Friday, April 9, 2010

The ‘mind-blowing’ surge of wealth inequality in America

Sahil Kapur

One of the most understated issues in American political discourse is the surging inequality of income and wealth. The Nation has a chart that sheds light on what’s going on.

[Click illustration for better view.]

Notice that the level of inequality was higher by 2006 than even just before the Great Depression. You can bet that figure has risen after the ‘08 bailouts, which (necessary as it may have been to prevent a catastrophic financial plunge) essentially funneled money from poor and working people into the pockets of wealthy financial institutions that participated in the economy’s decline. Heads they win, tails we lose.

FDR’s Fed chairman Marriner S. Eccles explained in kitchen-table discourse why this matter is so damaging to the national economy: “As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped,” he said.

Business Insider has an excellent slide show that adds depth and breadth to this phenomenon. Here’s one graphic (via the Institute for Policy Studies) showing that in 2007 the top 1 percent owned over a third of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 50 percent had a measly 2.5 percent.

Here’s what Dennis Kucinich told me a couple months ago: “Every area of the economy is still about taking wealth from the great mass of people and putting it into the hands of a few. If you don’t have a economic democracy, you don’t have a political democracy.”

Perhaps that has something to do with it?

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