15 December 2017   Leave a comment

The World Inequality Lab has issued its annual report, World Inequality Report, 2018.  The report confirms with extensive data that income and wealth inequality in the world has grown dramatically since 1980.  Its findings include:

  • Since 1980, income inequality has increased rapidly in North America and Asia, grown moderately in Europe, and stabilized at an extremely high level in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Brazil.
  • The poorest half of the global population has seen its income grow significantly thanks to high growth in Asia. But the top 0.1% has captured as much growth as the bottom half of the world adult population since 1980.
  • Income growth has been sluggish or even nil for individuals between the global bottom 50% and top 1%. This includes North American and European lower- and middle-income groups.

This trend is deeply troubling.  Not only does it indicate that the economic system is hardly equitable, but it also explains the growing political disillusionment in many countries in the world.  The pattern is likely sustainable as long as economic growth is robust, but it definitely suggests serious problems if growth slows down and people begin to believe that they are being left behind deliberately.

                            

The New York Times summarizes the future of inequality if the trend lines are not changed:

“If the evolution of income inequality in every country remains on the same path it has been since 1980, the plateau in global inequality since 2000 will prove to be but a temporary blip: by 2050, the bottom half of the world’s population will draw only 9 percent of the world’s income, a percentage point less than today. One-percenters at the top, by contrast, will reap 24 percent of the global income pie, up from 21 percent in 2016.”

 

The US policy toward North Korea has become incredibly muddy in recent days.  I have made the point before that the US objective of “denuclearization” is not only completely unacceptable to North Korea but it is also totally unverifiable.  But there is also a high level of incoherence in US policy.  On Monday, US Secretary of State Tillerson spoke to a meeting of the Atlantic Council, and in the Q & A, he made this comment on possible negotiations with North Korea:

“When do the talks begin? We’ve said from the diplomatic side we’re ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk, and we’re ready to have the first meeting without precondition.”

But in his speech today at the United Nations, Tillerson said that any negotiations could only occur if there is a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior.”   He also reiterated that the US objective remains a “complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of its nuclear weapons programs.”  Moreover, as reported by The Hankyoreh:

On Dec. 13, the White House officially adopted a critical position toward the proposal for meeting North Korea “without precondition” made the previous day by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the space of a day, Tillerson’s remarks have been effectively erased. This is thought to illustrate the amateurish coordination of policy inside the Trump administration.

When asked by the Hankyoreh for the White House’s position on Tillerson’s proposal, an official from the National Security Council said that the US’s North Korean policy has not changed and that now is definitely not the time for dialogue.  North Korea must refrain from additional provocations and take serious and meaningful steps toward denuclearization, the official said, adding that the preconditions for dialogue were not limited to refraining from additional tests of nuclear weapons or missiles.

One could be forgiven if one were to say that apparently the US does not now know whether it is pursuing a diplomatic or a military solution to the crisis.  Unfortunately, there is no military “solution” that does not involve widespread destruction.

 

US Vice-President Pence has a scheduled trip to the Middle East coming up, and the centerpiece of that visit was supposed to be a visit to the town of Bethlehem.  Pence wanted to show support for the many Christians who live in the Middle East, but the Christian community decided that US President Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has now made its situation in the region highly precarious and it has decided to cancel the visit.  The fear is that Trumps decision has alienated the region’s Muslims and the Christians do not wish to be seen as endorsing the move.  The concern is also part of a larger concern as the Trump Administration has made it clear that it wishes to conduct a foreign policy that favors Christians as a persecuted group in the world.  It would be far better if the Administration decided to conduct its foreign policy to any persecuted group, regardless of its religious affiliation.  The current policy actually endangers Christians who live as minorities in their nation.

Posted December 15, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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