koch, and Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison, and Michael Bloomberg, and Jeff Bezos.

It’s not the obligation of any one of these individuals to feed the world. The disgrace is in the fact that our unregulated capitalist system allows such outrageous extremes to exist.

Here’s more to provoke outrage. The 400 richest Americans made $200 billion in just one year. That’s equivalent to the combined total of the federal food stampeducation, and housing budgets.

6. Taking two-thirds of a trillion dollars in subsidies

Even all that is not enough for the very rich. About two-thirds of nearly $1 trillion in individual “tax expenditures” (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. An astounding 75 percent of dividend and capital gain subsidies go to the richest 1%.

And that doesn’t include business subsidies, like the $16.8 billion per year in agricultural benefits paid out to big companies and to wealthy individuals who happen to have farms in their portfolios. The filthiest fact, in terms of detestable extremes, is that much of Congress wants to  cut the $4.35 a day food benefit to hungry Americans, almost half of them children, so that money can keep flowing to the top.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Paul Buchheit is a professor with City Colleges of Chicago and co-founder of Global Initiative Chicago. He is the editor and main contributor to the forthcoming book, American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press).

More information about Paul Buchheit, AlterNet

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The NSA , what we need to do

Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.

By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.

This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.

And by we, I mean the engineering community.

Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.

But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.

One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don’t cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers.

We need to know how exactly how the NSA and other agencies are subverting routers, switches, the internet backbone, encryption technologies and cloud systems. I already have five stories from people like you, and I’ve just started collecting. I want 50. There’s safety in numbers, and this form of civil disobedience is the moral thing to do.

Two, we can design. We need to figure out how to re-engineer the internet to prevent this kind of wholesale spying. We need new techniques to prevent communications intermediaries from leaking private information.

We can make surveillance expensive again. In particular, we need open protocols, open implementations, open systems – these will be harder for the NSA to subvert.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, the group that defines the standards that make the internet run, has a meeting planned for early November in Vancouver. This group needs to dedicate its next meeting to this task. This is an emergency, and demands an emergency response.

Three, we can influence governance. I have resisted saying this up to now, and I am saddened to say it, but the US has proved to be an unethical steward of the internet. The UK is no better. The NSA’s actions are legitimizing the internet abuses by China, Russia, Iran and others. We need to figure out new means of internet governance, ones that makes it harder for powerful tech countries to monitor everything. For example, we need to demand transparency, oversight, and accountability from our governments and corporations.

Unfortunately, this is going play directly into the hands of totalitarian governments that want to control their country’s internet for even more extreme forms of surveillance. We need to figure out how to prevent that, too. We need to avoid the mistakes of the International Telecommunications Union, which has become a forum to legitimize bad government behavior, and create truly international governance that can’t be dominated or abused by any one country.

Generations from now, when people look back on these early decades of the internet, I hope they will not be disappointed in us. We can ensure that they don’t only if each of us makes this a priority, and engages in the debate. We have a moral duty to do this, and we have no time to lose.

Dismantling the surveillance state won’t be easy. Has any country that engaged in mass surveillance of its own citizens voluntarily given up that capability? Has any mass surveillance country avoided becoming totalitarian? Whatever happens, we’re going to be breaking new ground.

Again, the politics of this is a bigger task than the engineering, but the engineering is critical. We need to demand that real technologists be involved in any key government decision making on these issues. We’ve had enough of lawyers and politicians not fully understanding technology; we need technologists at the table when we build tech policy.

To the engineers, I say this: we built the internet, and some of us have helped to subvert it. Now, those of us who love liberty have to fix it.

Bruce Schneier writes about security, technology, and people. His latest book is Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust That Society Needs to Thrive. He is working for the Guardian on other NSA stories

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50 years on inequality is still the message

Its been 50 years today since Martin Luther King addressed the American nation. A must listen to BBC compilation is here I decided this video is too important not to be disseminated so I copied it on to youtube!

 

below is Thomas Pogge’s video on poverty and inequality. The message is clear inequality is the root cause of most of the ills that beset society. THIS CAN BE CHANGED IF THE RICH GIVE UP A FRACTION OF THEIR WEALTH. I HAVE A DREAM!!!!

400 million deaths in the last 22 years killed by poverty. Inequality!

A quarter of the worlds population have over 90% of the worlds income!

I have a dream but the nightmare continues!

Below taken from The Guardian review of The Spirit Level

We are rich enough. Economic growth has done as much as it can to improve material conditions in the developed countries, and in some cases appears to be damaging health. If Britain were instead to concentrate on making its citizens’ incomes as equal as those of people in Japan and Scandinavia, we could each have seven extra weeks’ holiday a year, we would be thinner, we would each live a year or so longer, and we’d trust each other more.

The Spirit Level
: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
(Click for the pdf stats in the Library)
Below are the slides >>>>

inequalitygif
Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett don’t soft-soap their message. It is brave to write a book arguing that economies should stop growing when millions of jobs are being lost, though they may be pushing at an open door in public consciousness. We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.

The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet’s resources.

Wilkinson, a public health researcher of 30 years’ standing, has written numerous books and articles on the physical and mental effects of social differentiation. He and Pickett have compiled information from around 200 different sets of data, using reputable sources such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the US Census, to form a bank of evidence against inequality that is impossible to deny.

They use the information to create a series of scatter-graphs whose patterns look nearly identical, yet which document the prevalence of a vast range of social ills. On almost every index of quality of life, or wellness, or deprivation, there is a gradient showing a strong correlation between a country’s level of economic inequality and its social outcomes. Almost always, Japan and the Scandinavian countries are at the favourable “low” end, and almost always, the UK, the US and Portugal are at the unfavourable “high” end, with Canada, Australasia and continental European countries in between.

This has nothing to do with total wealth or even the average per-capita income. America is one of the world’s richest nations, with among the highest figures for income per person, but has the lowest longevity of the developed nations, and a level of violence – murder, in particular – that is off the scale. Of all crimes, those involving violence are most closely related to high levels of inequality – within a country, within states and even within cities. For some, mainly young, men with no economic or educational route to achieving the high status and earnings required for full citizenship, the experience of daily life at the bottom of a steep social hierarchy is enraging.

The graphs also reveal that it is not just the poor, but whole societies, from top to bottom, that are adversely affected by inequality. Although the UK fares badly when compared with most other OECD countries (and is the worst developed nation in which to be a child according to both Unicef and the Good Childhood Inquiry), its social problems are not as pronounced as in the US.

Rates of illness are lower for English people of all classes than for Americans, but working-age Swedish men fare better still. Diabetes affects twice as many American as English people, whether they have a high or a low level of education. Wherever you look, evidence favouring greater equality piles up. As the authors write, “the relationships between inequality and poor health and social problems are too strong to be attributable to chance”.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of reading this book is the revelation that the way we live in Britain is a serious danger to our mental health. Around a quarter of British people, and more than a quarter of Americans, experience mental problems in any given year, compared with fewer than 10 per cent in Japan, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

Wilkinson and Pickett’s description of unequal societies as “dysfunctional” suggests implicit criticism of the approach taken by Britain’s “happiness tsar” Richard Layard, who recommended that the poor mental health of many Britons be “fixed” or improved by making cognitive behavioural therapy more easily available. Consumerism, isolation, alienation, social estrangement and anxiety all follow from inequality, they argue, and so cannot rightly be made a matter of individual management.

There’s an almost pleading quality to some of Wilkinson and Pickett’s assertions, as though they feel they’ve spent their careers banging their heads against a brick wall. It’s impossible to overstate the implications of their thesis: that the societies of Britain and the US have institutionalised economic and social inequality to the extent that, at any one time, a quarter of their respective populations are mentally ill. What kind of “growth” is that, other than a malignant one?

One question that comes to mind is whether the world’s most equal developed nations, Japan and Sweden, make sufficient allowance for individuals to express themselves without being regarded as a threat to the health of the collective. Critics of the two societies would argue that both make it intensely difficult for individual citizens to protest against the conformity both produced by, and required to sustain, equality. The inclination to dismiss or neuter individuals’ complaints may, Wilkinson and Pickett suggest, go some way towards explaining the higher suicide rates in both countries compared with their more unequal counterparts. Those who feel wrong, or whose lives go wrong, may feel as though they really do have no one to blame but themselves.

What Japan and Sweden do show is that equality is a matter of political will. There are belated signs – shown in the recent establishment of a National Equalities Panel and in Trevor Phil lips’s public pronouncements on the central place of class in the landscape of British inequality – that Labour recognises that its relaxed attitude to people “getting filthy rich” has come back to bite it on the rear.

Twelve years in power is long enough to reverse all the trends towards greater social and economic stratification that have occurred since 1970; instead they have continued on their merry way towards segregation. Teenage pregnancy rates have begun to rise after a period of decline; there is a 30-year gap in male life expectancy between central Glasgow and parts of southern England; and child poverty won’t be halved by next year after all (though it wouldn’t make as much difference as making their parents more equal).

There are times when the book feels rather too overwhelmingly grim. Even if you allow for the fact that it was written before Barack Obama won the US presidency on a premise of trust and optimism, its opening pages are depressing enough to make you want to shut it fast: “We find ourselves anxiety-ridden, prone to depression, driven to consume and with little or no community life.” Taking the statistics broadly, they may be correct, but many readers simply won’t feel like that.

However, the book does end on an optimistic note, with a transformative, rather than revolutionary, programme for making sick societies more healthy. A society in which all citizens feel free to look each other in the eye can only come into being once those in the lower echelons feel more valued than at present. The authors argue that removal of economic impediments to feeling valued – such as low wages, low benefits and low public spending on education, for instance – will allow a flourishing of human potential.

There is a growing inventory of serious, compellingly argued books detailing the social destruction wrought by inequality. Wilkinson and Pickett have produced a companion to recent bestsellers such as Oliver James’s Affluenza and Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety . But The Spirit Level also contributes to a longer view, sitting alongside Richard Sennett’s 2003 book Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality , and the epidemiologist Michael Marmot’s Status Syndrome , from 2005.

Anyone who believes that society is the result of what we do, rather than who we are, should read these books; they should start with The Spirit Level because of its inarguable battery of evidence, and because its conclusion is simple: we do better when we’re equal.

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Inequality 50 years on

Its been 50 years today since Martin Luther King addressed the American nation. A must listen to BBC compilation is here I copied the video and put it on Youtube>



Here is the Thomas Pogge video explaining Poverty and inequality still the greatest evil in the land!


400 million deaths in the last 22 years killed by poverty. Inequality!

A quarter of the worlds population have over 90% of the worlds income!

I have a dream but the nightmare continues!

Below taken from The Guardian review of The Spirit Level

We are rich enough. Economic growth has done as much as it can to improve material conditions in the developed countries, and in some cases appears to be damaging health. If Britain were instead to concentrate on making its citizens’ incomes as equal as those of people in Japan and Scandinavia, we could each have seven extra weeks’ holiday a year, we would be thinner, we would each live a year or so longer, and we’d trust each other more.

The Spirit Level
: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
(Click for the pdf stats in the Library)

Below are the slides:>

inequalitygif
Epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett don’t soft-soap their message. It is brave to write a book arguing that economies should stop growing when millions of jobs are being lost, though they may be pushing at an open door in public consciousness. We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.

The authors point out that the life-diminishing results of valuing growth above equality in rich societies can be seen all around us. Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet’s resources.

Wilkinson, a public health researcher of 30 years’ standing, has written numerous books and articles on the physical and mental effects of social differentiation. He and Pickett have compiled information from around 200 different sets of data, using reputable sources such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the US Census, to form a bank of evidence against inequality that is impossible to deny.

They use the information to create a series of scatter-graphs whose patterns look nearly identical, yet which document the prevalence of a vast range of social ills. On almost every index of quality of life, or wellness, or deprivation, there is a gradient showing a strong correlation between a country’s level of economic inequality and its social outcomes. Almost always, Japan and the Scandinavian countries are at the favourable “low” end, and almost always, the UK, the US and Portugal are at the unfavourable “high” end, with Canada, Australasia and continental European countries in between.

This has nothing to do with total wealth or even the average per-capita income. America is one of the world’s richest nations, with among the highest figures for income per person, but has the lowest longevity of the developed nations, and a level of violence – murder, in particular – that is off the scale. Of all crimes, those involving violence are most closely related to high levels of inequality – within a country, within states and even within cities. For some, mainly young, men with no economic or educational route to achieving the high status and earnings required for full citizenship, the experience of daily life at the bottom of a steep social hierarchy is enraging.

The graphs also reveal that it is not just the poor, but whole societies, from top to bottom, that are adversely affected by inequality. Although the UK fares badly when compared with most other OECD countries (and is the worst developed nation in which to be a child according to both Unicef and the Good Childhood Inquiry), its social problems are not as pronounced as in the US.

Rates of illness are lower for English people of all classes than for Americans, but working-age Swedish men fare better still. Diabetes affects twice as many American as English people, whether they have a high or a low level of education. Wherever you look, evidence favouring greater equality piles up. As the authors write, “the relationships between inequality and poor health and social problems are too strong to be attributable to chance”.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of reading this book is the revelation that the way we live in Britain is a serious danger to our mental health. Around a quarter of British people, and more than a quarter of Americans, experience mental problems in any given year, compared with fewer than 10 per cent in Japan, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

Wilkinson and Pickett’s description of unequal societies as “dysfunctional” suggests implicit criticism of the approach taken by Britain’s “happiness tsar” Richard Layard, who recommended that the poor mental health of many Britons be “fixed” or improved by making cognitive behavioural therapy more easily available. Consumerism, isolation, alienation, social estrangement and anxiety all follow from inequality, they argue, and so cannot rightly be made a matter of individual management.

There’s an almost pleading quality to some of Wilkinson and Pickett’s assertions, as though they feel they’ve spent their careers banging their heads against a brick wall. It’s impossible to overstate the implications of their thesis: that the societies of Britain and the US have institutionalised economic and social inequality to the extent that, at any one time, a quarter of their respective populations are mentally ill. What kind of “growth” is that, other than a malignant one?

One question that comes to mind is whether the world’s most equal developed nations, Japan and Sweden, make sufficient allowance for individuals to express themselves without being regarded as a threat to the health of the collective. Critics of the two societies would argue that both make it intensely difficult for individual citizens to protest against the conformity both produced by, and required to sustain, equality. The inclination to dismiss or neuter individuals’ complaints may, Wilkinson and Pickett suggest, go some way towards explaining the higher suicide rates in both countries compared with their more unequal counterparts. Those who feel wrong, or whose lives go wrong, may feel as though they really do have no one to blame but themselves.

What Japan and Sweden do show is that equality is a matter of political will. There are belated signs – shown in the recent establishment of a National Equalities Panel and in Trevor Phil lips’s public pronouncements on the central place of class in the landscape of British inequality – that Labour recognises that its relaxed attitude to people “getting filthy rich” has come back to bite it on the rear.

Twelve years in power is long enough to reverse all the trends towards greater social and economic stratification that have occurred since 1970; instead they have continued on their merry way towards segregation. Teenage pregnancy rates have begun to rise after a period of decline; there is a 30-year gap in male life expectancy between central Glasgow and parts of southern England; and child poverty won’t be halved by next year after all (though it wouldn’t make as much difference as making their parents more equal).

There are times when the book feels rather too overwhelmingly grim. Even if you allow for the fact that it was written before Barack Obama won the US presidency on a premise of trust and optimism, its opening pages are depressing enough to make you want to shut it fast: “We find ourselves anxiety-ridden, prone to depression, driven to consume and with little or no community life.” Taking the statistics broadly, they may be correct, but many readers simply won’t feel like that.

However, the book does end on an optimistic note, with a transformative, rather than revolutionary, programme for making sick societies more healthy. A society in which all citizens feel free to look each other in the eye can only come into being once those in the lower echelons feel more valued than at present. The authors argue that removal of economic impediments to feeling valued – such as low wages, low benefits and low public spending on education, for instance – will allow a flourishing of human potential.

There is a growing inventory of serious, compellingly argued books detailing the social destruction wrought by inequality. Wilkinson and Pickett have produced a companion to recent bestsellers such as Oliver James’s Affluenza and Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety . But The Spirit Level also contributes to a longer view, sitting alongside Richard Sennett’s 2003 book Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality , and the epidemiologist Michael Marmot’s Status Syndrome , from 2005.

Anyone who believes that society is the result of what we do, rather than who we are, should read these books; they should start with The Spirit Level because of its inarguable battery of evidence, and because its conclusion is simple: we do better when we’re equal.

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