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A Critical Warning for America
, June 8, 2012
This review is from: The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (Hardcover)
The Price of Inequality is an eloquent analysis of inequality in the United States and what it means for our political system, economy and society. The book does a good job of laying out the facts.
One sentence basically says it all: "The top 1 percent of Americans gained 93 percent of the additional income created in the country in 2010, as compared with 2009." Now think of that in terms of a party with 100 people and big pizza with 100 slices. Basically it means that one rich guy gobbles up 93 slices of pizza. The other 99 get to divvy up the other seven.
Stiglitz does an especially good job of refuting the received wisdom among conservatives: that incomes are in proportion to productive contribution to society. Instead, the book shows that much of our extraordinary income concentration is due to "rent seeking" by the wealthy elite, and that very often this involves taking advantage of taxpayers. We have a system that actively redistributes income and wealth from huge numbers of people at the bottom of the pyramid to a tiny number at the very top.
As the book shows, extreme income inequality is really a kind of cancer that infects almost every aspect of our social, political, economic and even legal system. A tiny elite is able to effectively purchase laws and regulations that work in its favor. For example, bankruptcy laws are designed to favor banks over homeowners and holders of student debt, even though the banks have access to much better information and expertise when making these loans. One idea that occurs throughout the book is that we should have "one person one vote" not "one dollar one vote." and yet the evidence is clear we are moving toward even more influence for those with money.
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