April 1, 2012

March 20, 2012

March 8, 2012
The Great Inequality by Michael D. Yates

There are many kinds of inequality, but the two most obviously important ones are those of income and wealth. Incomes—normally in a money form but also “in kind,” as when part of a worker’s pay takes the form of room and board—are flows of cash (or “kind”) that go to persons over some period of time, such as a wage per hour or a yearly dividend. Incomes are always unevenly divided in a capitalist economy, and in the United States they are more unequal than in every other rich capitalist country. Since 1980, the year Ronald Reagan became president and helped engineer a savage attack on the working class, income inequality has risen considerably.

Households are physical spaces identified by the Census where people live, excluding institutional spaces like prison cells. Those in a household need not be related. In 2010, according to U.S. Census data, the richest 20 percent of all households received 50.2 percent of total household income. The poorest 20 percent got 3.3 percent. A mere three decades ago, in 1980, at the outset of the so-called Reagan Revolution, these shares were 44.1 and 4.2 percent, respectively. Those in the least- affluent households thus lost 21.4 percent of their income share, while the most affluent saw theirs rise by 13.8 percent. The next two poorest quintiles also lost in their shares of the economic pie, while the next richest quintile gained, but not by nearly as much as the top quintile. The Census breaks out the richest 5 percent of households from the top quintile. The income share of the richest 5 percent rose from 16.5 percent in 1980 to 21.3 percent in 2010, a gain of 29.1 percent. In 2010, the share of the top 5 percent was greater than that of the bottom 50 percent of households.

Economists often use a single statistic, the Gini Coefficient, to summarize increases or decreases in inequality or to compare inequality among countries.2 The Gini is a measure of how far away the actual distribution of income is from one of perfect equality, which would be a distribution in which each income quintile received exactly 20 percent of the total household income pie. In this case, the Gini turns out to equal zero. If, on the other hand, one household got all the income, the distribution would be perfectly unequal, and the Gini equals one. The greater the inequality, the closer is the Gini to one; the more equal, the closer it is to zero. The Gini Coefficient in the United States has been rising for nearly four decades. In 2010, the U.S. Gini was, according to Census calculations, equal to .469. In 1980, it was .403.3 Most wealthy capitalist nations have coefficients considerably lower than that of the United States. An article on The Atlantic website puts U.S. inequality starkly: “Income inequality is more severe in the United States than it is in nearly all of West Africa, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. We’re on par with some of the world’s most troubled countries, and not far from the perpetual conflict zones of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.”4 Recently, economic historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen estimated that the Gini coefficient in the Roman Empire at its peak population around 150 C.E. was slightly lower than that of the contemporary United States.5

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February 22, 2012

OMG guys! The Lorax movie is indoctrinating our kids! Fox news says so!!!!!!

February 1, 2012
In the Assange case we are all suspects now

This month’s Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in western democracies. This is Assange’s final appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm and constitute no crime in Britain.

The consequences, if he loses, lie not in Sweden but in the shadows cast by America’s descent into totalitarianism. In Sweden, he is at risk of being “temporarily surrendered” to the US, where his life has been threatened and he is accused of “aiding the enemy” with Bradley Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking evidence of US war crimes to WikiLeaks.

The connections between Manning and Assange have been concocted by a secret grand jury in Virginia that allowed no defence counsel or witnesses, and by a system of plea-bargaining that ensures a 90 per cent conviction rate. It is reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.

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January 31, 2012

In countries where unions are weak, like ours, we tend to find whats called ‘tough love’, as they call it these days, which means ‘love for the privileged, and tough for everybody else’.

(via youngmaslo-deactivated20120321)

December 1, 2011
Right-wing billionaires purchasing own professors

In the marketplace of ideas, all that matters is the strength of your argument, and whether or not you are a billionaire. That is the wonderful ideal America is striving for: the unregulated free exchange of paid-for speech representing the interests of an incredibly elite few. And to that end, Charles Koch, of the Koch brothers (official “bad guys” of liberalism in 2011), is purchasing the economics department of Florida State University.

That is, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has pledged $1.5 million to FSU, to endow two professorships. But it is not a regular endowment, where a person gives a school money and they use the money to hire someone. This is the kind where a person gives a school money and then tells them whom they can and can’t hire based on prospective candidates’ adherence to the donor’s self-serving wealth-worshiping ideology:

November 4, 2011

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