Why does rising inequality matter?:
Oligarchy, American Style, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional Budget Office. ... The budget office ... documented a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. ...
So who is getting the big gains? A very small, wealthy minority.
The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.
If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low..., almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent...
Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No... Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance... Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.
But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.
The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?
Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.