400 Americans earn more than 150’000’000 – Where does that lead?26 January, 2012
The richest 400 U.S. Americans own more than the lower 150’000’000 (yes, that is 150 Million, almost half of the population) put together.
The vast majority of people get less and less despite earning more
It is crazy to see that Warrent Buffett has a lower tax rate than his secretary. It is crazy to see, that Mitt Romney, making $ 14’200’000, pays only 13.9 % tax. Common sense dictates, that a system favouring investment income of a few so much over honestly earned wages of millions does not benefit the vast majority.
The image below shows the growth in income for different income groups. At first sight it looks good: Everybody gets more. It looks worse if one takes inflation into account. The cumulative U.S. inflation between 1979 and 2007 is 196 %. So actually, all income groups except the top 1% can afford much less today than they could in 1979.
It is easy to see for totalitarian states, but how can it happen in a democracy that the economy grows in total and only one percent benefits whilst the others are worse and worse off?The only answer I’ve so far come up with is, that the system in reality is not controlled by the vast majority, but by the few it favours.The rich and influential create a situation in which first and foremost their interests are served.
If democracy (the old Greeks first combined δῆμος [dēmos], „people“, und κρατία [kratía], „rule“) is the society in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that effect their lives, the United states have come a long way from being a democracy in the original meaning of the word. The average John Doe is under represented whilst the Romneys and Murdochs push their agendas through legislation.
Where does it lead?
This crazy situation has to have some effect sometime and the way U.S. American elections are controlled by big money this effect will come from somewhere else but elections. Although being populist, Obama’s recent State of the Union shows, that he is earnest about trying to close this obscene gap a little.
Not for the first time he reaches out towards Republicans to solve the nations pressing problems in order to accomplish “what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” He just does not have the power to fight the interest groups earning big money in the healthcare system, in supplying wars in maximising profit and minimising cost.
What does it have to do with me?
Half way through this post I asked myself why I started writing it in the first place. It’s easy to sit back and watch when you are far away, have proper health insurance and earn more money than you spend.
Yet I want not only a decent life for myself and my family. I also want not having to feel sorry for my neighbour. I want the woman working at the cash register to be able to live in the part of town I live in, want her kids to go to the same school my kids will go to. After all, unlike the Romneys and Murdochs, both of us live off our own work and don’t scrounge off others.
I see that we in Europe have been following the U.S. for a long time and the concentration money in the hands of few is apparent here as there. The BBC’s documentary on the wealth gap gives some insight and background information on the situation on this side of the Atlantic. We are gaining in inequality and the affair around Germany’s President Wulff shows, that politicians and decisions also here are bought.
In Germany we are are still a long way behind the U.S. The ideological wall between the parties is not yet high enough to prevent them from attacking the most pressing issues. We have gotten rid of nuclear power plants and are working on green energy well enough to make the Americans sufficiently jealous to be mentioned in their state of the Union. I am sure that we will get a minimum wage around 8.5 €/h sometime soon. We even pay loads of cash to help people in Greece and elsewhere.
I surely hope the U.S. get their mess sorted out before it’s too late. And next time I complain about our political system, I’ll try to consider that it could be worse
I find it interesting to create groups of countries based on the Gini Coefficient published in the CIA world factbook and see what they have in common.