Rich Getting Richer

Lisbon        The end of 2007 saw even more recognition of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

    The poorest 20% of Americans (the bottom quintile) got a bit richer in the years 2003-2005, according to recently released figures by the Congressional Budget Office.  In fact, the poorest have a good deal of dough and were worth $383.4 Billion in 2005.  All of these figures are based on tax returns, as well as social security benefits, welfare, food stamps, some of the value of Medicare and other benefits adding up to “comprehensive income.”  The increase in income for the poorest 20% was a about $200.00 per household or 1.3%.  

    Of course the increase in income during the same period of the richest 1% at the top of the heap alone dwarfed the total income of the entire bottom fifth.  The rich increased their take by $524.8 Billion (+141.4 Billion!).  The 1.1 Million households at the top raked in $1.8 Trillion or 18.1% of the total income of all Americans.  (Keep in mind that we discussed just the other day that there are over 303,000,000+ so this top 1% is only a shade more than 3M people distributed across these 1+ million households.)  In 2003 the same folks only had 14.3% of the income for all Americans so they had a sweeeettttt two years in the kind of sun you will never see on your scrawny butt!

    The rich just get there first and fastest.  The little 1.3% bump at the bottom is a 42.5% leap at the top 1%.  The 2nd quintile went up 10.1%, the middle did 4.3% increase, and the forth quintile did 2.7%.  Pretty much the further you were from the bottom, the faster you moved up the income ladder!

    The Budget Office also let us all know that not only did the rich make more, but thanks to the largesse of the Bush Administration and the Congress, they also paid less taxes.  That’s fair, huh?

    No wonder that low and middle income Americans feel like they are working harder and simply not getting ahead, but running in place on the rat maze.  They feel that way because that’s the way it is.

    Just keeping it real!

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End Notes 2007

Lisbon        We are pushing this year to a close in fine fashion and full fury.  The vote count in Kenya is proceeding somewhat calmly in a tight contest, we are watching closely for its impact on organizing.  We are shocked by the situation in Pakistan and the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto in the middle of her comeback campaign.  But there are also some things that catch the mind’s eye and stick fingers in there that are hard to move.
    
    Here’s one in the Times that speculates that the unintended (intended!) consequence of Harvard’s 10% of income tuition cap at $18,000 per year may squeeze out lower income student aid:

    Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at the             University of Rochester, where costs are nearly $45,000, said: “Harvard has made it harder for everybody. They’ve given fuel to the argument that colleges are charging more than they should.”

    No, duh!

    From another article in the Times about the burdens being taken on by states to try and deal with health insurance gaps, the statistics jump off the page:

    The essential problem, meanwhile, continues to worsen. The Census Bureau reported that the number of uninsured grew to 47 million in 2006, a one-year increase of 2.2 million. The share of United States residents who had employer-based coverage dropped to 60 percent from 64 percent in 2000, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And though the rate of growth has slowed, the cost of employer-sponsored premiums still rose by 6.1 percent in 2007, more than double the inflation rate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    The math means that 1 of every 6 Americans is uninsured.  The increases mean something in dollars and sense as well.  Our own plan is looking at a 7-8% hike in costs.  There’s no containment and no real plan in place that impacts any of this yet.  

    A piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the eve of the public housing destruction debacle noted in passing recently that the tent city in the park in front of City Hall since Katrina has finally been struck:

    Advocates announced Friday that they relocated 249 of New Orleans’ homeless encamped in Duncan Plaza, steps from City Hall, into apartments and temporary hotel rooms over the past month…

    For those at home keeping score that would be 28 months after Katrina that it took public resources and private agencies to find housing for those leftover and left out.

    But of course while the private agencies were celebrating this effort and the announcement of a big grant from Louisiana’s Road Home monies and more expected from the federales, one week later a tragic story runs about the first murder in the French Quarter in 2007:

    “…30 years old, was arrested in the 1200 block of Kerlerec Street on Friday night and booked in the beating death of a 25-year-old Vacherie woman. Police say they were able to quickly connect Davis to the crime in part because of the large homeless population in Woldenberg Park.

    Frequent visitors to New Orleans will recognize the fact that Woldenberg Park runs along the Mississippi River for half of the length of the French Quarter from its head at Canal Street to its foot near Jackson Square and Jax Brewery.  These homeless were only in the French Quarter rather than in front of City Hall, so les bon tempes roulez.

    In a setback for not only unions but free speech period the Bush anti-labor board issued a pretzel ruling that Steve Greenhouse reported on in the Times in a tongue twisted couple of sentences:

    In many past cases, the labor board had ruled that employers engaged in illegal anti-union discriminations if they barred workers from engaging in union-related speech on bulletin boards or telephones when they allowed workers to communicate on bulletin boards or telephones about other matters.

    In its new ruling, the board’s majority wrote that employers can allow workers to use e-mail for personal communications while barring them from organizational-related communications. The board majority redefined the meaning of discrimination and wrote that the seventh circuit’s approach “better reflects the principle that discrimination means the unequal treatment of equals.”

    Let me see…your job and your treatment on that job might be personal, but not getting together with other workers to do something about any problem on the job, right?  And, if “discrimination means the unequal treatment of equals,” if the majority of the board of the NLRB just flat out hate unions, that is not discriminatory or restricting free speech because there is no unequal treatment because there is nothing lower than unions.  Do I have this right now?

    I could go on like this forever….

NY Times caption: William G. Durden, president of Dickinson College, said it did not have the money to match aid from Harvard, which has announced it will discount costs for all but the wealthiest students.
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