Let’s do something about this

This video seems to be everywhere. It needs to be everywhere.

If you’re wondering about the validity of the numbers cited — if the situation is as massively skewed as the video portrays, then let me assure you the numbers check out. The facts are factual. The video is true.

This viral video is right,” Ezra Klein writes, giving it the Wonk Seal of Approval. “We need to worry about wealth inequality,” Klein says.

Well, yes, we need to “worry” about this. But worry isn’t really a substantial response, and a substantial response is what is needed here.

Just consider all the breath and ink and time wasted fretting over budget deficits and the clumsy, crude responses to deficit-panic, like “sequestration.” Then watch that video again, or look at the graph below. The massive concentration of wealth they illustrate tells you all you need to know about those deficits — that most of the wealth is piling up beyond the reach of taxation. More and more of our allegedly “runaway spending” is flowing to the 1 percent,  while less and less of our revenue is being supplied by the 1 percent.

That’s an unsustainable situation and an unsustainable trend. It calls for a response.

It requires a policy response — steps that citizens must demand and elected officials must implement. It also calls for a moral response — this is something that prophets, preachers and pundits need to be condemning. And it calls for a cultural response — from storytellers, artists, songwriters, jesters and clowns.

We’ll return to this later, but here let’s just make this an open thread to discuss potential responses — “if … then” responses. Consider that video above to be the “whereas” of our resolution. Given what that “whereas” clause tells us, what should be included in the “therefore be it resolved” section of our resolution?

Worry is appropriate but inadequate. What should we try to do about this? What can be done?

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  • I see no reason to worry about rising wealth inequality. The matter of runaway government spending might become important within a few generations. One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”, but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Are you freaking kidding me?

    The wealthiest one percent of Americans is systematically bleeding the rest of us to financial death and your first response is, “Oh don’t let the ebbil gubbermint get involved, cuz that would be RAW-ung”.

    Jesus whept.

  • histrogeek

     Rising income inequality is sustainable. It’s called feudalism and our lords have been busy putting the instruments in place to insure their feudal rule for some time now.

  • other lori

    It is long past time for “worrying” about this. We should have been worried about growing wealth inequality for the last four decades, but we weren’t. Now, I have no idea what we can do. There are so many problems so entangled up with each other that truly radical, systematic changes are needed, but political power is so tied up in the hands of the few who are benefiting from the system that they won’t willingly make those changes. 

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but I think, at this point, things are going to just have to play out. The system is unsustainable, and at some point in the near future, things will collapse, and then we’ll be forced to change. 

  • Morilore

    And what do you think is causing this?  Because it sure looks like a basic feature of capitalism to me, which will always move in this direction unless policies specifically resisting it are enacted with “government force.”

  • DCFem

    Don’t feed the trolls. If you do, they will multiply.

  • I recommend mass rioting. It’s a lot harder to focus on building your personal fortune when your stores are burning to the ground and your customers are being arrested en masse.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Reality called. It’s really tired of the “out of control government spending” bullshit that only seems to matter when the person in the White House doesn’t have an R after their names.

    Especially in light of the fact that government spending and the debt have gone down under Obama, he’s signed several pieces of legislation that are due to lower it even more, and the people crying about the “out of control spending” are hypocritical Fucks who support it with abandon when they’re in charge, but right now are stonewalling everything that’s being tried to implement real fixes simply because they don’t like the scary black man that the country voted for. 

    Also, those of us who don’t like being pissed on by the rich would like you to take your fake concern and shove it up your ass. “Small government” is a lie. Nobody wants small government. They just want the government not doing things they don’t approve of. But, hey. Since you’re sitting comfy and don’t have to worry about stretching your paychecks, screw the rest of us right?

  • As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”. I think a Democratic president with a Republican-controlled Congress is the best possible arrangement for the U.S. government to begin to get its spending in control.

  • stardreamer42

    Heavy taxes on outsourcing jobs and manufacturing overseas. Tax breaks for creating American jobs that are not minimum-wage service-sector positions.  Higher taxes on corporate income which is not reinvested into the company — and by “reinvested”, I don’t mean buying stock, I mean capital improvements. Return to the income-tax structure as it stood at the end of the Reagan administration.

    We’ve had 40 years’ worth of proof that “trickle-down” does no such thing; the money just keeps piling up and up and up at the top. Let’s give them a clear-cut choice: “Either YOU invest your money in America, or WE will.” And the only way to do that is by government intervention, because they don’t recognize anything else.

  • Some parts of the top three million are bleeding net tax-paying Americans (though not to financial death) by means of bailouts, government contracts, and subsidies. 

  • I see no inherent reason for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer in a capitalist society. 

  • P J Evans

     The people with the wealth aren’t the ones with stores that can be burned, they’re the ones with corporations: banks and oil companies, for example.

  • Yeah, turn America into the late 90s/early 2000s DRC or early 90s Somalia. That will work wonders for the economy.

  • Magic_Cracker

    One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”

    Why not? What other institution or organization has the financial ability and legal authority to do it? Should we just call up Robin Hood and ask for some wealth redistribution?

    …but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”

    What is causing it is that a caste of takers (who imagine that they are makers) have captured government and skewed the laws, regulations, and enforcement thereof to favor passive income (carried interest, capital gains) over work income with the concomitant effect of defunding the physical and social infrastructure that allows people to escape poverty or maintain a middle class lifestyle without borrowing money from that same caste of takers.

  • America is a democracy. If it has lords, it’s the majority’s fault for placing them into positions of power. 

  • histrogeek

     No disagreement here. Trouble is when the serfs start to get wise to their plight, the lords insist that their “rights” to bleed their workers white trumps the right of the majority to rule themselves.

  • histrogeek

     That’s the awesome thing about reality, you don’t have to see a reason for it to be true. Maybe there is no supreme abstract reason, BUT every time in the modern era (see 16th century land reforms, 19th century laissez-faire, 1920s trickle down, 1980s to present Reaganomics)  that restrictions are removed from the wealthy, the national wealth goes shooting upwards. Any economic gains in national terms ends up almost exclusively in the hands of the wealthy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What mechanism prevents wealth from moving from the poor to the rich in a capitalist society, or makes sure that wealth moves from the rich to the poor just as freely as vice versa? Because the only things I can think of are called ‘paychecks’ and ‘taxes’, and the rich folk around here have put considerable effort into making sure the net wealth going into those two things is much smaller than the net wealth coming out of their recipients in the forms of loan interest and taxpayer-funded tax breaks and subsidies. So I don’t think they count.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You’re joking, right? On the entirety of your post…Hell, the majority of your posts.

    The government cannot be run like a household budget. There will *always* be some sort of deficit. It might not be as big as it is now, but there will always be one. Further, the deficit really isn’t anywhere near as important as the talking heads of the Right want you to think it is. It’s just a talking point they use to rile the base. 

    A Democrat president with a Republican Congress would just be more of what we have right now: Nothing getting done because a bunch of children are throwing fits that the other side of the aisle won’t let them completely screw the country. 

    And you’ve posted two completely contradictory statements RE the actual topic of the post: In your first comment you said you saw no reason to do anything about it, and further below you said you saw no reason to continue allowing it to happen. Make up your mind.

    And then there’s your statements that basically amount to bloody victim blaming…Remind me again where the magical remote is that forces politicians to vote the way their electors want them to once elected? And while you’re at it, find the one that stops the constant misinformation in the media, so the voting public is actually educated when they vote? Again, the Republicans are a perfect example. They ran on creating jobs, and are still whining about how Obama supposedly has done nothing to get people back to work, and yet what have they done in the states where they’re in power? Abortion bills, forcing Creationism into the classroom and busting unions. None of those creates jobs. In fact, they all actively *hurt* the economy. 

    Please…Just let the adults talk. You clearly have no idea how reality actually works. 

  • Jim Roberts

    Then you are blind. Your question is the opposite of what it should be: what is the inherent reason why wealth should move continuously from the wealthy to the poor, or that the distribution of wealth should remain constant in a capitalist society? There is none, or at least none that is maintained by market forces.

    What reasons are there for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer? Because the richer are better positioned and better able to take more than the poorer, and choose to do so.

  • Carstonio

    No one is proposing that we, say, use the military to seize mansions and private jets. There are plenty of things that government can and should do to halt rising income inequality.

    If you want to look at it pragmatically, halting the trend promotes greater social stability. Oligarchical societies become weak and unstable over time, as everything in the society becomes geared to propping up the tiny wealthy elite. These societies end up sacrificing intellectual life, scientific progress, robust economies, even military strength.

  • Le Sigh…

    Just be careful not to mix up inequalities of wealth with inequalities of income.  The video, at least to me, isn’t really clear on which it is describing as the major problem.  One way to deal with severe wealth inequality is to lower taxes on income, making it easier for people to acquire wealth.  By contrast, higher, progressive  income taxes can help to lower income inequality by redistributing income and by deterring exorbitant salaries.  

    Honestly, the fact that the richest X percent have disproportionate amounts of “wealth” isn’t really that troublesome to me.  It seems like it would have to be true almost by definition (if they didn’t own a larger share of the nations wealth, than how would they be wealthier?).  Even if it wasn’t, whether or not someone has inhereted money and owns more things seems easy to blunt through other laws regulating behavior (like you can’t discriminate when you hire people for the company you own, or you can’t  kick people out of the building you own because you don’t like their politics.)

    Extreme income inequality, on the other hand, does actually seem to strike at the heart of the system, and of fairness. If the top 1% make 50% of the income, then that means they will be vastly disproportionate in shaping how society is ordered and what gets built and made and sold.  It also means that the bottom 99% will have less of a chance to actually accumulate things like tangible wealth or invest in the training and capital they need to increase their income.

  • EllieMurasaki

    if they didn’t own a larger share of the nations wealth, than how would they be wealthier?

    The wealthiest twenty percent of the country would, if they only owned thirty percent of the wealth, still be wealthier than any other twenty percent of the country. That wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that the top ONE percent of the country owns FORTY percent of the wealth.

  • Raise minimum wage and peg it to inflation, of course.

    Impliment a small fee on every stock purchase/sale. Mark Cuban claimed a while back that something as small as a penny would change market dynamics away from a casino ethos towards longer term investment.

    Simplify the tax code so that different amounts of money made get taxed at every increasing rates. So maybe the first 25k is tax free. 25k to 45k gets taxed at 3%. Set the top tax rate as something like 70% on income earned over 10 million. Treat all income – investment, earned, inherited, etc the same. Set a formula to adjust the income thresholds according to changing cost indexes or inflation or something. Then get this formula passed as a constitutional amendment. Take the power to change it away from the politicians.

    Set term limits which can be overridden by obtaining a super-majority of the popular vote. This will increase turn-over, make it less profitable for money interests to invest heavily in sitting politicians and encourage politicians to be more responsive to their constituency. A more responsive, less stagnant political body would probably encourage more people to participate as well. Right now a lot of people don’t care because they rightly believe their vote doesn’t matter and that politicians answer to the people with money – not them.

    Remove the income threshold on Social Security contributions. This would do away with long-term solvency issues.

    Activists could also start a certification program for businesses that want to be certified as practicing policies which fight rather than contribute to inequality. They could set standards for best practices and businesses would open their books for examination for things like the differences between the highest and lowest compensated employees, having decent sick leave and maternity policies in place, etc. Companies that met the standards would be able to advertise their certification. It would be like what we do with coffee, seafood and wood already.

    Reform business taxes so that they pay less for employing people and more for cash kept in reserve above a certain percentage of income.

    Use business taxes rather than property taxes to fund schools. Funding should be set at the state level rather than locally with allowances for different levels of services required by different populations. If parents in wealthy areas want more for their kids, they can organize together to make that happen outside of school rather than creating super schools a few miles away from schools without playgrounds.

    After WWII, the US made a priority of training large numbers of mental health specialists to deal with the exploding mental health problems of veterans. We need to do this again with the goal of providing mental health services to people living in high risk environments. In some urban areas of this country, it is estimated that 40% of residents have PTSD. People with PTSD have a harder time obtaining an education, parenting, keeping a job and all the rest. Obviously, there are economic and structural problems, but healthy people can often find ways to create opportunities for themselves. We need to take people’s mental health issues more seriously.

    Oh – and ban sitting politicians and their families from investing while in office. No stock purchases. No business investments. Their financial world gets frozen while in office.

  • Magic_Cracker

    But requiring my employer to pay me a living wage robs me of my freedom to take a starvation wage instead!

  • Don Gisselbeck

    If the members of predator class work as hard as an average goat farmer, they should make as much. As for “solutions”, microdrones in the hands of an enraged under class will probably make short work of these feudal lords in a decade or so.

  • What difference does it make if it’s income or other forms of wealth? Money is money. If a very small number of people have enough money to buy the government, control the terms of employment for the rest of us and otherwise bend the system to their will, it makes not one bit of difference if they are using income from working, from investments, from inherited wealth or lottery winnings or whatever to do it!

  • Quixote

    Everything Rebecca Trotter said above.  Also:

    1) Break up “too big to fail” corporations.  If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big to allow to live.

    2) Companies that break the law should have their profits from the law-breaking period confiscated.  Take away the incentive to break the law.

    3) Make sure that Federal prosecutors have the resources to accomplish #1 and #2.

    4) Bring back the New Deal (with modern improvements).  There’s a lot of infrastructure that needs fixing/replacing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Something I’d love to see happen as part of a revamped Works Progress Administration: making ALL THE THINGS accessible. Transcripts of video and audio, so that visually-impaired people can consume the videos and hearing-impaired people can consume the audio. Image descriptions, see also visual impairment. Sidewalks that don’t go bumpity such that wheeled conveyances have to go in the street. Sidewalks at all, in some places. Ramps and/or elevators as applicable to allow mobility-impaired people access to places that can only be got to by stairs. List goes on and on and on. I imagine these done by federal funding to state and local governments and to businesses already required to be ADA-compliant, with strings on the money so that it must be used to hire new people to make and keep the institution accessible in all these ways that go beyond the remit of the ADA. (Unless the ADA already requires them and just doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism? If so, what shitbrain wrote that law?)

    And while we’re at it, a public education campaign, including but not limited to how to HTML for maximum accessibility.

  • Ethics Gradient

    Set the capital gains tax rates  to the same as income tax (or even income tax plus payroll tax rates). Make inheritance tax as least as aggressive as the highest rates its had in the past 50 years. NEVER contemplate allowing ‘tax holidays’ for the rich, or corporations, to repatriate money from abroad – these are just temporal loopholes, giving them a year to move around money they’ve been hoarding overseas, and they won’t suddenly start paying tax on it in future years out of the goodness of their hearts. Any time a tax accountant has the chance to plan for an upcoming rule change, they will do so to screw the IRS out of revenue. It’s their job, and they do it for wealthy people.

  • AnonymousSam

    Things like this are one of those really big neon-red glowing signs that this is anything but a Christian nation.

     Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

    Proverbs 22:16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.

  •  One’s knee-jerk response to rising wealth inequality should not be “there should be an intervention with the use of government force!”, but, rather, to question “what is causing this?”

    Fortunately, we know what’s causing rising inequality: a lack of government intervention!

    The top marginal tax rates are at an 80-year low. The capital gains tax rates are less than half the earned income tax rates. The corporate tax rates are similarly lower than individual income tax rates. Income over $113k is not subject to SSI taxes. 

    The IRS budget for enforcement is less than 5% of it’s total operations, and it’s being cut every year; because of legal costs and the ability to delay trials, it’s no longer cost-effective to prosecute tax cheats that are wealthy enough to afford lawyers. 

    The SEC has around 3,000 employees to track over 10,000 publicly traded stocks, and over 200,000 mutual funds. 

    The banking and finance industries were deregulated by the Glass-Segal act, and the Republicans have fought every effort at banking reform or oversight, including repeated attempts to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Meanwhile, every session, Republicans make a push to repeal the Estate Tax even though that tax applies only to inheritances over $1M. 

     The matter of runaway government spending might become important within a few generations. 

    The matter of “runaway government spending” is, in all reality, an issue of runaway health care costs in general. Not just for the government, but for everyone. All of the pre-Obamacare projections for health care costs showed it to be utterly unsustainable. Conversely, once health care reform is implemented and costs controlled, the issue of government spending becomes a non-issue. 

    Meanwhile, the problem with income inequality is that when dis-empowered individuals accept that the structures of government no longer help them but instead work to keep them dis-empowered, you see a clear trend towards lawlessness. Look at Brazil in the 1980’s: the wealthy lived in walled-off fortresses, travelling in convoys with armed security guards because the only routes out of poverty were kidnapping, theft, and other violent crimes. A society that fails to benefit 99% of it’s population is doomed to an ugly, violent collapse. 

  • The_L1985

     We already KNOW what’s causing the inequality, and have for YEARS now.  Corporate greed is causing it.  Corporations systematically BREAK LABOR LAWS, and get away with it.

  • The_L1985

     Why stop at Reagan-era taxes?  I want the income-tax structure to be the way it was in the Eisenhower administration.

    It speaks volumes that the Republicans only want to bring back the aspects of the 50’s that sucked (racism, sexism, homophobia, tactless displays masquerading as Christian piety) and not those that would actually make life better.

  • Lori

    As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”.  

    Shorter  Enopoletus Harding: I know nothing and no one should waste any time on my comments.

  • The_L1985
  • SororAyin

    Are troll related to tribbles?  /treknerd

  • banancat

    We should have a 90 percent federal income tax for anything above 75k that doesn’t come directly from productive labor. Normal salaries could still be taxed at current rates, even for CEOs and the like, but any income that isn’t directly from a job would be subject to this tax, including inheritance, interest on investments, bonuses, etc.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Not tribbles, per se — they’re more like that alien that feds off of phasers in “Skin of Evil.”

  • Beroli


    As long as the U.S. government has a budget deficit, I shall call government spending “out of control”.

    Such a typical right-wing attitude. The Department of Defense can have as much money as it says it needs; every other government department, we can do without.

    I see no inherent reason for wealth to continuously move from the poorer to the richer in a capitalist society.

    And yet we can observe it happening. So your argument is that capitalism is the ideal form of government because it works on paper (at least if you’re doing the calculations; I get different numbers m’self) and reality is unimportant. Looks familiar, somehow.

  • I see no reason to worry about rising wealth inequality.

    Hah! That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all week. Thanks for the laugh. For your next act, can you do “let them eat cake”?

  • I was thinking, but EH isn’t a troll, technically speaking. I think he really believes what he says and has good intentions. He’s just almost unbelievably ignorant and therefore obnoxious.

    Then I thought about the effect of his comment. It has been to draw all attention to him and away from “what do we do next”. So in effect, if not in intent (and we can never truly know the intent of another person), he is a troll, and I apologize for not ignoring him.

  • There are two serious problems with riots: 1) They end up hurting the wrong people. 2) They give the government an excuse to double down on oppression. 

    Mass civil protests are a good idea. Sit-ins. Flooding government offices with petitions. And, more than anything else in this country, getting people to vote at every single election. We need to make voting very very easy for everyone, and we need to make it illegal not to vote. 

  • It requires a policy response — steps that citizens must demand and elected officials must implement. It also calls for a moral response — this is something that prophets, preachers and pundits need to be condemning. And it calls for a cultural response — from storytellers, artists, songwriters, jesters and clowns.

    I thought that Occupy Wall Street was one such response.  And it did succeed in bringing wealth disparity into the public conversation.  Unfortunately, once the protests got eventually kicked out by fed up city officials pressured by moneyed interests uneasy at the extra attention, the issue gradually faded from the public discourse, so that the wealthy interests could focus on what matters to them instead: knocking down any future threats to their continued monopoly on capital.  

  • Edo
  • The_L1985

    The sidewalk thing is a bigger deal than many people realize.  I have lived in many neighborhoods over the years, for people with income levels varying from “low end of the working class” to “pretty darn wealthy,” but until I was 22, I had never lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks, nor did I have any friends who lived in a neighborhood with sidewalks.

  • America is a democracy. If it has lords, it’s the majority’s fault for placing them into positions of power. 

    I agree with you on this point.  It does make me go “What were these voters thinking?” when they elect a “lord” who is going to screw them over. When a person runs on a platform of “Everyone for themselves, no one tells others what to do, and let the chips fall where they may come hell or highwater,” then is anyone surprised that they enact policies that benefit them and their friends at the expense of other people they do not care about?  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait wait what? Who elected the Koch brothers to anything?

  • AnonymousSam

    Self-demonstrating article: http://thinkprogress.org/education/2013/03/08/1691491/kansas-republicans-wants-to-cut-college-aid-for-the-poor-to-pay-for-more-tax-breaks/

    Short form: Kansas governor calls for elimination of college savings plan for poor families to pay for tax cuts to rich families.