Thursday, March 03, 2005

Now is the time for progressives to "launch a comprehensive challenge to America's extreme concentration of income and wealth", according to an article titled "Taking the Offensive on Wealth" in the Feb.21 issue of The Nation. The egregious disparity in wealth has grown so much worse under Bush that the time is ripe for reform.
America has experienced what economist and New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman calls "tectonic shifts" in income and wealth in recent years. The top 1 percent now claim more income each year than the bottom 100 million Americans taken together. An only slightly larger elite group, the top 5 percent, own just under 70 percent of financial wealth. ... The economist and Nobel Laureate, Paul Samuelson, has regularly dramatized what the general patterns mean. In the 1948 version of his widely used textbook, Samuelson wrote, "If we income pyramid out of a child's play blocks, with each layer portraying $1000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but almost all of us would be within a yard of the ground." By the end of the century, Samuelson found that although there would be some modest alterations at the bottom, the world had changed so much that the peak would be as high as Mount Everest.
Three forces make this a feasible time for a serious challenge: First, Bush's tax cuts are creating pain for the middle class in the form of reduced public services, higher tuition rates and higher property taxes--for starters. Public dissatisfaction has, in fact, recently driven California, New Jersey, and even conservative Virginia, to raise income taxes on the wealthy.
A second force in favor of a challenge is the egregious behavior of the very rich--their corruption as evidenced by Enron, WorldCom, Fannie Mae, et. al.--and their conspicuous consumption, as in a $6000 shower curtain and a $15,000 umbrella stand.
The third force is the willingness of Democrats to propose plans for taking back the tax cuts to the rich. In the past, they've been afraid to stand up because of their own dependence on corporate contributors. But with the advent of MoveOn and Dean as DNC chair, we're aware that the grassroots can fund the party without corporate bribes. We can dare again the to become the party of economic justice.
More tomorrow on this article.


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