Universal Translator

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Passed Along Without Comment

When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it's tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement -- we started out way behind the pack, but now we're doing inequality on a world-class level.  And it looks as if we'll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing.  Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth.  During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s - a scandal whose dimensions, by today's standards, seem almost quaint - the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence.  "I certainly hope so," he replied.  The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending.  The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment.  Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.  By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.  When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift -- through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price -- it should not come as a cause of wonder.  It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy.  Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
--Joseph E. Stiglitz
Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%
Vanity Fair

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