It seems like every month the number of people who are unemployed, or in need of food stamps soars to record new levels, while corporate profits continue to skyrocket. Attempting to describe the gargantuan disparity in wealth that exists in the United States is increasingly difficult. Currently 1% of our population now possess 40% of our nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80% of us own just a scant 7%.
A new report has been published which compiles detailed information about the enormous amount of money that is being hidden by billionaires in offshore accounts. The research, The Price of Offshore Revisited, shows that over 21 trillion dollars, more than the total combined GDPs of both the United States and Japan, are being sequestered out of sight into the legally murky offshore economy. The super elite are using every available resource to exploit loopholes in cross-border tax rules to avoid paying their fair share.
Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, our nation’s democratic process has become so corrupted by unlimited corporate donations that it seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. Now that money is considered speech, the voices of millions of citizens are being crushed by a handful of billionaire plutocrats and narrow big business interests. The corrupting influence of unrestricted campaign donations upon our elections was evidenced in yesterday’s elections in Wisconsin.
Earlier this month Noam Chomsky published an incisive essay entitled: “Plutonomy & the Precariat: On the History of the U.S. Economy in Decline*, which elucidates how the extreme concentration of wealth with the 1% has transpired because our country no longer manufactures actual things — bankers, stock brokers and financiers simply manipulate the idea of money. The United States has mutated into a vastly economically stratified oligarchy, 99% of whom have almost no political power or influence in our nation’s “democracy”.
The growing income inequality in the United States is making our economy very volatile and unstable. Executive compensation and CEO pay have helped to fuel that rapidly expanding wealth gap, as well as our country’s financial crisis. The Economic Policy Institute has just released a report detailing how the grotesque expansion of CEO pay has helped to create our nation’s huge chasm in income.
Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize winning economist and author of the new book, End This Depression Now!, spoke with Rachel Maddow about the direct correlation between expanding income inequality and the increasingly divisive political polarization present in the United States. The wealth disparity between the rich and poor has been historically shown to greatly increase just prior to a severe economic crisis, as it did before the Great Depression; and the wealth gap in our country has never been as extreme as it is right now.
The United States is becoming an increasingly severely stratified plutocracy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities just released a new study proving that the richest 1% are continuing to amass greater and greater amounts of wealth, while the rest of the population is still struggling financially.
The highly esteemed economist, Robert Reich, clearly explains what some of our country’s largest financial system problems are, offers a clear plan with well defined policy solutions, and presents this concise message to President Obama:
“We’ll give you a mandate in your second term to raise taxes on the rich, including capital gains taxes, and put a tax on financial transactions, also, resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, limit the size of big banks, and force them to modify the loans of millions of Americans who are now underwater; and invest in public schools and other infrastructure so that all Americans can prosper in this new economy.”
In the United States you are over thirty-nine times more likely to be struck dead by lightning, than to ever encounter an incident of voter fraud. The menacing right wing fairly tale that hoards of undocumented immigrants and others are voting illegally is a myth constructed by wealthy plutocratic interests to suppress voting rights. Voter fraud is a non-existent issue that has been constructed for the sole purpose of suppressing the legal right of all citizens to freely vote.
Senator Bernie Sanders gives me hope. This week, in addition to fighting for our nation’s beloved postal system, and for affordable heat for struggling poor families, he also introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the farcical Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision, which allowed completely unrestricted hidden campaign spending by business corporations to influence our U.S. elections.
Last week we spent part of my birthday at the growing OccupyOlympia activist camp, near the Washington state Capitol. Despite the fact that the weather in these parts this time of year alternates between bitter freezing cold and muddy rainy slush, the number of protesters occupying the area has actually increased in the last month. Apparently being able to survive many wet western Washington winters breeds a certain amount of tenacity and resilience into the locals.
Massive corporate banks and billionaire plutocrats are proving that they have a vested interest in dismantling the growing Occupy protests. Chris Hayes has just revealed that a politically connected lobbying firm with close ties to Republican John Boehner, has asked a wealthy banking group for nearly a million dollars to develop a strategic plan to destroy the Occupy Wall Street movement, as well as any politicians who might express support for the activists.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has helped to mobilize many other local activists fighting for important issues in their own neighborhoods. Demonstrators in Seattle are not the only people angry and protesting against JP Morgan Chase Bank. A group of community organizers in San Francisco has been helping to lead a boycott of the corporate chain, which evicted two independent businesses on the 400 block of Divisadero Street under somewhat dubious circumstances.
More people in the United States are using food stamps now than ever before in the history of our nation — 41.8 million Americans are currently getting food aid. The Department of Agriculture just released updated national participation numbers for food assistance programs, which show that the amount of food stamp recipients has jumped 18% from last year, and has increased 1.4% just since June. Although this ignoble new record is not really so very surprising; our nation’s dire economic situation has caused the number of families in need of food assistance to set new records for each of the last 20 months straight.