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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent

When I wrote; Defending our class interests: Class war--What is to be done? I spelled out a lot of the problems I saw, which I referred to as “For many of us it is clear that our elected leaders, with or without President Barack Obama’s help, plan to wage a relentless war on poor people and the working poor. They seem to believe it is OK to raise taxes on the working poor, cut all their safety nets, even unemployment insurance. While the rich 1 percent are touted as the great “job creators who will save us all,” the poor and working poor will continue to be single out as enemies of the middle class.”

At times I have referred to the political changes in this country as a political and economic coup by the ruling classes, to grab all they can at the expense of everyone else. I have been told through other’s comments that these changes represent a “twilight of the American Bourgeoisie.” Now even the mainstream press has pundits who are starting to feel the same thing is happening, even if they put it in different terms and different perspectives, as we would on the left.

A few high-lights from the article; an actual reference to Karl Marx’s prediction that capitalism can’t sustain itself indefinitely;

“That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place….”

The following passage seems to mirror my latest analysis of the Charles and David Koch brothers, The Wichita Eagle honors the Koch Brother robber barons of Kansas;

“Even as the winner-take-all economy has enriched those at the very top, their tax burden has lightened. Tolerance for high executive compensation has increased, even as the legal powers of unions have been weakened and an intellectual case against them has been relentlessly advanced by plutocrat-financed think tanks. In the 1950s, the marginal income tax rate for those at the top of the distribution soared above 90 percent, a figure that today makes even Democrats flinch. Meanwhile, of the 400 richest taxpayers in 2009, 6 paid no federal income tax at all, and 27 paid 10 percent or less. None paid more than 35 percent…..”

And from the same article;

“Now, as then, the titans are seeking an even greater political voice to match their economic power. Now, as then, the inevitable danger is that they will confuse their own self-interest with the common good…."

Does this mean these people at the top actually believe the shit they espouse? Well, self delusion has always been a part of bad political ideas and decisions.

Then there is the destruction of our public education which the author has included in her analysis;

“Educational attainment, which created the American middle class, is no longer rising. The super-elite lavishes unlimited resources on its children, while public schools are starved of funding. This is the new Serrata. An elite education is increasingly available only to those already at the top. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enrolled their daughters in an exclusive private school; I’ve done the same with mine....”

This is something I plan to focus on, in some future articles.

-សតិវ អតុ

From The New York Times;


Published: October 13, 2012

IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.

The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

For the entire article click here.


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