the american aristocracy

There’s a really good article in this month’s Economist on the fact that America is fast becoming a stratified, class-based society in which the most deserving do not necessarily reach the top. I was going to write about it tonight, but then I noticed that my associate over at An Empire Wilderness had already done an admirable job of it. (So, I’d suggest that you follow that link over to his site.) I’ll just add one thing. When I finally announce my 2005 initiatives, lobbying for an increase to the inheritance tax (not “death tax” as the Republicans like to call it) will be right up there with alternative energy, the separation of church and state, and election reform. Whether you like to think so or not, there is not a level playing field in America, and there never will be until people look up from the bread and circuses of American celebrity culture and demand reform… OK, enough preaching, here’s a clip from the article in the Economist:

A growing body of evidence suggests that the
meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.

The past couple of decades have seen a huge increase in inequality in America. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think-tank, argues that between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%. The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%–and that of the top 0.1% or 0.01% grew even faster…

Thirty years ago the average real annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was $1.3m: 39 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is $37.5m: over 1,000 times the pay of the average worker. In 2001 the top 1% of households earned 20% of all income and held 33.4% of all net worth. Not since pre-Depression days has the top 1% taken such a big whack.

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3 Comments

  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted January 4, 2005 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I think exposing aristocracy is a good thing. People should know that there’s an American gentry that doesn’t have to work. It occurs to me that they, the wealthy people in power, must hate the high-profile rich, like Paris Hilton, and the way they broadcast their lives of excess. My suggestion would be to use that, and design a campaign around someone like PH.

  2. Posted January 4, 2005 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Half the art world would be wiped out!

  3. mark
    Posted January 5, 2005 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got some t-shirt ideas in mind, and some involve Paris Hilton. Hopefully, by the end of the moth I’ll have some designs on-line for folks to critique.

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