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What Would It Really Take to Reverse Inequality?


What Would It Really Take to Reverse Inequality?

Chuck Collins

While there is now widespread understanding that extreme income and wealth inequality is growing and has negative impacts on society, most proposed solutions fail to address deeper systemic drivers. If we misdiagnose an illness, we are likely to prescribe an insufficient or even dangerous remedy. If we misdiagnose the causes of inequality, we will likely put forward misguided solutions.


Actually, the key drivers of extreme inequality are the Democratic and Republican parties, who have made it clear this is their number 1 priority.

“Deconcentrate Wealth, through interventions that directly reduce the concentration of wealth and power” Are you trying to sound intelligent, or are you afraid to use the word “Socialism”?


Both your points make a lot of sense.

The author does address your first, when he says:

"It’s hard to imagine many of these solutions moving forward at the national level in the current political environment, but there are opportunities to incubate them in states and localities and lay the groundwork for a future political realignment.’


As for your second point - just call it socialism - maybe ?

There needs always to be a driver of things, at the societal level and especially at the individual level.

A battery is ‘dead’ unless there is a difference between the poles.

A ‘flat’ society will not work well for the same reason.

Right now money is the measure, of pretty much everything, everywhere. That’s a mistake, and the proposed measures to even things out are understandable.

But we need to find another driver of life - a reason to be, and to do - that is not centered on money.

Is an Apache tribe of old a socialist entity ?

Is it ‘flat’ ?

I think the answer is No in both cases.

Power at the top - extreme hierarchy - I detest it - it sickens me - it is moral injury to the max.

But flat - if that is what socialism is - is just another version of the same thing.

We are social individuals, and both the social and the individual parts are equally important.

I am glad to see a Thomas Piketty graph in the article - I am slowly working my way through “Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century”, and finding it a truly magnificent undertaking, even if it is a slow read.

But my main point is that more than economics is required in this discussion.


I found Capitalism In The 21st Century to be interesting in the historical mechanics of wealth accumulation (by capitalism) aside from his central point.
The lateral (socialism) as well as the vertical (hierarchy) movement can be complimentary in that a “flat” society has a vertical component of creativity…bureaucracy is a hierarchy of false creativity, or certainly can be.
So what appears to be “flat” can have the seed of hierarchy by the talent and genius found within it.


“What would it really take ?”

Restoring all New Deal financial industry regulations is step one and getting all private money out of elections / converting to publicly funded elections is step two. Step three is adding financial industry regulations to reflect the current global financial landscape.

Anything short of these measures will be of no more benefit to the 99% than rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic did for it passengers.


“Deconcentrate Wealth”

Thanks for saying it. We have to educate ourselves; organize ourselves; and take “ownership” away from those who claim it.

Short-term reforms - taxing wealth, taxing income, taxing financial transactions, raising the minimum wage, providing universal health care - make material differences in people’s lives. Political reforms - limiting money in campaigns, un-gerrymandering political districts, replacing Plurality Voting with Rank Choice or Score or Approval Voting - would open space for the exercise of democracy.

But without real, long-term wealth reform - removing “old money” and “new money” and the modern Robber Barons from their claims (not allow Gates to “give it away” to himself via the Gates Foundation, or Zuckerberg to “give it away” to himself via an LLC, but end their claims) - without deep systemic wealth reform, the obscenely wealthy and powerful will ALWAYS regroup, conspire, rig the system, reconcentrate wealth, and abuse, exploit, and manipulate the rest of us.

We have to educate ourselves; organize ourselves; and take “ownership” away from those who claim it. That is “realism” worthy of the name.


I’ve just done some calculations on figures taken from the very revealing graph, “Pre-tax Income of Bottom 50% vs. Top 1%, 1962-2014” included in this article. It shows that in 1963 and 1970 the top 1% earned an average of $400,000 a year, while the bottom 50% earned an average of about $23,000 a year, both in terms of 2014 dollars. By 2014, the top 1% had increased their average income to $1,300,000 a year, while the average income of the bottom 50% had stayed the same, at $23,000.

If the increase in wealth of the top 1% over this period were redistributed to the bottom 50%, through increases in wages etc., so that after the redistribution the top 1% would still earn an average of $400,000, then everyone in the bottom 50% would get about an extra $18,000 dollars yearly income, taking the average up from about $23,000 a year to about $41,000 a year! Needless to say, this increase would make the lives of working people hugely better, and would lift nearly all the current poor out of poverty. And the 1% would still be earning an average of nearly 10 times as much as the bottom 50%, and living very opulently.

One could argue that even more of the 1%'s wealth should be redistributed, but it’s hard to see how redistributing this amount could be anything but fair and reasonable in a world where everyone’s life and happiness matter.


Good work running some numbers.

Despite the incessant propaganda they force-feed us throughout our lives, there is no “justification” for such looting. The looting class must be radically dis-empowered, and never allowed to reorganize.

We need an ecological, humanistic economy. Not a looting, profiteering, colonizing, capitalist economy.


That is a revealing graph of student loan debt accumulation through the Bush and Obama administrations. It looks like a portrait of near-perfect continuity. If you don’t look at the years, it’s almost impossible to tell where Bush and the Republicans leave off and Obama and the Democrats sweep in.


Thank you for your gracious comment! One way the wealth distribution I suggested in my previous post could be achieved would be to bring in a “Universal Wage” paid for by a steeply progressive income tax. A universal wage of about $20,000 per year could give about an average of $18,000 extra a year to the bottom 50%. As people’s income increases the extra they would receive would be reduced due to the extra tax they would pay with a break-even point at about a $50,000 wage. People earning more than that would pay more in extra tax than they receive from the universal wage, with this amount of tax steeply increasing as annual income gets higher. Such a universal wage would greatly stimulate the economy due to the extra spending power it would create, and would greatly reduce the amount we would need to spend on welfare programs, as most people would be lifted out of poverty and would no longer even qualify for food stamps, Section 8 housing and other welfare.


According to “Rebooting the American Dream” by Thom Hartman, inequality started with Ronald Reagan drastically cutting the marginal income tax. The solution is to drastically increase it. It has happened numerous times in our history. In 1953,during the Eisenhower administration, the marginal income tax was increased to 91 per cent. and the money was distributed down to the middle and lower class and the economy prospered. Since the Congress controls taxation and since we have the best Congress that money can buy, don’t look for that to happen soon.


Blah, blah, blah, talk, talk talk. Guess what? The politicians will not save us. They feed from the same trough as the rest of the so-called “elite”. The only thing that will work is to get off our collective bottoms (euphemism) and throw our wooden shoes into the machinery. We must organize (i.e. Unionize), get out into the streets, bang on pots and pans, and work to rebuild LOCAL communities. Militant opposition to the power structure. By militant I do NOT mean violent – read your Martin Luther King, Jr. Militant opposition means in your face opposition that cannot be ignored. The stream of money going to far away places (i.e. Wall Street, Silicon Valley) must be diverted back to our communities. BUY LOCAL! Barter, pay in cash, or create local currencies. The greedy have existed all through human history and Americans in particular are in awe of their perceived greatness. But they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest. Their primary skill is getting the rest of us to fight among ourselves while they laugh all the way to the bank. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Behold the spectacle in front of you. In the long term we must educate our children, teach them that Gordon Gecko was WRONG – greed is NOT good. Greed is a pathology that should be shamed and ostracized, not worshiped as we do here in the USofA. Ah, but maybe Huxley was right – in the end we will just entertain ourselves into slavery. But maybe not. Who’s in?


To bushrodl:

That’s an interesting way of putting it !!