Wealth Inequality: Building a New Economy for the 100 Percent
This summary on the origins of wealth inequality in the United States clearly answers the foggy question: what can we do about it?
“99 to 1” by Chuck Collins is a common-sense guide for bringing about a society that works for everyone: the 100 percent. This is a struggle that can be won. After all, the odds are 99 to 1 in our favor.
Cover Courtesy Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Over the past thirty years, we’ve seen a radical redistribution of wealth sent upward to a tiny fraction of the population — the 1 percent. The primary concern in 99 to 1 (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012) by activist Chuck Collins is to break down how extreme wealth inequality manifested in the United States, the damage it causes to individuals, business and the earth, and what the 99 percent means in the real world. Dissect wealth inequality and our dissolving quality of life in the following excerpt taken from chapter 1, “Coming Apart at the Middle.”
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
—Plutarch (c. 46–120 CE)
For more than three decades, the United States has undertaken a dangerous social experiment: How much inequality can a democratic self-governing society handle? How far can we stretch the gap between the super-rich 1 percent and everyone else before something snaps?
We have pulled apart. Over a relatively short period of time, since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a massive share of global income and wealth has funneled upward into the bank accounts of the richest 1 percent—and, within that group, the richest one-tenth of 1 percent.
This has been not just a U.S. trend but a global tendency, as the wealthiest 1 percent of the planet’s citizens delinked from the rest of humanity in terms of wealth, opportunity, life expectancy, and quality of life.
The New Grand Canyon: Extreme Wealth Inequality
There has always been economic inequality in the world and within the United States, even during what is called the “shared prosperity” decades after World War II, 1947 to 1977. But since the late 1970s, we’ve entered into a period of extreme inequality, a dizzying reordering of society.
This radical upward redistribution of wealth was not a weather event but a human-created disaster.
Segments of the organized 1 percent lobbied politicians and pressed for changes in the rules in the political area, rules governing such areas as trade, taxes, workers, and corporations. In a nutshell: (1) the rules of the economy have been changed to benefit asset owners at the expense of wage earners, and (2) these rule changes have benefited global corporations at the expense of local businesses. There has been a triumph of capital and a betrayal of work.
The story of the last three decades is that working hard and earning wages didn’t move you ahead. “Real income”—excluding inflation—has remained stagnant or fallen since the late 1970s. Meanwhile, income from wealth (such as investments, property, and stocks) has taken off on a rocket launcher. Today, the dirty secret about how to get very wealthy in this economy is to start with wealth.
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