Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Bill Moyers writes about the conflict between the wealthy few seeking to preserve their privilege, and the balance of society seeking fairness for everybody:

I keep in my files a warning published in [The Economist] a dozen years ago, on the eve of George W. Bush’s second term. The editors concluded back then that, with income inequality in the United States reaching levels not seen since the first Gilded Age and social mobility diminishing, “the United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.”

And mind you, that was before the financial meltdown of 2007–08, before the bailout of Wall Street, before the recession that only widened the gap between the super-rich and everyone else. Ever since then, the great sucking sound we’ve been hearing is wealth heading upwards. The United States now has a level of income inequality unprecedented in our history and so dramatic it’s almost impossible to wrap one’s mind around.

Contrary to what the president said at Rutgers, this is not the way the world works; it’s the way the world is made to work by those with the money and power. The movers and shakers—the big winners—keep repeating the mantra that this inequality was inevitable, the result of the globalization of finance and advances in technology in an increasingly complex world. Those are part of the story, but only part. As G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago, “In every serious doctrine of the destiny of men, there is some trace of the doctrine of the equality of men. But the capitalist really depends on some religion of inequality.”

…The winners bought off the gatekeepers, then gamed the system. And when the fix was in, they turned our economy into a feast for the predators, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors, and taxpayers.” The end result, Hacker and Pierson conclude, is that the United States is looking more and more like the capitalist oligarchies of Brazil, Mexico, and Russia, where most of the wealth is concentrated at the top while the bottom grows larger and larger with everyone in between just barely getting by. 

– Chris Lehmann reviews Brooke Harrington’s Capital Without Borders as a useful look at how “wealth management” serves to sever wealth from social responsibility. But Canadians for Tax Fairness point out some good news in the CRA’s response to the Panama Papers – including audits of 60 individuals and corporations caught in the offshoring scheme.

– Unfortunately, John Ivison suspects that the Libs are gearing up to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership to further the trend toward corporate control.

– Phillip Inman reports on the latest study from Global Justice Now showing that corporations are pushing further up the list of the world’s largest economic entities, leaving an increasing number of countries behind. But there may be some opportunity to direct that news toward positive ends: if we’re going to need some outlet for Canadian national pride, surely staying ahead of Wal-Mart should be a reasonable minimum standard for global relevance.

– Finally, Kendall Worth offers some suggestions as to how to teach students about poverty in order to better understand the lives of people in their communities. Alana Semuels points out how the U.S. in particular has gone in the opposite direction by setting up institutional barriers to any serious economic study of inequality. And Peter Armstrong discusses how traditional economic policy is failing to produce the growth that would normally be expected – with a top-heavy distribution of wealth and power looming as the prime culprit.

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Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading. – Bill Moyers interviews Richard Wolff about inequality – featuring Wolff’s observation that anybody trying to justify inequality as an inevitable byproduct of unregulated markets manages only to make those markets indefensible: Bill Moyers: When you say that there’s no economic argument that people

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