31 August 2011

Income Inequality and Who Represents Whom?

"Your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter."
- E.A. Poe, Cask of Amontillado

There is one complicated and diverse idea expressed in two simple words that people should be deeply concerned about and debating at much greater length in this country: income inequality. It is at the heart of nearly every issue the American people face.  The wealthiest 5% have no real stake in job creation; they have no real concerns for someone who has no health insurance.  The wealthiest among us are not even among us.  They meander the halls of the Hermitage and vacation at Necker Island; they hold banquets and fund raisers; they serve as board members and they hold seats in Congress. The newest members of the 112th Congress are among the wealthiest elected in recent years.

In contrast there is you.  You're taking night classes, studying hard, working during the day, raising kids, and hoping that a job will be waiting for you when you graduate with a degree.  You see yourself working hard at that job and advancing in your career.  You may see yourself rising out of the life you currently lead and finding more material wealth - your own home, a new car, health insurance, a never ending expense account, biannual dentist visits.

Unfortunately the likelihood of any of that happening, or of any of us moving up to the east side, is dwindling with each passing year that our elected officials continue to work for the wealthy.  What once was the American dream is quickly becoming a nightmare and the Tea Party ain't helping nobody.  The reason social mobility is becoming less reliable is that more and more of the income (wealth) is being controlled by fewer people. The repercussions and consequences of this bunching up at the top can be felt through increases in a variety of societal problems.

Western Europe exhibits far greater income equality and far greater social mobility.  They are also recovering for the global session far more rapidly than the U.S.

Anyone running for office preaching the greatness of the American society, harping on how anyone can become someone in America, and how all of us our equal, is purporting to believe in a myth.  If you haven't honed your skills of sniffing out a con just remember one simple truth: Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.  The pain in America's arse is that there simply has never been equality in this country and there is nothing like it today.  America is a country run and operating for the benefit of the wealthy. 

All of our domestic policies, foreign policies, and strategic policies are based on the interests of the wealthy.  And there's no end in sight.

As a result of the disparity in income, the populace is less represented.  Additionally, the larger the income inequality, the more other sectors of society suffer.

The most commonly used method of measuring income disparity is the Gini index.  The Gini index measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income in a country.  The higher the number, the greater the level of income disparity.  On this scale the U.S. ranks 39th of 136 countries with a Gini index of 45 (2007).  Sweden has the lowest, 23, while Namibia has the highest, ~70.  America has the highest Gini index of any other OECD country.  Ever heard any effectual or effective discussion on how to best address the income inequality in America by today's politicians?  Likely not, nor is it likely to occur any time soon.  Here's a snapshot of what happened in congress today.

Who represents the wealthy?  Who represents the poor?  Who represents the people?

Republicans are counting on citizens to vote against their own interests and elect Conservatives to ensure that cuts in spending are made.  And they count on some of the wealthiest for donations.  For example, Ron Johnson collected over $25,000 from Koch Industries.  Fundraising personifies who Ron Johnson represents.  Can anyone reasonably think that Sen. Johnson represents the people of Wisconsin?

At a time when people are struggling to find jobs, finding themselves kicked out of their homes, our elected officials are raking in millions of bucks in donations.  But Republicans aren't the only ones reaping the monetary harvest.  Among the 25 wealthiest congress members, 13 are Democrats.

While John Kerry's net worth is around $230 million, he's collected over $9 million in donations, $76,000 alone from Bain Capital, a private equity, venture capital group based in Boston.   Just who the hell are all these people who can donate tens of thousands of dollars to bloody politicians?  It's a freaking sickness, holy shmit.

So, if you're looking for millionaires, don't bother with Monaco or the Caribbean, just go to Washington.  There's hundreds of 'em there and we the people sent 'em there.  Who do you suppose they represent?

The congressional millionaires' club: By the numbers

How rich is Congress? Well, the class of freshmen members is alone worth more than $500 million
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has an estimated personal wealth of $95 million, making him the wealthiest Senate freshman in the 112th Congress.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has an estimated
personal wealth of $95 million, making him the
wealthiest Senate freshman in the 112th Congress.
Photo: Getty SEE ALL 13 PHOTOS
Although this year's House freshmen are sharply divided by ideology, they are united by one striking measure: Many of them are filthy rich. The Center for Responsive Politics found that 60 percent of Senate freshmen and 40 percent of House freshmen were worth $1 million or more. The statistics prove that Congress is populated "overwhelmingly with millionaires and near-millionaires who often own multiple homes," says Dan Eggen at The Washington Post. Here, a look at the numbers behind the congressional millionaires' club:

Number of new House members in the 112th Congress

40 percent
Approximate share of House freshmen who are millionaires
Number of new senators in the 112th Congress

60 percent
Share of Senate freshmen who are millionaires

1 percent
Approximate share of ordinary Americans who are millionaires

$3.96 million
Median estimated wealth of a Senate freshman

Median estimated wealth of a House freshman

Median estimated wealth of an American over the age of 18 (2005)

$533.1 million
The estimated combined worth of the full freshman class of the 112th Congress

$95 million
Estimated personal wealth of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the richest freshman. His wealth comes mainly from his wife's family, whose real estate holdings reportedly include the Empire State Building.

Estimated net worth of the poorest freshman lawmaker, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.). Walsh, who lost his condo to foreclosure in 2009, is the only freshman in the red. He calls this a "badge of honor."

Number of freshmen who own stock in General Electric. Eleven invest in Bank of America, while 9 freshmen each invested in AT&T, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Procter & Gamble.

Between $1 million and $5 million
Amount of money collectively invested in Citibank by freshman lawmakers

Number of millionaires in the last Congress, out of a total of 535 members

Median wealth of all members in the last Congress

$303.5 million
Estimated wealth of the richest member of Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), in 2009

Sources: OpenSecrets.org (2), Washington Post, CNBC, Politico, U.S. Census






Gini index: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html


Social Mobility and Education solutions: http://www.economist.com/node/15911314


Social Mobility myth: http://www.economist.com/node/15908469

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