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The “Piketty Effect,” or the 1% can be harmful to your health

11:14 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

 

Collage – David Seaton

Anybody who reads the newspaper will be aware that, in the United States, the “one per cent” is taking an ever-larger slice of the economic pie. But did you know that the share of the top income percentile is bigger than it was in South Africa in the nineteen-sixties and about the same as it is in Colombia, another deeply divided society, today? In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world. Thomas Piketty – quoted in The New Yorker

I don’t want some rich person’s mansion or bank account. I just don’t want to pay for them with our schools and roads and postal service. Marym in IL- Firedoglake

While mulling over the huge impact of Thomas Piketty’s book,”Capital in the Twenty-First Century“, I got this nagging feeling that I had been here before, that this was so familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was…

Then it came to me… This is like when it was statistically proven that smoking causes cancer, and then a shockingly cancer ravaged, near death, much loved, proverbial chain smoker, John Wayne, showed up on that Oscar night in 1979… Only this time, in the case of the side-effects of inequality, the sequence has been reversed: first we are ravished, then near death and then we get the explanatory statistics.

However, I find the similarities striking: an enormous “public-relations” industry, including (massively) Hollywood, devoted over decades to convincing millions of men, women and children that something useless, expensive and totally harmful, was not only not harmful, it was “cool.”

Finally the statistical evidence combined with the sight of iconic personalities wasted by the smoking habit has brought about a sea change in public opinion, which has caused millions of people to give up the habit or never start smoking in the first place and forced the passage of stringent legislation, bucking the efforts of big tobacco, one of America’s most powerful lobbies.

Today, far from being seen as cool, smokers are forced to huddle pitifully outdoors in the dead of winter, to get their “fix”.

Statistical evidence combined with raw emotion caused this massive change in public opinion.

Does this mean that thanks to the ravages of the financial crisis and the findings of professor Piketty we are going to see pitiful, former billionaires huddling on America’s sidewalks anytime soon?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.

What we are going to see, I think, is an enormous, tectonic conflict between the sea change of Piketty empowered public opinion and the enormous power of the one-percent to corrupt the political process, which will dwarf anything that the tobacco lobby could ever even have dreamt of.

Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com

Notes on the new populism

8:07 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Classic left wing parties are missing the boat today, almost to the point of irrelevance, because the traditional “working class”, which was their power base, has been largely fragmented and is now practically powerless as the enormous “reserve army of labor” that globalization provides means that the worker´s principal weapon, withdrawing their labor, is no longer effective, increasingly even in skilled or jobs requiring higher education: if an American legal assistant is expensive, get an Indian lawyer in India to do the paperwork at a tenth the price per hour. But this has a certain “death spiral” effect.

The “killer contradiction” today is that while workers are no long needed more and more consumers are. Globalization has also brought on overproduction, a glut of consumer goods flood the markets.

How are unemployed or underemployed formerly middle class people, brought up on the idea of their right, even duty to consume, consume? Credit? Been there, done that.

So the real “revolutionary protagonist” today is the enormous, but increasingly declassé and naturally resentful middle class that was created before globalization. Some sort of populism, “us against the one-percent” is the only possible progressive game in town now.

The challenge is to keep this populism international, progressive and not nationalistic-racist, reactionary etc.

That is why Thomas Piketty´s work, “Capital in the Twentyfirst-Century” is a great help, especially among statistic loving Americans, in building objective political consciousness in the middle class for this struggle, which is really just beginning.