Author Archive | Boohunney

More Income Inequality…

The median household income has fallen for the 5th year in a row…

Median household income fell for the fifth straight year in 2012, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday, to $51,017. That was the lowest annual income, adjusted for inflation, since 1995.

The typical American family’s income has fallen every year since 2007, the year the Great Recession began, for a cumulative decline of 8.3 percent. Median income is also down 9 percent from its record high of $56,080, set two recessions ago in 1999. (Story continues below depressing chart.)

While median income has fallen, the incomes of top earners have continued to rise, making income inequality worse. The Census Bureau’s measure of inequality, known as the “Gini index,” held steady at 0.477 in 2012, but at the record high set in 2011. A Gini index of 0 means perfect income equality, an index of 1 means one person would get all of the nation’s income. We’re slowly grinding our way towards 1.

What is the aftermath of the Great recession and the (a-hem) “recovery” in America today? Jay Bookman found some statistics, in a study by Emmanuel Saez of UC Berkeley…

— Between 2009 and 2012, the top earning 1 percent of U.S. households collected 95 percent of household income growth. The remaining 99 percent of American households made do by fighting over the leftover 5 percent.

— Overall, income for the top 1 percent grew by 31.4 percent in the last three years. Income for everybody else grew by 0.4 percent.

— During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, incomes for the lowest-earning 99 percent of U.S. households fell by 11.6 percent, “the largest fall on record in any two-year period since the Great Depression.”

— The share of national income going to the top 0.01 percent of households — in 2012, that’s the roughly 16,000 households that earn more than $10.25 million a year — is now higher than it was at its previous historic peak of 1928. As Saez notes, that was “the peak of the stock market bubble in the ‘roaring’ 1920s,” just prior to the Great Depression.

— Forty years ago, the highest-earning 1 percent of households collected roughly 9 percent of national income. Today, those households collect roughly 23 percent of national income. Today, the top-earning 0.01 percent of households collects five times as much of the national income as they did 40 years ago. I know that we’re supposed to believe that today’s 0.01 percent must therefore be working five times as hard as their counterparts did in the 1970s, but forgive me if I don’t buy it.

– For the first time in the near-century for which such data is available, the top 10 percent of U.S. households — those with 2012 incomes of $114,000 and above — now account for more than 50 percent of overall household income. Forty years ago, that top 10 percent earned roughly a third of the national household income, leaving 67 percent to be spread among their fellow Americans. And again, most of that concentration is concentrated even more tightly at the very top.

Once again, the Randian myths that have been fed to Americans for a generation were just fairy tales. American worker productivity is at its highest and the reward that we all were told would come with “doing the right things” is going elsewhere…

This is from 2007 and it has gotten worse…

 

Costa Concordia pulled up right…

After a collision with a reef near Giglio Island, Italy; in January 2012, the luxury cruise ship, Costa Concordia, has been up righted, an engineering miracle

GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy — Engineers declared success on Tuesday as the Costa Concordia cruise ship was pulled completely upright during an unprecedented, 19-hour operation to wrench it from its side where it capsized last year off Tuscany.

According to weather.com meteorologist Alan Raymond, the wenching process was delayed several hours due to choppy seas and frequent lightning strikes, caused by storms over Giglio Island.

The remarkable project now allows for a renewed search for the two bodies that were never recovered from the 32 dead, and for the ship to eventually be towed away.

The Concordia’s submerged side suffered significant damage during the 20 months it bore the weight of the Concordia on the jagged reef, and the daylong operation to right it stressed that flank as well. Exterior balconies were mangled and entire sections looked warped, though officials said the damage probably looks worse than it really is.

Not an easy task

Shortly after 4 a.m., a foghorn wailed on Giglio Island and the head of Italy’s Civil Protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, announced that the ship had reached vertical and that the operation to rotate it — known in nautical terms as parbuckling — was complete.

“We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen,” said Franco Porcellacchia, project manager for the Concordia’s owner, Costa Crociere SpA.

“A perfect operation, I must say” with no environmental spill detected so far, he said…

Parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships. But never before had it been used on such a huge cruise liner.

The ship is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the spring and turned into scrap.

Here’s a neat time lapse of the parbuckling…

The Myth of the Free Market…

Robert Reich...

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong.

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.

In reality, the “free market” is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on….

Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game…

If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn’t be deterred by the myth of the “free market.” We can make the economy work for us, rather than for only a few at the top. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.

 

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