Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Price of Inequality

This article, adapted from The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do, by Eduardo Porter, explains that wider communications, bigger companies, and deregulation are creating a pay structure where fewer and fewer people are taking more and more of the money, leaving the vast majority with no hope of sharing the benefits. This is a natural process. Wealth concentrates until the only people who can buy anything don’t need to, and the economy collapses. Both that article and this one point out that, in Frank Rich's words, "America can’t move forward until we once again believe . . . that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland." Bob Herbert points out that in the recession of 2008 to the present, many unemployed people have lost that hope. As Paul Krugman says in The Conscience of a Liberal 2007 (p. 18), “Middle-class societies don’t emerge automatically as an economy matures, they have to be created through political action.” The political actions we need are progressive taxation, regulation to prevent abuse of economic power, public education, and a social safety net. And we should focus not on Gross Domestic Product, which harmfully accrues disproportionately to the wealthy, but on the average income of the poorest half or poorest 35% of the people, as recommended by Muhammad Yunus, "banker to the poor" and Grameen Bank founder.

Too, corporate executive pay often is more plunder than compensation.

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