Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Beyond the 99 Percent

Today’s post is an almost-inadvertent addendum to yesterday’s. In the interim I read a review of The Price of Inequality, in which Joseph Stiglitz describes the consequences of the vast inequalities of wealth that now define America, perhaps more than any other nation on Earth. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, argues that our two-tiered society has arisen, not primarily because of either the survival of the fittest or the impact of globalization, but because the rich have become increasingly able to control the political system: “While there may be underlying economic forces at play, politics have shaped the market, and shaped it in ways that advantage the top at the expense of the rest.” The result, he says, goes beyond unfairness; it undercuts the virtues of a free market system by promoting inefficiencies, reducing the educated labor pool and not investing in the infrastructure capitalism requires. (Yes, Barack Obama was absolutely right to point out that we don’t do it alone.) My concern is that the focus on a two-tiered society obscures what is happening. This entire political campaign cycle now involves rebuking or vindicating the one percent and toadying up to the mythical middle class, which is everybody else – the 99 percent. Once again, the poor, whose lives are as removed from the middle class as they are from the rich, have become invisible – none more so than the urban poor, who are locked in ghettos from which there is little escape. This is a moral calamity. It is also a tinderbox . . . and every time we reduce essential public services, we add fuel for the flames.

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