Thursday, January 29, 2015

More Good News for the One Percent!

In the wake of the recent disclosure that the Koch brothers will be spending close to a billion dollars to elect GOPers across the country in 2016, the New York Times shared some additional positive news for the one percent. Namely, that they are still garnering the vast majority of the benefits of a growing economy. According to data from Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, their share of total income (excluding capital gains) for 2013 is 17.1 percent. That is a level of inequality not seen since the Gilded Age a hundred years ago. Digging a little deeper into the numbers, we find that average income for the richest one percent has risen from $871,100 in 2009 to $968,000 in 2013. By contrast, the average for the remaining 99 percent has fallen from $44,000 to $43,900. This has been a consistent trend since the 1970s, though it has accelerated dramatically since the Bush tax cuts of 2001 (see the chart below).

This growing inequality occurs not as the economy is squeezed, as many believe, but as productivity and profits continue to rise. In fact, profits hit a record peak in 2013 and are expected to continue that trend when 2014 final numbers become available. And productivity has been steadily rising as well, as seen in the chart from EPI below. What has happened instead of the spreading of economic benefits across the working public, as happened during the Golden Era of Economic Growth from 1948 to 1973, is a money grab by the one percent that appears to be continuing unabated by the popular sentiment of addressing the issue. Why? Maybe because unlimited money being poured into elections and a corporate media that seems intent on ignoring the bigger issues, the endless misrepresentations and lies of the candidates and supporting the status quo have the tendency to undermine the will of the people. And at the epicenter of this new corporate-government complex is the Koch brothers and their seemingly bottomless pit of money.

Speaking of those infamous brothers, one of their great triumphs in recent years was somehow keeping the very unpopular Scott Walker from losing a recall election, before backing him in a successful reelection this year. Walker has consistently backed a right-wing agenda to cut government services, corporate and state taxes and, maybe most famously, take collective bargaining power away from Wisconsin public employees who are unionized (taking calls from the Koch brothers and considering sending in troublemakers to break up the pro-union demonstrations in 2011). His record on the economy is rather suspect as well, as his job growth has lagged far below the national average, even as his campaign ads offered up some false claims (including that he turned job loss into job growth, when job growth was already happening when he took office and hasn’t improved under his radar), and the future prospects for the state languish in 49th. His latest move? A $300 million cut to the renowned University of Wisconsin system. This is a cut of 13.1 percent of the overall budget for the 26 schools, offset only by his rather empty promise increased autonomy for the campuses. The reality is the increased autonomy will simply force these campuses to increase tuition to students, essentially shifting the burden of higher education from taxpayers to parents and students themselves. This is a perfect example of the radical agenda the Koch brothers are pushing across the country, with increasing success since the 2010 Citizens United decision. They are policies that benefit corporations and the wealthy while undermining democracy, energy efficiency, equality and freedom. And in case you didn’t hear … they want Walker to run for president.

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