(This welcoming page was initially posted in March of 2011. It was updated in early 2014 to reflect our recent concentration on the economics of wealth and income distribution.)
Go here for a chronological list of all posts addressing the economics of America’s most fundamental problem: the continuing and accelerating growth of income and wealth inequality, the decline of the “middle class” and the entire bottom 99%, and inequality’s causes and solutions. These posts describe and develop the essential features of the dynamic causes and effects of income and wealth redistribution in a modern market economy, with a primry focus on the U.S. economy.
Our Executive Summary on economics (April, 2011) contains an early look at our views on the American economy. These views have expanded considerably, are now more refined, and are accounting in more detail for changes in the field of economics that have taken place over the last two centuries. The essential features of America’s economic problems have not changed, but our intent has been to expand on the failure of the economics profession to comprehend how market economies really work.
Our discussions of other topics are listed on the Contents Topics page. We have left the following introduction unchanged from when it was first posted in March of 2011.
When we started this project after the Tucson tragedy, we were determined to chronicle America’s past, identifying and discussing major problems, and hoping to help America find ways to work its way out of the current crisis. By then, we were already gravely concerned about the results of the mid-term elections and a rapidly deteriorating situation.
Our plans to conduct a relatively leisurely series of fact-based discussions and debates quickly gave way, with the facts we are discovering and the current events that are unfolding, to a sense of urgency. We now intend to provide a broad, fact-based information and analysis service. We want to join others who are encouraging all Americans to get involved and stay involved in the political process. Our primary focus for now will be on detailing the stunning economic and social facts and analysis that explain how we arrived at this crisis situation, and what can be done to turn things around.
Most Americans are probably unaware of how dangerous the current situation is for everyone but the very wealthy. Large corporations and very wealthy people mostly have it their way in Washington, and through control of the media they are able to shape public opinion in ways that serve their interests. We will show how they are hurting the American middle class and all Americans in the economic bottom 99% , and explain why major concepts in their self-serving ideology and propaganda are wrong.
Today the middle class is shrinking, unemployment hovers around 10%, housing foreclosures and bankruptcy rates remain extremely high, and adequate health care and education are falling more and more out of the reach of middle class Americans. The middle class is in decline, and poverty is on the rise. In September of 2010, CBS News Reported that one in seven Americans (43.6 million people) were living in poverty, up 8 million from August of 2004. In sharp contrast, the rich have been steadily getting richer, and the top 1% holds the majority of America’s wealth. This is nearly the same inequality in wealth distribution that existed in 1928, just before the beginning of the Great Depression. Within the top 1%, a small group of multi-billionaires has achieved astronomical wealth, and they are now working to expand their control of federal, state, and local governments. Their agenda amounts to an all-out attack on what is left of a dwindling middle class. This grew out of disastrous policies started 30 years ago in the “Reagan Revolution,” but it is not what Reagan wanted.
The Last Two Years
After the Bush Administration ended with an economic collapse into the Great Recession and a massive Wall Street bailout, we could only share America’s guarded hopefulness that the newly elected President Obama could turn things around. His administration appeared to stem the tide of economic collapse, stemming job losses and avoiding a deeper recession or depression. Despite his party’s majorities in both houses of Congress, however, Obama was unable to achieve any real Wall Street reform or even produce much health care reform.
Chillingly, Congressional Republicans had become the party of “no,” openly opposing the President’s recovery efforts with filibuster after filibuster and revealing a political strategy of blaming him for the failure of those efforts. We would have expected everyone in Congress to want and to work for economic recovery, but we were sadly disappointed.
When in January 2010 the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v FEC that corporations had constitutionally protected speech permitting them to spend as much as they desired in election campaigns, a whole new level of concern set in. Sure enough, in the November elections corporations and billionaires spent millions of dollars, often anonymously, in support of Republican and tea-party candidates. Consequently, voters provided the party of “no” and its new tea-party allies with a House majority and gains in the Senate, insuring that Obama would not be able to advance his recovery and jobs creation agenda in the next two years.
Exit polls revealed that voters were mainly concerned about economic recovery and jobs. Many had been persuaded that Obama’s policies were failing and that the new members of Congress they voted for would do a better job of accomplishing his goals. The voters had been seriously misled: the radical right has no intention of accomplishing these goals.
Instead, the radical right immediately pursued its agenda of advancing the interests of America’s most wealthy people, in opposition to those of all other Americans. Currently (March of 2011) the radical right seeks to slash spending for federal programs that benefit ordinary Americans by some $60 billion, including funding for low-income housing, early childhood, Low Income Home Energy Assistance grants, community health centers, and other services for the poor, asserting a politically false and economically impossible “goal” of thereby eliminating deficit spending and reducing the growing federal debt.
These cuts would be counterproductive, serving only to eliminate 700,000 to a million more jobs, worsening the economy and increasing the deficit. Closing the deficit, however, is not the radical right’s real concern. They served notice in December of their indifference to budget deficits and the federal debt when they forced renewal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Too many people in the middle class and below, we believe, are not yet sufficiently aware of the dramatically increased consolidation of wealth and income within the top 1% of Americans over the past 30 years, and this group’s steadily increasing control of government and the media. Nor, we suspect, do they yet realize how significantly that consolidation of wealth has hurt them economically. We were not aware when we started studying these issues of how incredibly serious the economic situation had become, but we believe we have identified and explained the major economic consequences of the last thirty years of the “Reagan Revolution,” and they are stunning. Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, among others, have convincingly argued that the radical right is leading America into another depression, destroying the prosperity and freedom of everyone in the economic bottom 99%. We too believe that a serious depression is imminent, but can be avoided if America changes course now. But there is no margin remaining for political error.
Today a minority group of right-wing radicals within the wealthiest top 1%, which as noted has been given the right to buy elections, seeks to advance a very radical political agenda of privatization and corporate control of government. This threat has emerged suddenly this year in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, where democracy and democratic self-government are now themselves under direct attack.
This site is dedicated to demonstrating the true gravity of the current situation. Within the various categories on this site you will find analyses and findings presented in bite-sized chunks, and we will be continuously adding more details and facts.
You will find this Welcome note both as a page and as a post. A Summary post, also posted on the menu bar as a page, summarizes our major conceptual conclusions. We have also prepared an Economic Summary which contains our stunning conclusions about the effect of the “Reagan Revolution” on the economy over the past 30 years, cross-linked to the relevant posts.
We provide a Resources category listing recommended reading, action groups, and information sources. Finally, we will develop a Recommendations category where we intend to post suggestions and discussions (our own and from others) about what the bottom 99% can do to turn things around.
Our most important purpose right now is to encourage everyone to get involved and stay involved until our lives, our democracy, and our American way of life are safe from the corporate attack. We urge everyone to organize, join political action groups, learn about what is happening in America, learn the truth and broadcast it far and wide, as we are trying to do. We can’t do this alone.
The Future Is at Stake
We especially encourage young people, the so-called “lost generation” that is finding it progressively harder to get a good education as funding and programs evaporate from elementary school all the way up to graduate school. You are fully aware of what is happening to you: Most students like you are finding it increasingly difficult to get higher education without incurring huge debts it may take a lifetime to repay, and even to find jobs once they have their degrees. Increasingly, only the very rich can afford high quality education.
We graduated from high school fifty years ago, and you can take it from us: It hasn’t always been this way. What is happening today to education in America is outrageous. Among the most important freedoms in America are your freedoms to get a quality education, to provide economic security for yourselves and your families, and to find fulfillment in life. Now you must work hard to preserve those freedoms. You all are the keys to regaining your freedoms and making sure that you will have a real future, so please get started.
Here is a recent tape of a political action by Coffee Party USA that took place at Wesleyan University, to which all young people can (and should) relate.
The huge push-back in Wisconsin against the overt attack on public-sector workers and their unions shows that once they became aware of the sinister hidden agenda of the tea-bagger plutocrats, Wisconsin citizens reacted immediately and decisively. Here is a video of a Wisconsin farmer explaining how Scott Walker’s tax-cuts-for-corporations and spending-cuts-for-people agenda will devastate Wisconsin communities.
All Americans in the bottom 99% must continue to support the people of Wisconsin as they struggle for justice and attempt to recall legislators and a governor that won election on false pretenses. It’s not just about unions, and it’s not just about Wisconsin. What happens in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida – anywhere in America – affects us all.
There is no doubt that the American people can defeat the power of the radical right, their wealthy patrons and their corporations, once they are aware of the truth and are galvanized into action. Many progressive organizations and unions are fighting these suddenly very extreme attacks, and they are gaining in strength.
To be sure, the right-wing media has the ability to cause many people to act against their own interests. But these people are in the minority, and we all have the power to ignore the radical media and disregard their propaganda and their distortions. If we remain calm and confident, through hard work we can win this class struggle. It is up to us.
As Michael Moore pointed out recently in Madison, Wisconsin, the 400 wealthiest people in America have as much wealth as the entire lowest half of the population, 155 million people! But we all need to remember and stay focused on this: They don’t have anywhere near as many votes. It’s the top 1% against the bottom 99%, so make democracy work and take back your country.
Please send our link to everyone you can. And bookmark it for our updates! Constructive comments, questions, and information are welcome.
(We invite you next to read our Summary page, where we outline our major conceptual conclusions so far, and our Economic Summary. Mike’s initial post, The American Bad Dream, reflects on the major developments that have affected his views and concerns over the past 50 years.)
ARC, JMH – 3/16/11