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The Thirty Years War continues


By George Waring (Butte News) 3-12-14


                As William Greider maintains in his latest “Nation” article, since the union crushing days of Paul Volker’s Federal Reserve policies in the late 1970s and for all of the Reagan-Bush 1980s, the middle class has been under attack. The Clinton and George W. Bush administrations simply followed the triumphant neoliberal policies of Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. The federal government’s tax, trade and labor policies have been crafted in the interest of the nation’s wealthiest campaign contributors.

                In mid-February, the Economic Policy Institute created a web site showing the extent of the damage done in this successful class war conducted by government on behalf of the one per cent. It is the first web site I’ve found that provides a state by state display focused on the widening income gap between our rulers and us.

                The following is a brief summary of the data collected by EPI. Our memories and imagination may be able to fashion a kind of “body count” for this domestic civil war. If the data is too dry, read “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” (2001) by Butte’s Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s a bottom up report on folks who work full-time, year-round, for the poverty-level wages fostered by our oligarchy.

                On average, income across the board in the U.S. grew between 1979 and 2007 by 36.9 percent. The wealthiest one percent received a 54 percent of that income growth.

                Looked at from the perspective of income change, the top one percent saw its income double, a 200.5 percent increase. The bottom 99 percent’s income increase was almost 19 percent in those 28 years.

                What happened through our Great Recession? The one percent has recovered quite well, but the bottom 99 percent’s income declined during what the mainstream media has agreed to call “the recovery.”

                The top one per cent has been the big winner during the Obama years, with an increase in income of 11.5 percent. For the 99 percent the news has been a decline in income measuring a minus seven-tenths of a percent.

                If the entire period from 1979 to 2011 is considered, the 32 years give us the concluding statements: (1) The top one percent had an increase of 129 per cent in its income; (2) The bottom 99 percent saw its income grow by 2.3 per cent. The contrast between the income of the one percent and the income of the rest of us puts us right back in the society of Herbert Hoover in 1929.

                By 2011 the average income of the one per cent was over 24 times greater than the average income of the bottom 99 percent. For the top one percent the average income was $1,040,506. It was $42,694 for the bottom 99 percent.

                The New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and the post-World War II of a growing unionized middle class has been wiped from memory. We now live in the atomized, dog-eat-dog society created by the atheistic libertarian Ayn Rand’s disciples. Congratulations on this stunning ruling class triumph go to its wizard economists, Milton Friedman, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke. And to Rand’s two most prominent protagonists enjoying power today, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul.

                On what’s left of “the other side,” what can we say about those so-called “Democrats,” the “neoliberal” or “New Democrats” who exercised power within the period from 1979 to 2011? Jimmy Carter and Fed Chairman, Paul Volcker; Bill Clinton with economic and financial advisers, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Alan Greenspan. Finally, Barack Obama with Clinton retreads, Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers. Not to forget, through the entire period, our own Senator Max Baucus. Quite a legacy to leave.

                The EPI site gives income data by state. No surprise that Connecticut’s one percent  did better than others. That’s where Wall Street CEOs reside. It’s top one per cent had an income growth of 273 percent (1979-2011) It’s bottom 99 percent had income growth under 15 percent. The top one percent claimed over 70 per cent of the state’s income growth since Carter’s presidency.

                Finally, David Cay Johnston reports that between the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009 and the end of 2012, the top ten percent saw a 15 percent increase in income. The income of the bottom 90 percent declined 15.7 percent, putting its average income back to the 1966 level. And that happened “after” the Great Recession.

                Greider’s article is on “The Nation” magazine website:

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