Billionaire members of the Walton family dance with Walmart employees, whose money they stole.
Photo: Getty

Why all the talk about socialism? Why all the talk about inequality, and the 99% vs. the 1%? Because for the past forty years, the rich have been scraping off more of our economy, leaving less for everyone else. See here:

The Economic Policy Institute today released its annual report on American wages. It shows, in essence, a continuation of wage inequality trends that have been going on for decades: men earn more than women; white people earn more than Latinos or black people, who are perpetually trapped at the bottom of the income scale; and, overwhelmingly, the gains of the entire economy are captured by those at the very top.

The lowest earners get tiny gains; the middle earners get a tiny bit more gains; and the high earners get the most gains. This is self-reinforcing capitalism in action, a machine to increase inequality. Socialism in reverse.

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And this is not just a 21st century trend. The process of our nation’s economic gains accruing most to the rich has been going on since Reagan, and it is responsible for the distribution problems that our economy has today. We are very rich, but those riches are not spread around. We all got more productive, but we didn’t all get paid for it.

From 1979 to 2017, productivity grew 70.3 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers grew just 11.1 percent. Productivity thus grew six times faster than typical worker compensation.

A natural question that arises from this story is just where did the “excess” productivity go? A significant portion of it went to higher corporate profits and increased income accruing to capital and business owners (Bivens et al. 2014). But much of it went to those at the very top of the wage distribution... The top 1 percent of earners saw cumulative gains in annual wages of 157.3 percent between 1979 and 2017—far in excess of economywide productivity growth and nearly four times faster than average wage growth (40.1 percent). Over the same period, top 0.1 percent earnings grew 343.2 percent, with the latest spike reflecting the sharp increase in executive compensation.

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The report recommends that “policymakers should try to keep labor markets as tight as possible for as long as possible to see if wage growth lost during the Great Recession can be clawed back.” This is but one path to economic inequality. There is also the more confiscatory option of directly sucking money away from the rich and injecting it lower in the income spectrum. But we can try labor markets first, sure.

The Walton family, by doing absolutely nothing except owning an inheritance, made $3.3 billion yesterday on a stock bump, while you were at work. There is nothing wrong with approaching this problem aggressively

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More unions, more bargaining power for the working class, higher wages for the majority, higher taxes on the rich, and sail every yacht off Niagara Falls. A common sense platform that 99% of us can get behind.

[The full EPI report]