I watch the budget negotiations in Washington and wonder what planet these guys live on. It sure isn’t this one.
Before I proceed, it might help to point out that the big difference between wealthy nations and Third World nations is the size of their middle classes. Wealthy nations have big ones; Third World nations have a whole lot of poor people and a very few filthy rich people.
I have an unusual question for you.
To get at the question, we’re going to divide the American population into 20% chunks, which is to say fifths, in terms of wealth, top to bottom. So, Upper, Upper Middle, Middle, Lower Middle, and Lower.
Here’s the question itself:
What kind of wealth distribution would be so out there, so over the top, that for the sake of the economy's functioning, for the sake of preventing national unrest, and possibly even in the name of fairness, you’d be willing to say "Let's intervene, even if the government has to help redistribute wealth - this has gone too far" ? Who would have to have so much, who would have to have so little that we're beyond unfair and unworkable and into absurd?
There are some out there who would say: “No such thing. Intervention is wrong by definition.” Really? It would be OK for the top fifth to have 99% of America’s wealth while the other 4/5ths shared 1%? To believe that, you’d have to think of Free Enterprise as a religion and not, incidentally, a religion related to any mainstream Western religion I can think of. That certainly doesn’t reflect Jesus’ attitude toward wealth; quite the contrary. This is the guy who said “It would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Islam mandates a fixed percentage of everyone’s income be donated to charity specifically to avoid differences in wealth producing dire consequences. Charitable giving is a big part of Judaism, and all three major religions have laws about ethical business conduct, charitable giving, and the avoidance of blatant exploitation.
So, “no such thing” may sound good but there probably aren’t too many Americans who believe it literally. The question isn’t whether intervention is by definition inappropriate, the question is how bad things have to get before we say Enough and intervene.
So, back to the question:
What kind of wealth distribution would be unequal enough to warrant intervention?
Consider your answer,
and, after you do, let me tell you where we are now:
The bottom 60% of the population has, collectively, under 5% of the nation's wealth.
Wait, it gets worse. Way, way worse.
The bottom 40% of the population has approximately 0.3% of the nation's wealth.
That's right, 2/5 population = 3/1,000 $.
Now, let's talk about Entitlements. The thing about entitlements is that reductions in entitlements spreads the burden over the population, but not over the money. At this point in our history, the population has nothing to do with the money, and money is the problem. Congress is operating under the myth that population and money are still linked.
In terms of the numbers, the Democrats are too close to Republicans because whatever they suggest even without Republican opposition still wouldn't be enough, but at least it would be a marginal move in the right direction.
No one is looking at these numbers. The argument the Republicans are making is this:
We need to protect the money of the top 40% of the population because
1. They earned it (BULLSH*T - many inherited it and the Government subsidized a great deal of it, basically welfare for the wealthy, but welfare is only welfare when the poor benefit, even though welfare for the rich is more expensive) and
2. They create jobs with it. Also Bullsh*t. Bush gave them a tax cut and they pocketed it instead of creating jobs with it. That's what Jobless Recovery means.
Really. We need to protect over 95% of America's wealth from the threats posed by the greedy 4.3%. That's what the Republican Party has come to.
Forgetting the fairness of this, and keep in mind that the Republicans think this is unfair, BUT IN THE OTHER DIRECTION, as in that the holders of the 4.3% are moochers,
How the Hell can America's businesses stay open when 40% of the population doesn't have any money?
We're looking at markets in China. The undeveloped market is here. What would Americans consume if the whole population were healthy?
Just so you know, I’ve written about these numbers before. The distribution across quintiles (fifths of the population, 20% blocks) is
Upper Middle 11%
Lower Middle 0.2%
Building a Better America - One Wealth Quintile at a Time
By Michael Norton and Dan Arieli.