Month: January 2014

Inequality For All

A documentary I watched recently is entitled “Inequality For All“.  It was narrated by Robert Reich, now Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.  The film discusses the subject of income inequality.  I recommend you see it, and check out the many books on the subject.  Income inequality is a defining problem, if not the defining problem, of my generation. Barack Obama says so and he is correct, but he is not going to solve this one alone.

I also recently watched the “Wolf of Wall Street”, which got me thinking.  Many people have criticized “Wolf” for promoting or condoning Jordan Belfort’s (the protagonist’s) behavior.  On the contrary, the movie was satirical, and in summary, we get to laugh at Jordan’s pathetic life as it falls apart, and, enjoy considering him a gigantic a$$hole in the process (I use dollar signs purposely here).  However, should we blame the likes of the Jordan Belfort types, or the US government for deregulating markets so much that we eventually suffered the Great Recession?

Corporate profits have increased exponentially while employee salaries have more or less remained flat over time, or may actually be decreasing.  So the income differential between the 1% and 99% is actually accelerating.  One reason we’re staying afloat, according to Robert Reich and others I’m sure, is because women have entered and remained in the workforce, artificially keeping families afloat (eg, in the 1950s, one man could support a middle class family of four).

In effect, the disappearance of the middle class as we know it will actually lead to stalling of economic growth – since the 99% (as we’re so lovingly called) will no longer be able to spend dollars and stimulate the economy.  My thinking is that countries like China and India, since they have shown a great deal of economic growth in the past 10 or so years, may have helped keep the world economy afloat for awhile (economies running on cheap energy).  But if the middle class disappears all over the place, there won’t be any more dollars injected into the economy and whammo!  The capitalist system as we know it implodes.  Maybe it won’t happen yet, but once we run out of cheap oil, oh boy, watch out!

It’s why we’re screwed…eventually!

Stuff to check out:

The Economist — Inequality: Growing Apart

Robert Reich’s Site