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5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid analysis of how the 1% got to be that way, and how the 99% can fight back, March 27, 2012
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This review is from: 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It (Kindle Edition)
Leave it to a scrappy little San Francisco publishing house to be first out of the gate with a primer on the central lesson to be learned from the Occupy Wall Street movement: that the disparity in wealth (not income) between the 99% and the 1% is the most significant economic fact about the U.S. today. Most books spring from the minds of authors, who in turn seek out publishers, but Berrett-Koehler has a long history of identifying themes and issues that cry out for analysis -- and then finding the authors to take them on. In Chuck Collins, one of the nation's leading scholars and activists on the topic of wealth inequality, Berrett-Koehler struck paydirt.

In 99 to 1, Collins lucidly spotlights the terrible price we all pay for the massive imbalance in wealth between today's haves and have-nots. He surveys U.S. economic history, drawing a parallel between the Gilded Age of the 1890s through the 1920s and the current era, beginning in the late 1970s -- both of them periods when the disparity of wealth grew to unprecedented proportions. Collins explains the political dynamics that gave rise to today's wealth disparity, identifying those responsible as the "rule-riggers" among the 1%, chiefly the leaders of Wall Street-based financial institutions and of the transnational corporations they finance as well as a small number of the individuals who are benefiting the most from the current economic regime.

"In a nutshell," Collins writes, "(1) the rules of the economy have been changed to benefit asset owners at the expense of wage earners, and (2) these rule changes have benefited global corporations at the expense of local businesses."

As Collins explains, the 1% today includes individuals with net worth of $5 million or more -- a total of roughly 3 million individuals or 1.5 million households. Obviously, this large number of people aren't co-conspirators in a historic scheme to plunder the U.S. economy. However, a small percentage of the 1% does actively participate in an ongoing effort to shift wealth from the poor and middle class to the coffers of those who are already rich.

These "rule-riggers," most of whom can be found among the top one-tenth of 1%, use every advantage at their disposal: their direct access to legislators; the thousands of lobbyists their companies maintain on Capitol Hill and in statehouses throughout the country; their personal and corporate philanthropy; and their positions in society as "opinion leaders." The result of their three decades of effort has been to weaken labor unions; undermine government regulations ensuring public health, job safety, and environmental quality; seizing control of both major political parties; and disproportionately benefiting not just the 1% as a whole but the very richest among them. As Collins notes, "between 1979 and 2007, the top one-tenth of 1 percent realized 36 percent of the total [gain realized by the top 1 percent]. The 1 percent saw their incomes go up 224 percent over these years, while the richest one-tenth of 1 percent saw theirs rise by 360 percent."

Tragically, the growing disparity in wealth is neither new nor just an American phenomenon. More than 2,000 years ago, Plato (yes, that Plato) wrote that "the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth." And Collins cites a UN study finding that "the richest 1 percent of the world's adult population, individuals worth at least $514,512, owned 39.9 percent of the world's household wealth. This is greater than the wealth of the world's poorest 95 percent, those adults worth under $150,145, who together hold just 29.4 percent of the world's wealth." Not to speak of the billions of people who don't have a pot to piss in, let alone $150,000!

Collins devotes considerable attention to identifying the steps that need to be taken to reverse the direction of the pendulum. He is careful to point out that any movement to do so will find a great many allies within the 1 percent. Collins cites polling results that "over 65 percent of people in the 1 percent agree with the concerns of the 99 percent and believe they should pay more taxes." However, an effort to reverse the present course will require a fundamental shift in society's values over many decades. Collins enumerates the clashing values between those at the top of the wealth pyramid and most of the rest of us and lays out a policy agenda based on a "seven-generation perspective -- the belief that our actions should be considered in light of their impact seven generations into the future."

99 to 1 should be required reading for every public official, every activist, and every citizen who wants to understand what really makes society tick and how its malfunctioning economic systems can be repaired.

(From <...>)
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 2, 2012 4:06:20 PM PDT
Anthony Rohl says:
Wealth can't be taxed, only income and as the Kennedy dynasty has shown, even those taxes can be avoided. I was born the monthe before Roosevelt was elected to his first term. Although most of the population was suffering, including mine, no one questioned Rosevelts wealth. Times have changed and not for the better.

Posted on Apr 2, 2012 4:13:46 PM PDT
Anthony Rohl says:
May I point out that without wealth disparity there is no incentive to improve ones financial situation. I once visited East Germany before the wall came down. The prevailing attitude was that since there was no incentive, apathy prevailed. Under communism, the great class equalizer, the communists pary bosses had access to food and materials that non-communists were denied.In East Germany they were called "luxury communists".

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012 4:44:07 PM PDT
Mal Warwick says:
Wealth can and should be taxed through the estate tax. Sadly, Right-Wing politicians have heeded the call of several families of billionaires (including the Mars and Koch families) to attack and weaken the estate tax. Only with a more robust estate tax can our society avoid the accumulation of hereditary fortunes of the sort that led to the American Revolution.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012 4:46:54 PM PDT
Mal Warwick says:
It is absurd to compare today's grossly distorted gap between rich and poor to the economy of what was without question the worst of the European Communist states. No one I know advocates eliminatingdisparities in wealth. What is needed is a new regime of tax policy and government investment to LESSEN the disparities in our country.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2014 10:08:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2014 10:09:46 PM PDT
CNY girl says:
There is already apathy and dispair...poverty beats people down, voting in good faith for people who are blatantly lying to you and who never live up to their "promises" creates more apathy and with all the spying on innocent citizens we are well on our way to the Facism that was East Germany. There is no incentive to work hard...everyone is working like dogs just to keep their head above water. Wake up...your brain must be sotted with "Tea" (Koch Bros. Tea), my friend!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2014 6:21:31 AM PDT
Mal Warwick says:
I've noticed. There certainly is a great deal of apathy and despair in America. But these feelings are the largely the result of the disparities in wealth and income in our society, not of broken promises by politicians and overzealousness by the NSA. Those disparities are the ultimate reason that so many millions of people are working two jobs just to keep their heads above water.
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