Tuesday, March 27, 2012
This blog began its life, and acquired its name, after the onset of the financial crisis of 2008, and that gloomy backdrop has since periodically waxed and waned. However, according to an article in this morning’s New York Times, based on a careful analysis of federal tax return data for 2010, 93 percent of the growth in income generated in the United States—$288 billion—went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in annual income, delivering to each household so defined an average single-year increase of 11.6 percent. However, a staggering 37 percent of that same income growth went to the top 0.01 percent, a hundredth portion of that uppermost 1 percent, in other words a mere handful of about 15,000 households that enjoy, one might better say feast upon, engorge themselves with, an average income of $23.8 million, which constitutes a rise of 21.5 percent. Let us assume that this is the constituency to which a pair of what Christian Louboutin dares to describe as “simple pumps” that cost $4,645 is currently marketed. Meanwhile, the bottom 99 percent, in other words the rest of us, received an average $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. And, of course, if you descend far enough, you will come to that sizeable eschelon below which the incomes (such as they are) of the poorest Americans drained inexorably away due to the impact of continuing and widespread unemployment. These figures are simply shameful, and point to the astonishing inequity that appears to be built into the current “recovery,” and an enormous failure of nerve among our leaders, legislators, and policy-makers. For, so long as we refrain from visiting real pain upon the super-rich, the better to improve the lot of ordinary working people, the battlers and the strugglers down to the truly desperate, or merely decline to adjust upwards by even a single percentage point the uppermost rate of federal income tax—while at the same time being sure to close loopholes and make sure that the colossally wealthy actually pay—the more likely it is that the pain will be visited upon them anyway, and to an unpredictable degree, by those masses for whom this state of affairs is as unacceptable and insulting as the suffering will eventually be unendurable. We would be foolish to believe that our society enjoys the protection or the guarantee of as much civil order as ministers of the ancien régime depended upon 250 years ago; indeed I would wager that the actual distance between the richest and the poorest then was a good deal shorter than it is in the United States of America today. What, then, is to be done, and why should the center hold unless something really substantial is done?