Precarious Democracy

From In These Times:

A political agenda for the precarious class.

BY Joel Bleifuss
December 17, 2013

In our January 2014 issue, In These Times explores how life has become increasingly precarious for the many Americans who lack job security—a trend that is the predictable result of the ongoing disempowerment of the American worker.

But it is not only the corporate system that is impoverishing our citizens. Millions of Americans face a precarious financial future, thanks to the democratic institutions that are meant to represent them.

Seniors who rely on Social Security are beset by D.C. budget-cutters bent on reducing cost-of-living increases. The poor go hungry in the wake of congressional cuts to food stamps. Retirees in the public sector face uncertain futures as state and local governments turn away from their pension obligations.

As college costs rise, recent graduates, temping for dollars, struggle to pay record-setting student loans.

The list could go on and on.

It’s not that the United States, one of the richest countries on earth, lacks the resources to remedy the situation. The problem is how our nation’s immense wealth is distributed—or, more accurately, how it is maldistributed to the very few. The figures are stark: In 2010, the richest 1 percent of Americans owned 35 percent of the nation’s privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent owned 54 percent. The remaining 80 percent of Americans held only 11 percent of the wealth.

In a speech on Dec. 4, 2013, President Obama decried “an economy that’s become profoundly unequal” with the end result being that “a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family.”

There are remedies. National and state laws mandating more progressive taxation could transfer some of the wealth held by the top 1 percent into public coffers, where it could be allocated to alleviate the precarious existence of Americans.

Will that happen? Fat chance.

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