Thursday, September 12, 2013

Consolidating Their Gains

Bill Keller, writing an op-ed in The New York Times, believes Americans who want greater attention paid to domestic problems than to external (alleged) threats are dangerous to the national security, akin to the forces which urged the U.S.A. to stay out of the war on the continent circa 1940. He contends

Isolationism is not just an aversion to war, which is an altogether healthy instinct. It is a broader reluctance to engage, to assert responsibility, to commit. Isolationism tends to be pessimistic (we will get it wrong, we will make it worse) and amoral (it is none of our business unless it threatens us directly) and inward-looking (foreign aid is a waste of money better spent at home).

“We are not the world’s policeman, nor its judge and jury,” proclaimed Representative Alan Grayson, a progressive Florida Democrat, reciting favorite isolationist excuses for doing nothing. “Our own needs in America are great, and they come first.”

Steve M. is having none of that, and comments

But what's the contemptuous term for politicians who don't do anything to solve the domestic problems that concern real Americans? 

You can't blame three-quarters of Americans for feeling that domestic difficulties are getting short shrift from the political establishment right now -- the economic downturn never seems to end on Main Street, even if Wall Street is thriving. But a majority of Americans felt that domestic problems were getting short shrift even in 2005, when we were allegedly living through good economic times. Except they weren't good economic times for most people -- incomes for ordinary Americans remained flat, and if you weren't borrowing from home equity or a line of credit, you were probably running faster and faster just to stay in place.

And the political establishment didn't seem to care -- then or now.

What do we call politicians who give short shrift to ordinary Americans' real needs? If they want to retreat from the world, we condemn them as "isolationists." What do we say when they want to retreat from Main Street America, treating Americans' problems as something they shouldn't get involved with? 

Why don't we have an insulting term for that?

Perhaps we can call such people "1% truthers."  The Associated Press reports

The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it's been since the Roaring '20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country's household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

One of them, Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January. In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

The richest Americans were hit hard by the financial crisis. Their incomes fell more than 36 percent in the Great Recession of 2007-09 as stock prices plummeted. Incomes for the bottom 99 percent fell just 11.6 percent, according to the analysis.

But since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits and stock prices: 95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.

That compares with a 45 percent share for the top 1 percent in the economic expansion of the 1990s and a 65 percent share from the expansion that followed the 2001 recession.

The top 1 percent of American households had pretax income above $394,000 last year. The top 10 percent had income exceeding $114,000.

It's the same old story, one which began 35-36 years ago because the share of the wealth held by the 1% has been on the increase since it bottomed out in 1973.   And it will continue to get worse unless the Democratic Party, the one less possessed by corporate interests, stops nominating people like this.

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