8 December 2017   Leave a comment

The statistics on wealth inequality in the US continue their worsening trend.  Since the 1980s there has been a clear and undeniable concentration of wealth in the upper 1% of the American population.  Edward Wolf has released a paper “Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962 to 2016: Has Middle Class Wealth Recovered?” NBER Working Paper No. 24085, November 2017 and his analysis is sobering:

“Over this period [1983-2016], the largest gains in relative terms were made by the wealthiest households. The top 0.1 percent saw their average wealth (in 2016 dollars) rise by over 57 million dollars or by 133 percent, that of the top 0.5 percent by over 24 million or 151 percent, and that of the top one percent by over 15 million dollars or by 150 percent. The remaining part of the top quintile experienced increases from 81 to 159 percent and the fourth quintile by 39 percent, while the middle quintile showed no change and the average wealth of the poorest 40 percent fell by $15,800. By 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 40 percent was -$8,900. “

The “trickle-down” process” is quite clearly a “trickle-up” process, from the poor to the rich.  This dynamic is no doubt part of the process of political disenfranchisement which has been so evident in American politics recently.  Moreover, the concentration of wealth and income restricts, not augments, economic growth.  The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that economic growth in the OECD region lost 4.7% of it possible growth between 1990 and 2010 because of income inequality.

 

Beijing, like other major cities in the world, has a number of issues that compromise the lives of its citizens.  Recently, authorities in the city have decided that there are neighborhoods that pose unacceptable risks and have taken measures to move large populations out of poor areas.   The move was ostensibly due to fire hazards, but it seems clear to many of the affected residents that the city is simply trying to remove migrant populations in an attempt to make the city more attractive to its wealthier residents.  Gentrification is happening all over the world and it is difficult to oppose, but the Chinese promises to better the lives of the poor ring hollow in these actions.

 

There were large protests throughout Palestinian areas in the Occupied Territories and two of the protesters were killed by Israeli forces.  The protests are in response to US President Trump’s decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  There were also large protests in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia.  Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator, declared that the peace process is “over” and that US Vice President, who is scheduled to visit Israel next month, will no longer be welcome.   It is unlikely that the protests will change the policies of either the US or Israel, and the peace process was already non-existent.  What happens next really depends on the reaction of the rest of the world, and I doubt that the US will be able to influence that reaction in any way.

 

 

Posted December 8, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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