Posted by Fredsvenn on March 17, 2016
Economic inequality (also known as the gap between rich and poor, income inequality, wealth disparity, or wealth and income differences) consists of disparities in the distribution of wealth (accumulated assets) and income.
The term typically refers to inequality among individuals and groups within a society, but can also refer to inequality among countries. The issue of economic inequality is related to the ideas of equity: equality of outcome and equality of opportunity.
Income inequality in the United States has increased significantly since the 1970s after several decades of stability, meaning the share of the nation’s income received by higher income households has increased. This trend is evident with income measured both before taxes (market income) as well as after taxes and transfer payments.
Income inequality has fluctuated considerably since measurements began around 1915, moving in an arc between peaks in the 1920s and 2000s, with a 30-year period of relatively lower inequality between 1950–1980.
Measured for all households, US income inequality is comparable to other developed countries before taxes and transfers, but is among the highest after taxes and transfers, meaning the US shifts relatively less income from higher income households to lower income households. Measured for working-age households, market income inequality is comparatively high (rather than moderate) and the level of redistribution is moderate (not low).
These comparisons indicate Americans shift from reliance on market income to reliance on income transfers later in life and less than households in other developed countries do.
The US ranks around the 30th percentile in income inequality globally, meaning 70% of countries have a more equal income distribution. US federal tax and transfer policies are progressive and therefore reduce income inequality measured after taxes and transfers. Tax and transfer policies together reduced income inequality slightly more in 2011 than in 1979.
The top 1% have a larger share of total income than at any time since 1928. The richest 20 Americans, with a combined net worth of $732billion, are as wealthy as half of the US population. Among the 20 wealthiest Americans are eight founders of corporations, nine heirs, two investors and a casino mogul. The list includes Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and four Waltons who are heirs of Wal-Mart.
The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite. So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.
Some contemporary authors have characterized current conditions in the United States as oligarchic in nature. Simon Johnson wrote that “the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent,” a structure which he delineated as being the “most advanced” in the world. Jeffrey A. Winters wrote that “oligarchy and democracy operate within a single system, and American politics is a daily display of their interplay.”
Bernie Sanders, opined in a 2010 The Nation article that an “upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class … In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.”
In 1998, Bob Herbert of the The New York Times referred to modern American plutocrats as “The Donor Class” (list of top donors) and defined the class, for the first time, as “a tiny group – just one-quarter of 1 percent of the population – and it is not representative of the rest of the nation. But its money buys plenty of access.” French economist Thomas Piketty states in his 2013 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that “the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.”
A study conducted by political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton University, and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, was released in April 2014, which stated that their “analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” It also suggested that “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise.”
Gilens and Page do not characterize the US as an “oligarchy” per se; however, they do apply the concept of “civil oligarchy” as used by Jeffrey Winters with respect to the US. Winters has posited a comparative theory of “oligarchy” in which the wealthiest citizens – even in a “civil oligarchy” like the United States – dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.
Gilens says that average citizens only get what they want if economic elites or interest groups also want it; that is, economic elites and interest groups are influential. Other studies have questioned the Page and Gilens study. In a 2015 interview, former President Jimmy Carter stated that the United States is now “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery,” due to the Citizens United ruling, which effectively removed limits on donations to political candidates.
September 11, 2001 served as pretext to consolidate power, destroy civil liberties and human rights, and wage permanent wars against invented enemies for global dominance over world markets, resources, and cheap labor – at the expense of democratic freedoms and social justice.
The military–industrial complex (MIC) is an informal alliance between a nation’s military and the defense industry which supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure. In 2011, the United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined.
In a US context, the trope is sometimes extended to military–industrial–congressional complex (MICC), adding the US Congress to form a three-sided relationship termed an iron triangle. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry; or more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as corporations and institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, the Congress and executive branch.
A similar thesis was originally expressed by Daniel Guérin, in his 1936 book Fascism and Big Business, about the fascist government support to heavy industry. It can be defined as, “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs.”
An exhibit of the trend was made in Franz Leopold Neumann’s book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state.
Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the idea that prevented a nuclear confrontation between the US and the USSR during the cold war whereby each side recognized a nuclear first strike was inconceivable as it would bring an immediate retaliatory strike assuring its own annihilation, may be dead with the US developing a “Full Spectrum Dominance” capability i.e. complete dominance in the seas, air, space and cyberspace where it could launch a first strike missile attack while preventing a retaliatory strike before it could be launched on the US and Europe.
Joint Vision 2020 was a document released on May 30, 2000 signed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), Army Gen. Henry Shelton. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is, by US law, the highest-ranking military officer in the US Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
The Joint Vision 2020 proclaimed the need for Full Spectrum Dominance, also known as full-spectrum superiority, which indicates a military entity’s achievement of control over all dimensions of the battlespace, effectively possessing an overwhelming diversity of resources in such areas as terrestrial, aerial, maritime, subterranean, extraterrestrial, psychological, and bio- or cyber-technological warfare on the battlefield. The concept have subsequently formed the basis of US military doctrine.
The mission of the US military today and tomorrow is to fight and win the nation’s wars. How DoD goes about doing this is 2020’s focus. Full spectrum dominance includes the physical battlespace; air, surface and sub-surface as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and information space. Control implies that freedom of opposition force assets to exploit the battlespace is wholly constrained.
Joint Vision 2020 is a blueprint. While many of its facets could come true, not all will. Changes in the world or changes in America may render some points moot. Joint Vision 2020 carries on some of the recommendations to transform the US military from Joint Vision 2010. Other portions of 2010 are gone or changed.
But if the future of America promises Endless War, be rest assured that this is no different than her past. A year-by-year timeline of America’s wars reveals that the US has been at war during 214 out of her 235 years of existence. In other words, there were only 21 years in which the US did not wage any wars. No US president truly qualifies as a peacetime president. Instead, all US presidents can technically be considered “war presidents”.
At the same time, the US was born out of ethnic cleansing, a violent process that had started long before 1776 and would not be complete until 1900. In other words, more than half of America’s existence (about 53%) has been marked by the active process of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population, which was ultimately all but destroyed.
The objects of American aggression have certainly changed with time, but the primary motivating factor behind US wars of aggression have always been the same: expansion of US hegemony. The Muslim world is being bombed, invaded, and occupied by the US not because of radical Islam or any inherent flaw in themselves. Rather, it is being so attacked because it is in the path of the American juggernaut, which is always in need of war.
Our future depends much on who will be the next president of the US. Will it be a real change in the direction of economical equality, social justice and democracy, or just another “war president”?