Monday, July 07, 2008

What politics is really about

MONEY. Whether the rich end up with all of it, or whether the rest of us can have a piece of the pie. This is why politics matters:

An objective outsider who laid fresh eyes on America's economic scene, a twenty-first century Tocqueville, would probably think that the federal government would be eager to use tax policy to offset these widening disparities.But the tax cuts that President Bush and Congress enacted since 2000 have in many ways aggravated the disparities, according to statistics from the Tax Policy Center, a respected, nonpartisan research group. Those tax cuts gave $20 on average to the bottom 20 percent of American households, $744 on average to the middle fifth, and $118,477 to those with income or more than $1 million annually.

One can see the economic divide widen in another way. The average income for the top 1 percent of households was ten times that for the middle fifth in 1979. By 2005, those in the top 1 percent earned 21 times as much as those in the middle. Income for the top 1 percent of households averaged 70 times that of households in the bottom fifth, the greatest gap on record, up from 23 times as much in 1979.

At the pinnacle of the inequality pyramid are the nation's CEOs. American corporations may be tightfisted about raises for most workers, but they paid their chief executives $10.5 million on average in 2005, including salary, bonuses and stock options. That was quadruple their pay a dozen years earlier. This means the typical CEO earns 369 times as much as the average worker, up from 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976.

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