Downton Abbey, part two

Downton Abbey, part two

By Raymond Freeman 07/03/2013


“Downton Abbey” is a British a soap opera about the lives of an aristocratic family. They live in luxury and don’t work. The servants live in virtual poverty and work like slaves.  Couldn’t happen here?  It’s the right wing’s vision for America.  They’ll be the aristocracy. You’ll be a servant or a serf in the feudal system.  


Americans fell for Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down” vision.  The incomes of the aristocracy really took off.  So what? So long as the slices of pie are getting bigger, everyone’s better off, right?  No. For many, the slices are far smaller, or even gone.  And the slices didn’t get 300 percent bigger, in line with productivity growth. This is a problem because this inequality lowers economic growth nationwide.  It attacks the very foundations of America.


Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the top 1 percent of Americans are getting almost a quarter of the nation’s income and own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.  Twenty-five years ago, those numbers were 12 percent and 33 percent.


Translation: You’ve been hosed.


The Economic Policy Institute agrees.  The richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983.


Translation:  Most of the country got hosed.


The top 1 percent now own more wealth than the entire bottom 95 percent combined.  Even more shocking, the six owners of Wal-Mart had the same net worth in 2007 as the bottom 30 percent of the entire country. The richest 400 Americans have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined. That’s 50 percent of the entire country.

Translation: Nothing trickled down to you.


Foreigners notice this.  According to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, nearly two-thirds of America’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 5 percent.  In Germany, it’s less than half. Now for the real shocker: Der Spiegel concluded that if you’re poor in America, your chance of making it out of poverty and into the middle class is only about 4 percent. Translation: Pick the right parents.


The American dream is now the American “myth,” according to economist Stiglitz.  He told Der Spiegel, “The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data.” In spite of fine stories about poor people becoming rich, overall “the life chances of a young U.S. citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country.”  Translation: If you’re not born rich in America, good luck, pal.


The same conclusions just keep rolling in. The U.S. has less economic mobility than Canada and much of Western Europe, according to The New York Times. (May 1, 2012). Seven in 10 Americans who start out in the bottom fifth of family income stay in the lower class as adults, according to a July 2012 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  Yet more than six in 10 Americans who start out in the top income brackets stay in the upper class as adults.  Translation:  America now has a hereditary aristocracy, just like Downton Abbey.


Even the few honest Republicans comment on it. Here’s David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter: “In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners.”  


George Carlin said it best: “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”  


This stuff has hit the movies. Heist: Who Stole The American Dream? shows that America’s economic decline is the direct result of 30 years of union-bashing, deregulation, job outsourcing and tax changes for the wealthy. Unless you’re superwealthy, voting Republican is like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.


It’s hit the bookstores.  There’s Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith; that’s self-explanatory. The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele shows how Reagan’s policies allowed America’s corporations to earn record profits at the expense of American workers. Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer - And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson is self-explanatory. Democracy at Work by Richard D. Wolff shows how America’s replacing its democracy with a plutocracy.  Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, by Bruce Bartlett, Reagan’s economic adviser, shows how shrinking taxes on the wealthy produced huge increases in national debt.


And 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It by Chuck Collins and Barbara Ehrenreich is again self-explanatory.


And Wealth Inequality In America is on YouTube.  Republicans don’t want you to see it. Be bad! See it anyway! Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM


Americans have been played for fools by Republicans. Poor people still roll up and vote for them. The moral’s pretty simple.  If you don’t want your blood sucked out, stop voting for Draculas.

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