Skyrocketing CEO pay has been much in the news for some time. Sky-high paychecks are identified as one of the principal causes of the explosion in inequality over the past 40 years.
It wasn't until the Reagan tax cuts that we stopped investing in those important elements that made US the superpower, and a middle class with the highest standard of living in the developed world.
In essence, charity helps people who need help -- period. They are not -- and should never be -- the branding and marketing machine behind a celeb-du-jour, they should not be the playground on which the wealthy can hang out with the popular.
I am not exaggerating. The GOP voted to eliminate the estate tax. But the estate tax only applies to estates larger than $5.4 million for an individual and $10.9 million for couples. Eliminating the estate tax would benefit only 5,500 families in America (.02 percent of the population).
You never hear the reformocons talk about arithmetic in their speeches. They talk about inequality and upward mobility and the American middle class. They talk about all sorts of expensive new plans, and they never mention that there's a catch.
Based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and a way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name. The evidence of this is all around us, and yet it's as if we can't bear to take it in or make sense of it.
Policy makers must find ways to stop inequality's march. Failure to do so will cause wealth to become more concentrated in the hands of a few, lowering the standard of living for everyone else, creating a reversal of the shared prosperity that characterized much of the 20th century.
Undoubtedly timed to the opening of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, a new report by Oxfam says the richest 1 percent of people in the world will have a majority of the wealth on the planet next year. The report is a perfect preamble to the Davos meeting.
Looking forward to Tuesday's State of the Union address, we are seeing a somewhat bolder Barack Obama. The White House has already pre-announced or leaked several "fourth-quarter initiatives," in the president's words. Some of these can be accomplished by executive order; most will require legislation. The measures that can be achieved by presidential order include reducing the down-payment or interest on federally insured mortgages to stimulate home ownership. Among the measures requiring legislation is a tax plan that would increase taxes on the wealthiest in order to finance the tuition help for community college students and more generous child tax credits for working families. Obama also wants an excise tax on large banks and he is calling on Congress to pass a law giving all workers seven days of annual sick leave. All this amounts to a salutary whiff of class warfare, of the sort that identifies the president with most Americans, against the one percent. And there will probably be a few more surprises in the actual address that have not yet been leaked.
No one is arguing for complete equality of income. Not even close. We celebrate the success of the One Percent, and rightly so. All we ask, especially in this time of giving, is for the compassion, the humility, the shared experience that existed only a few decades ago.
The Democratic Party, as a political institution, has for all intents and purposes sold out working people, the poor struggling to improve their lot and the middle class.
Only a generation ago, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania had a steel mill employing tens of thousands of people at good wages. The typical casino worker today in Bethlehem makes $10-12 an hour. Many are part-time.
Here's the bottom line. The Tea Party Republicans and their Big Business and Wall Street allies plan to grab what they want while ordinary people sleep through this election.
The rich always vote for themselves. They go for their self-interest, their tax breaks, their liability escapes (think Wall Street). Meanwhile, they've relentlessly instructed the non-rich that they too must vote for the rich.
Speaking just like an American Republican, the Communist Chinese-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said last week that if the state granted democratic rights to its poor and working class, they could dominate elections and choose leaders who would meet their needs.
You are all potential terrorists and will be treated as such. Here's half a Diet Coke as a reward for being compliant.