Posted in the Brattleboro Forum
#1 Oct 28, 2013
Editorial: A massive heist pulled off in plain sight
Sunday, October 27, 2013
(Published in print: Sunday, October 27, 2013)
Hedrick Smith is a man on a mission. The journalist, author, filmmaker and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner wants to open America’s eyes to something that he himself was once blind to: the massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the 1 percent and how it happened. Smith, author most recently of Who Stole the American Dream, met with Monitor editors on Tuesday. His book is a lengthy account of a massive heist pulled off in plain sight, and a manual for how to restore fairness and recapture the dream.
The scale of the wealth transfer that led to the demise of the middle class is mind-boggling. In the 1980s, Smith said, the average American homeowner owned 70 percent of his or her home. That figure dropped to 40 percent by 2009 because people borrowed against their equity in their homes to make up for flat wages and the shift of financial responsibility from employer to employee. The transfer, some $6 trillion, is the largest in U.S. history.
Three major changes, and a host of smaller ones, are responsible for the biggest disparity in wealth between rich and poor since the robber baron era. One was the lifting of limits on interest rates, which made it easy for people to borrow huge sums at exorbitant costs. Another was the rapid replacement of lifetime pensions with employee 401(k) plans. In the 1980s, 80 percent of those who worked for a company with 100 or more employees had a lifetime pension. Today, outside the public sector, they are a rarity. The shift to 401(k)s, Smith says, did more to transfer wealth to Wall Street than protect workers in their retirement years. As a result, 45 percent of the baby boom generation could end up living in poverty in old age. Taxpayers who lack pensions or good health-care benefits have become eager to take them away from government workers who do, rather than fight to win such benefits for themselves.“The politics of envy have triumphed over the politics of solidarity,” Smith said.
The third change is the ongoing shift of health care costs from employers to employees. In the 1980s, 70 percent of the workforce in companies with more than 100 employees enjoyed fully paid employer health insurance benefits. Today, they too are a rarity and employees, no matter what their income, must pay a big share of cost of health care and do so on wages that haven’t increased.
At the same time, the Bush-era tax cuts and other breaks won by the rich concentrated the wealth so effectively that the combined wealth of just four families, all of them heirs to the Walmart fortune, equals that of the 120 million Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder. The 400 richest Americans have assets of $2 trillion, a sum larger than the GDP of Canada or Mexico.
#2 Oct 28, 2013
The vast income disparity and reduced odds of upward mobility was created, and persists, Smith argues, because the public doesn’t understand how it happened, and they’ve been persuaded that their problems are their own fault. For the most part, they aren’t. Voters are convinced that Washington listens to lobbyists and ignores them, and they’re right. But most of all, the income disparity and the collapse of the American dream exists because people feel powerless to change things. If they act alone, Smith says, that’s true. But if they act together, as a populist movement in pursuit of political and economic fairness, they can restore the dream. They must band together, much the way the AARP has become the giant protecting Social Security and Medicare from those who want to shrink or privatize the systems. They must insist that a tax code skewed in favor of the rich be reformed.
Smith wants citizens to push back against the claim that government support of research, industries and infrastructure is inherently bad because it violates free market principles. That’s false. Government involvement led to the transcontinental railroads and the interstate highway system, for example. Both strengthened the nation and made the economy boom.
Most of all, people in pursuit of the American dream must realize that Ronald Reagan was wrong. Government is not the problem. Shrinking it so it can be strangled in a bathtub will not bring prosperity, improve lifestyles, result in economic fairness, restore faith in the legislative process or ensure the well-being of future generations. Creating a government that works because its controlled not by corporate lobbyists, but by a united citizenry will. In solidarity, Smith rightly believes, there is strength.
#3 Oct 28, 2013
The morons middle class doubled the size of the houses they build since 1975 so borrow tons of money and pays tons of interest to bankers. The morons also bought SUV's and transferred trillions to OPEC by increasing their annual oil consumption 2 billion barrel a year.
The morons pissed away trillions of other imports while pissing away trillions on entertainment.
The morons doubled the amount spent on education and have jack doodoo to show for it besides loaded teachers going on lavish vacation and living in McMansions and gated retirement communities.
I guess I drove across your bridge today, I went to Wal-Mart in Hinsdale NH.
The old hippie woman walking down the side walk in Brattleboro seemed to be having a great conversation with herself. The one percent probably stole her money.
#4 Oct 28, 2013
Knock it off, that's my mother.
#5 Oct 28, 2013
"The old hippie woman walking down the side walk in Brattleboro seemed to be having a great conversation with herself."
-that would likely be 'Libby'
she has a form of schizoprenia. She used to perform on Broadway
I've noticed that neurotic nuketards see lots of various people everywhere as 'hippies'
#6 Oct 29, 2013
You lie like a rug.
#8 Oct 29, 2013
Don't touch your links, you will catch the clap...
#9 Oct 29, 2013
#10 Oct 30, 2013
And ewe double posted two of the photos, idiot.
#11 Oct 30, 2013
and ewe forgot the proper '-' dash between 'double' & 'posted'
look what I found in searching sheep and pumpkin-
Only two world leaders had their own symbol-
#12 Oct 30, 2013
I don't use the word ewe...
#13 Oct 30, 2013
yeah I noticed lately how another likes to use ewe'r name, and give me sh't
Florida Cop Tasers Cuffed Girl, She's Brain Dead, He's Cleared
Gun Grabbers Blame Toy Guns and Airsoft Guns For Police Shooting of 13-Year-Old
Cop is excused for shooting boy seven times
#14 Oct 31, 2013
Taking credit for something someone else created.
You can't copyright the English language, ducks.
Yew (numb as a stump) just can't.
#16 Oct 31, 2013
5 Everyday Things You Won't Believe Are Copyrighted
Then there's Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, who has a trademark on the word "lollapalooza" despite the fact that it had existed for about 100 years before his alternative rock festival of the same name started out in the '90s
-So therefore it can be copyrighted, I might just have to add a letter or two- as in 'Ewwe'
Emily P who ran for Vermont Governor paid a lawyer to copyright her symbol of the G Clef with a peace sign in it.
Isn't it interesting that there were only two world leaders in history who've had their own symbol?
#17 Nov 13, 2013
It's starting to look unanimous
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