Economic Inequality – Does It Matter?

It is fairly widely known that income and wealth inequality in the US is as high or higher than at any time except perhaps the Robber Baron period at the end of the 19th century. Lots of articles and books explain how this has come about over the last 30 years. In a recent NYTimes Magazine article, “The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy” by Adam Davidson, we are even offered an affirmative defense of this by a buddy of Mitt Romney from Bain Capital Edward Conrad.

Conrad… “aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conrad writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.”

But, leaving aside the obvious disconnect between any rational measure of value add by the wealthy and their incomes and holdings, does economic inequality really matter? Is it just that those of us in the not wealthy class, now branded The 99%, are jealous of all the toys of the wealthy? Their four or five houses, countless cars, airplanes, and all the rest?

Are their some measurable consequences to economic inequality? Continue reading

Long Division in American Politics – the money trail

The Daily Shpw 01/24/2012A recent John Stewart Daily Show that explored Mitt Romney’s recent release of income tax data got me to thinking about long division.

Romney’s income of roughly $22 million per year is so large that it kind of disappears into the haze of too much information. But, get out your pencil and divide that by 365 days to discover that his income is $60,000 per day. That is slightly over $10,000 more than the median family income in the US. 2010 = $49,455.

Then, I thought about corporate money in government. In 2011, $3.27 billion dollars was reported officially as expenditures on lobbying in Washington.  Again with the long division, that is $6.1 million per member of Congress. Remember this is lobbying dollars, not the super pac money or all of the campaign contributions Congress people spend most of their time soliciting. Or, to divide the $3.27 billion by the number of officially registered lobbyists in Washington, 12,592, this gives each of them $260,000 to divide between pay and payola. 

Do some of your own long division.