Thursday, August 11, 2011

Luxury, hunger and fury.David Brooks in La Jornada

With UK's aftermath ( and PR work for State authorities) still in progress, a good piece on taxes and wealth in terms of increasing inequalities in the US Added picture, hyperlinks and more content from the same author/ issue.  
Lujo, hambre y furia Articulo en Castellano en La Jornada (Via Telesur)


Soon available in any location.

Luxury, hunger and fury
By David Brooks
From the Mexican newspaper La Jornada
The demand for luxury goods – from $800 shoes and cosmetic creams retailing for $1,300 to Mercedes-Benz cars prized at $200,000 – is enjoying a boom, while nearly 46 million Americans rely more than ever on federal assistance to buy basic foods and avoid hunger. That sums up the United States today.

The luxury goods market has recorded 10 straight months of increased sales, reported The New York Times. Sales figures of Tiffany's, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes Benz, among others, have shown strong increases.

On the other extreme, the federal government reported that nearly 15 percent of the population depends on food aid, that is, 45.8 million people, the highest level ever recorded, 12 percent more than a year ago and 34 percent more than the past two. For a person to deserve federal food assistance (food stamps), his or her income must be over $1,174 thousand per month – more or less what some rich people spend on a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes.
Economic inequality is not hidden. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, indicates that only in the past 10 years, the income of the richest 1 percent rose 18 percent, while that of industrial workers fell 12 percent.
According to an analysis of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the wealth is more concentrated in the richest sector: more than one third of the nation’s wealth is concentrated in that one percent. Twenty percent of households in the middle of the economic scale had only 4 percent of the national wealth in 2007 and lost some of that in the last recession.
In fact, in 2009, the richest one percent of all households had a net worth 225 times that of a typical household, an inequality never before seen.
Meanwhile, the rich pay less in taxes than at any time in the past half century, Barack Obama himself admitted. A new report by the Center for American Progress disclosed that millionaires pay 25 percent less in taxes today than in the mid-1990s, and 1,400 millionaires did not pay a dime in taxes in 2009. Much of this happened thanks to tax cuts instituted by President George W. Bush and extended by Obama.
Popular anger against the “people's representatives” in Washington continues to smolder, according to polls, precisely because the legislators are blamed for policies that benefit the few at the expense of almost everyone else. Eighty-two percent of Americans disapprove of the performance of Congress, the highest level recorded by a CBS News / New York Times survey.
A CNN poll revealed almost the same. More than 4 out of 5 respondents felt that the debate on the debt had to do more with political maneuvering than with seeking the best for the country.
The surveys also show that Washington does exactly the opposite of what the people wish. By more than two to one, Americans say that job creation should be a higher priority than reducing federal spending. About 63 percent favor raising taxes on the rich.
But, beyond berating the leaders, will there be political consequences? Some say that all elected officials will face public anger in 2012. However, others believe that Obama, although he has generated enormous disillusionment among his supporters, will not face serious problems, because of a simple and cynical calculation.
As one Democratic strategist told The Washington Post: “The fact is that the liberals and progressives have nowhere to go” except to vote for Obama and his party. Still, a Democratic pollster told The New York Times that, in the case of Obama, despite criticism from his liberal bases to one or another of his initiatives in the electoral arena, “in the end, they are sure of one thing: they're going to hate the Republican candidates. So, honestly, I'm not worried [if he has] a solid or enthusiastic base.” In other words, the calculation is that the grassroots progressives have no alternatives in the electoral arena.
We need a nonviolent Tahrir Square,” says former Vice President Al Gore. Faced with the agreement to cut billions in spending that was demanded by the Republicans, and faced with the social needs, what's required is a U.S. spring (in reference to the Arab spring) to rescue the country from the right wing, Gore said on his television station, Current TV. But to do that, interviewer Keith Olbermann said, there must first be anger.
I think the public is mad, but also depressed by the lack of leadership and a sense they can win. Popular calls to hold Wall Street accountable have gone nowhere, as Wall Street money keeps politicians in tow and activists tweet each other into distraction. Activists rail at the president online but do little to get in his face and demand another course of action,” wrote veteran journalist Danny Schechter in his column in Reader Supported News.
The image of politicians in the hands of the richest is documented everywhere, with wealthy donors who fund candidates from both parties. In fact, a new report by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that Obama is receiving more from Wall Street for his reelection than he received in 2008.
For some, Obama's economic policies so far are not so different from those of his predecessor, nor the continuation of the two wars launched by Bush, and the failure to hold accountable the financiers and entrepreneurs who led us to this crisis.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Obama is literally dancing to the same music as his predecessor. Mark Knoller of CBS News reported that the Obama campaign is using the song “Only in America,” Brooks and Dunn, in its appearances. George W. Bush used it a lot in his reelection campaign in 2004.

More materials on the issue