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Joseph E. Stiglitz writes: "Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income - an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret."

Tent cities of the homeless, like this one in Sacramento, California, are seeing an increase in population as the economy worsens, more people join the ranks of the unemployed and homes slip into foreclosure. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Tent cities of the homeless, like this one in Sacramento, California, are seeing an increase in population as the economy worsens, more people join the ranks of the unemployed and homes slip into foreclosure. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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+46 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-12 17:32
It amazes me when I hear a Right Wingnut yap about about the unfairness of taxing the rich. "After all they earned their money, why shouldn't they keep it?"

It is not their money. When we determine the wealth of a nation, or a town, or a family, we add up it all up. The aggregate number is that nation's, town's, or family's wealth.

If one person in a family held all the money, that person would be viewed as selfish and cruel to his family. We might even put him (or her) in jail. The harm being caused to the other family members may even result in their death. This is what is happening on a national scale.

This type of personal greed can only lead to either a total economic collapse and chaos in the streets or despotism.

Not the USA I was told I was living in when I went to school.

We can fight back, and we must fight back. Peacefully, I hope.
 
 
+34 # marian houston 2011-04-13 04:14
When the Right decries the notion of taxing the rich -- they seem to forget that those people didn't acquire their money in isolation, by their own labor. They had employees, often hundreds, even thousands of employees, and simply took the vastly greatest part of all those people's earnings for themselves!
 
 
+23 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-13 06:38
And every time the workers produced more widgets per hour their pay stayed the same and the "owners" got paid more.

Even though the workers needed to learn new skills to improve productivity, even though the productivity improvements came from ideas supplied by the workers.

Thats not just unfair, it is criminal.
 
 
+2 # basilissa 2011-04-13 20:59
They also forget that the rich rely on the infrastructure that we all have paid for, and on subsidies and other economic structures that support their acquisition of wealth.
 
 
+26 # Activista 2011-04-12 20:07
Why somebody like Stiglitz is NOT in government. So obvious - personal greed can only lead to either a total economic collapse and chaos in the streets or despotism. After the last year - especially budget debate - we are on the fast track - to the extinttion.
 
 
+20 # rf 2011-04-13 03:42
Not Stiglitz, not Krugman, not Reich. Good old Obama kept all of Georges guys, at the Fed, at the Treasury, everywhere...wi th Dems like this...Who needs republicans!
 
 
+35 # DaveW 2011-04-12 20:28
All houses or "nations" are built upon a foundation. The upper 1% Stigletz speaks of seems not to understand this basic concept. Greed, like many vices, blinds the afflicted to the dangers that are inherent with the disease. The foundation of America is in an inexorable slide which will ultimately result in the "top" crumbling along with rest of us. Marx was correct when he said that "all life boils down to class struggle." Yet in any struggle there are casualties on "both" sides. The ruling elites are beginning to get a taste of that in the Middle East. It will happen here when people's opportunities have vanished. Desperate people do desperate things. The thing I never quite understand is why? There is great power in vast wealth. The power of self-aggrandizm ent or the power to help, to bring joy, to alleviate suffering. Why do so many choose a path that is neither spiritually enriching nor patriotic to the country that has afforded them so much? Does anyone really believe it will EVER be any different? History has an answer and its not the one we need to survive.
 
 
+6 # oakes721 2011-04-13 09:04
Quoting DaveW:
All houses or "nations" are built upon a foundation. The upper 1% Stigletz speaks of seems not to understand this basic concept. Greed, like many vices, blinds the afflicted to the dangers that are inherent with the disease. The foundation of America is in an inexorable slide which will ultimately result in the "top" crumbling along with rest of us. Marx was correct when he said that "all life boils down to class struggle." Yet in any struggle there are casualties on "both" sides. The ruling elites are beginning to get a taste of that in the Middle East. It will happen here when people's opportunities have vanished. Desperate people do desperate things. The thing I never quite understand is why? There is great power in vast wealth. The power of self-aggrandizment or the power to help, to bring joy, to alleviate suffering. Why do so many choose a path that is neither spiritually enriching nor patriotic to the country that has afforded them so much? Does anyone really believe it will EVER be any different? History has an answer and its not the one we need to survive.

It takes no brains to accumulate more than your fair share- it takes no heart. Greed is a disease of those who lack imagination or true abilities, cornering GREAT amounts of wealth and power - only to prove how very small they really are.
 
 
+2 # DaveW 2011-04-13 10:55
oakes721, You are absolutely correct. "Tis not the height or breadth of a man that makes him small. "Tis the measure of compassion he imparts through his ideas." Take Care, Friend.
 
 
+36 # DaveM 2011-04-12 20:50
A wealthy person who has earned his or her money has indeed earned the right to keep it. That said, in a capitalist system, one must produce SOMETHING to make money. Most of the money earned by the super-rich now stems from commissions and fees on securities transactions, banking fees, and various other forms of skimming a bit off the top which produce nothing and in effect are a sort of private tax on anyone who makes a financial transaction.

Compare that the the moguls of the early 20th Century. Henry Ford put the nation on wheels and made sure his workers could afford his cars. Andrew Carnegie mass produced steel which improved the lot of every American--and gave most of his fortune away to libraries, schools, etc. (the Carnegie-Mellon Foundation is still at it). John D. Rockefeller went into oil in a big way....and during his lifetime, saw to it that the price of kerosene dropped 80% while he was in control of Standard Oil. He made enough money to give away more than $550 million, most of that to hospitals and medical research.

Where are the equivalents to that today? How many of the employees of the super-rich can afford to buy the products they sell or make(if indeed they deal in products at all)? One cannot merely circulate money endlessly. It must "trickle up" first and foremost, before it can trickle down. It's not happening.
 
 
+13 # DaveW 2011-04-12 21:24
DaveM, You make cogent points but I'd like to know you're definition of the word "earned." A ballplayer for example might "earn" 100,000 dollars for a single game. A game during which he made two errors, went 0 for 5 and hit into 2 double plays. Did he "earn" that money. He sure as hell didn't "produce" anything. Financial malfeasance is often based upon the premise that someone "might" earn money for the firm, hence its logical to pay him/her enormous sums. If I fail to "produce" on my job I'm history. Why doesn't that apply to everyone? Are expectations worth millions? Your "trickle up" theory is excellent by the way!
 
 
+15 # futhark 2011-04-13 00:23
Reading "Wedgwood, The First Tycoon" reminds me that free-market capitalism was initiated by people who saw it as their first responsibility to improve conditions for people in their communities and their nation. English pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) saw that his workers had adequate housing and started the first system of employer-funded health insurance. Unrestrained economic self-indulgence was not in the character of many of the early English industrialists, most of whom were religious dissenters and free-thinkers, passionately advocating fairness, constitutional rights, and tolerance.
 
 
+5 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-13 06:59
In the early days of capitalism the role model for the tycoons was royalty. A long held tradition, was that a monarch and lesser lords have a responsibility to protect and enhance the lives of their subjects. In fact, the American Constitution is built upon this theory of governance. A president is an enlightened monarch who nonetheless is required to follow the laws of the nation.

What changed was that eventually that some Capitalists began to accumulate more wealth, got sinfully greedy and set out to release themselves from their responsibility role. This was OK as long as government assumed that role.

With Government becoming nothing more than another large corporation, it has released itself from it's role to protect and promote the general welfare.
 
 
+4 # DaveW 2011-04-13 11:08
LiberalLibertar ian, Your basic concept is sound but it must be remembered: George Washington was the "richest" man in the colonies and Alexander Hamilton amongst others were in favor of a President being appointed for life. Had they had their way, and in many respects they created a rather strict hierarchal system, I wonder what the results would have been. Its always been my contention that many of the words used in the Declaration of Independence are "choking" points for those who view Democracy as something that should always be "administered" from the top down. Promoting the "general welfare" seems to consist of looking out for the interest of an increasing wealthy, "sinfully greedy" as you so well put and letting the rest of provide the raw materials for their voracious appetites.
 
 
+2 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-13 18:32
DaveW,

Good point regarding Washington and Hamilton. However, as we know the end result was hardly a for life appointment. It may be that their view was the top down , but I think there was a myriad of views that went into creating the final product. What is critical to understand is that they did recognize that the Constitution would be looked at as a fluid document. Able to be interpreted and modified through time.

That is one reason I try not to use founders intentions as an argument point, but rather look at a concept such as general welfare and apply it to today.

Thanks
 
 
+22 # je proteste 2011-04-12 22:03
A sound argument, put forth well.

However, Dr Stiglitz makes one glaring error: this is government of the 99%, by the 1%, for the 1%. It is we who are governed, while the top 1% are notoriously ungoverned - just the way they want and like it.
 
 
+15 # sabiha1 2011-04-12 22:41
Unbridled acquisition of wealth without social responsibility is not only a trademark of USA but other copycat countries like Pakistan where immoral governments are supported and encouraged in corruption and malpractices. The rich become richer, the poor become destitute. the middle class vanishes. I agree with the writer 100%.
 
 
+16 # Ralph Averill 2011-04-12 23:40
One wonders, since Vanity Fair is delivered to the homes and offices of many of the 1% of which Stiglitz speaks, what some reactions might be to the essay. It would be nice, though unlikely, if whatever part of the news media remaining that is not controlled by Rupert Murdoch would run the essay. One would also hope that the White House might use some of Stigletz excellent talking points to further its avowed claim of seeking real tax reform.
To sleep, perchance to dream.
 
 
+6 # common sense 2011-04-12 23:50
While on the subject of "money", which- I think we can all agree- is both grossly unfair and out of alignment with modern, civilized, western practices these days... why not also give some serious consideration to WHAT exactly "money" is, and WHO controls its quantity within a society. Are these people accountable; should they be?

I don't think its in our own "properly understood" self-interest to ASSUME that simply adjusting a couple variables within the current tax rate equation is the best way forward.
 
 
+4 # Capt. Doug Olsson 2011-04-13 00:06
Lopsided wealth distribution in the USA
 
 
+4 # Anagnorisis 2011-04-13 00:27
A well articulated article, this likely exposes the perplexing nature of Barack Obama's flip-flop from professed ideology to diffidence, viz. he probably saw beyond his Constitutional law professorial stance to the reality of how government works in accord with the legendary top 1%. Since a physical revolution is no longer possible here, the resolve will come in economic collapse and infrastructural breakdown, already in motion.
 
 
+5 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-04-13 00:34
Thank you so much for such an educating, overview, looksee article.

As far as anything whatsoever being a 'godsend' to the villainaire rulers, I instead consider all of their perferential, loophole, shelter, no enforcement of regs., etc. 'royal' treatment as coming from the evil depths of hell. Greed and power addiction, in my head and heart, ain't godsent now, nor has it ever been throughout our human and only at times humane history.

This past weekend, at the national conference of Media Matters, I observed smart folks from across the nation who have taken off the blinders re. this greed and power takeover and loss of democracy. Determination was rampant at the conference to somehow keep basic rights (i.e. free press, etc.) somehow alive, in order to assist all citizens in seeing and understanding all the evil that has happened and is now our enslavement by the wealthiest m.o..

All at the conference shared my sentiment...VIL LAINAIRES - GO TO HELL!!!
 
 
+9 # LegacyCost 2011-04-13 04:22
The idea of "trickle up" wealth is exactly what happened as our nation rose in the late 19th through the late 20th century. A broad middle class has since been decimated by the financial chicanery that led to our recent precipitous collapse. If we don't find a way to start "percolating" our economic activity from the bottom up, I fear America is headed for the type of social upheaval that Dr Stiglitz predicts. So much potential squandered.
 
 
+4 # rabbit 2011-04-13 04:31
I don't see why the lives of the super-rich are really bound up with the rest of us at all. Do most of them really identify with any particular nation-state? Why should they? They have houses, vacation spots, and investments all over the globe. If there's to be chaos in the streets of American cities, well, tough--labor costs less elsewhere anyway, and the one remaining function of the state (policing and incarceration) will take care of the problem.
 
 
+8 # BradFromSalem 2011-04-13 07:07
They are stealing OUR wealth.

We do the work and they get a raise.

We buy a house, they get a cut.

They send OUR jobs to China and get a tax kickback of OUR money.

We lose our homes because we have no jobs. They get a cut of the loss.

They are thiefs, in many cases they are good people, but the laws allw them to steal. From US.

That's why
 
 
+8 # bluescat48 2011-04-13 04:54
DaveM says "Compare that the the moguls of the early 20th Century. Henry Ford put the nation on wheels and made sure his workers could afford his cars. Andrew Carnegie mass produced steel which improved the lot of every American--and gave most of his fortune away to libraries, schools, etc. (the Carnegie-Mellon Foundation is still at it). John D. Rockefeller went into oil in a big way....and during his lifetime, saw to it that the price of kerosene dropped 80% while he was in control of Standard Oil. He made enough money to give away more than $550 million, most of that to hospitals and medical research.

Where are the equivalents to that today? How many of the employees of the super-rich can afford to buy the products they sell or make (if indeed they deal in products at all)? One cannot merely circulate money endlessly. It must "trickle up" first and foremost, before it can trickle down. It's not happening."


Evidently Ford, Carnegie & Rockefeller realized that no matter how much they had they couldn't take it with them, whereas today the super rich lack the insight that the earlier moguls did.
 
 
+2 # Gary Pierson 2011-04-13 05:01
Maybe, this is one reason why were in the shape were in with the right running the joint...".."Usi ng data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex--a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety. were in the shape were in with the right running the joint..." Some one understands and the other one is just a freak.. Cpl. Pierson 101st Airborne,Vietna m and I'm tired of signing off with that. I own my own business and Vietnam was 40 years ago, even though I still have souvenirs and some metal they call medals. I'm a Son of the American Revolution. Pvt. Shadrack Pierson 1st Virgina and his triplet brothers, the first to survive birth in America. Aindigo and Measahck Pearson. Meashack went on to be one of Wsahingtons Guards... Shadracks grandson John Monet went on to become one of Lincolns guards too. And Monet Missouri was named after him. Shadrack was literate, his brothers weren't,thus the misspelled Pierson/ Pearson Triplet Society, Google us.. The right is full of spooks!
 
 
+7 # in deo veritas 2011-04-13 05:44
THis is the best explanation I have seen of what is wrong with this country. It should be read and understood by everyone if we are to get out of this mess. It will NEVER be seen in the regular news media since they are controlled by the 1%. Needless to say, those in Congress are, as stated, in the 1% and will do nothing to imperil their ill-gotten gains. If any of the Wall Street thieves ever read or followed Andrew Carnegie's book "The Gospel of Wealth" this debacle could have been averted. The bottom line is that they can't live forever and they can't take their plunder with them when they face judgment for their misdeeds. No lawyer will be able to save them.
 
 
+5 # Activista 2011-04-13 07:47
Hope that this virus from Tunisia gets here soon - and at this point I do not care IF it will be peaceful or not - as timely.
Millionaires in Congress will not solve anything.
 
 
+5 # Activista 2011-04-13 09:50
JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday was the first big bank to report first-quarter results. Net income jumped 67 percent to $5.56 billion, or $1.28 per share. Analysts expected just $1.15 in earnings per share.
HChase CEO Jamie Dimon gets massive $16M pay package -

Hope that Jamie gets more next year - his economy is improving. Trump for president and we have this dictator/fascis t scenario.
 
 
+10 # A. Zide 2011-04-13 09:53
We are rapidly becoming a third world country ... where the middle class is minimal and the powerful, 'connected' run everything for their own benefit.
The corporations have a single motivating impetus --- PROFIT (regardless of the harm it does to 99% of the country and the country itself.)
They do NOT create many jobs (they ship them overseas for a pittance); they do not pay taxes and set up fake 'subsidiaries' in low tax countries like Ireland and Bermuda in order to EVADE US taxes, and spend their money on high=-priced lawyers and lobbyists to avoid having to pay taxes like the 99% they continue to exploit.
WE ARE NO LONGER A DEMOCRACY ... WE HAVE SUBSTANDARD HEALTH CARE (37TH!! IN THE WORLD) and instead of innovation, exploration,and progress we are regressing to a state of smug inertia and cynicism.
WHY do we undercut our security by continuing to use oil and gas? (instead of erecting wind farms off islands on each coast, and on the vast windswept plains of the midwest?? instead of using already developed geo-thermal energy (as does Iceland) in earthquake/ volcano zones? in developing solar roof panels on cars, homes, office bldgs., schools????
The shills in congress for big oil and gas BLOCK all genuine progress, because their campaign funds come from lobbyists for such unpatriotic corporations.
 
 
+1 # Gary Pierson 2011-04-13 10:55
When Roman was just beginning it's empire building, they had slaves that shared rooms in the same house as the wealthy at one time. As Rome grew and the rulers got more cruel along with completely nuts with wealth and power. They made massive stadiums for the enjoyment of the people.. They made hall ways in between their rooms for the "servants' to walk so they didn't have to see them all the time. Separate quarters for the "servants" too. Then Rome fell apart, slowly.. Mass gap between wealth and power of the people. Did it... Any one want some cake? But I don't see any similarities do you? garyray
 
 
+4 # btraven 2011-04-13 12:46
Education: Stiglitz is a graduate of Horace Mann school in Gary, Indiana. At the time he went there it had the finest school system in the country. the Supt. was W. Wirt and the system was called "work, Study, play". Stiglitz is a Nobel winner because govt. payed for good public education I also attended that school but was sent to an orphan home because of a death. I fought in WW II and the early education at H.M. and the govt financed got me a grad degree from the U. of Chicago (like Stiglitz) At 86 I am grateful to big govt. for my life and for Stiglitz. Time to dump Obama & the Democrats and try something progressive. It will be hard but worth it.
 
 
+6 # walworth 2011-04-13 15:09
Progressives need to create some bargining chips of their own, They could start with: "TAXING the CHURCH". See if that doesn't get everybodies attention. Like the "insurance" industry, the CHURCH produces no product but tie up huge amounts of money. Taxing church income and assets would be a start towards getting our finances in order. You need to throw some red meat on the table if you want to "bargin" with these rightwing boneheads.
 
 
+2 # common sense 2011-04-13 23:35
I Quoting walworth:
Progressives need to create some bargining chips of their own, They could start with: "TAXING the CHURCH". See if that doesn't get everybodies attention. Like the "insurance" industry, the CHURCH produces no product but tie up huge amounts of money. Taxing church income and assets would be a start towards getting our finances in order. You need to throw some red meat on the table if you want to "bargin" with these rightwing boneheads.


I 2nd that. It is 'the mother of all hiding places'.
 
 
+2 # wfalco 2011-04-14 05:44
It seems what we have in this country is not just a problem of greed, but confusion. Many (too many) in the lower and middle classes fall in line with the policies that benefit only that top 1%- because they are confused. They are confused about who those people at the top actually are. The average folks have been bamboozled into believing those at the upper end somehow "earned it" through complete ambitious drive and hard work. These traits are perceived as highly commendable by the Average Joe who worships the Trumps of the world.
It always come back to the whole "message thing." The right wing has manipulated the argument to such a degree that most average Americans do not even understand what they are up against.
 
 
+1 # William Burgess Leav 2011-04-15 19:04
I have known a number of multi-multi millionaires. Not one of them started from scratch; they all inherited their first several million. Those who inherited a large family business keep many people employed, but those who inherited stock or income-producin g property have employed few people or none. One of them spent time in jail for tax evasion, although he had a guaranteed annual income of $230k when he was born, and two separate inheritances of several million before he was 40. These are not bad people, they are simply, for the most part, not contributing to society in proportion as society has contributed to them. This sort of income inequality must end either through legislation or through violence. If we have a repeat of 1789, 1917 and 1949, I'd bet on the extermination of the plutocracy down to the last child. Most of these folks claim to be religious; what part of "you cannot serve God and Mammon" don't they understand?
 
 
+3 # socrates2 2011-04-16 12:24
Capitalism died with WW2. What we have now is a corporate welfare cronyism. Or, neo-feudalism. Our "betters" run the show (I can't bring myself to call our nation a republic any more). Hellinger and Judd said as much in their well-documented classic, "The Democratic Facade."
 
 
0 # peter holtz 2011-04-20 17:50
1. Taxation is simple to say and simple to repeat as a mantra, but is the solution for what? What are we going to do with tax dollars? Fight more wars, create larger defense spending contracts, throw more good $$ after bad $$ at inept social welfare programs? Is taxation solely for the redistribution of wealth in a punitive sense to take the rich down or is there another motivation? Lots of talk, few constructive solutions.
 

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