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Why income inequality is bad news for all income levels


With most people still struggling from the Great Recession, it has baffled many a mind that rather than focusing their legislative efforts on creating jobs, folks in Washington decided to raise an almighty stink about a debt ceiling they repeatedly raised in the past with nary a blink of an eye. One of the biggest sticking points has been a refusal to raise taxes on any income level while cuts to the programs serving those who have seen their income dwindle over the last decade are sitting right smack in the middle of the table.

Ironically enough, the refusal to tax the rich at a higher level will do them no favors as research shows that the greater income disparity a nation has, the greater the suffering at all income levels in that society. If you think about it, if our economy can be impacted by a debt default in Greece, is it that unreasonable to think our lifestyle would be affected by suffering across the tracks?

Yves Smith at Salon.com takes a look at the numerous studies that have shown not only does money not buy happiness but it can’t even guarantee a healthier existence when those around you are suffering. As Michael Prowse at the Financial Times explained after his observation that while rich Americans live longer than poor, on average, citizens of less stratified countries like Greece live longer than Americans:

Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become. Their advocates – those who see no reason whatever to curb ever-widening income differentials – have a lot of explaining to do.

Full story at Salon.com via Good.is.

Governing for all.

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  • Jake

    A 2% tax on the income of the top percent or so is worth just about the whole worth of the bottom 50%, and that top has made an absolutely insane amount of money in this ‘recession.’ People can talk about the "middle class" "sharing the load" … but they don’t really have any ‘load’ to give, and most of those scraps are borrowed anyway (with interest paid to the uber rich … which is where they get their money [hint: very little through job-creating industry]).

    "We have the highest standard of living" – Its not too bad. I think we are like 4th in GDP, but bearly on the top 100 for the distribution of wealth. The vast majority of Americans have a pretty poor standard of living compared to many other western countries.

    "We have the highest mobility between classes and income bands" – That is simply false. We are pretty middle-of-the-road compared to other western countries. Bottom 10% to top 10% kind of stuff is is in the 1-2%, and a middle class kid has less than 2% to get near the top 5% range (where a rich kid is in the mid 20% chance. and that is just income, not inheritance / capital I believe).

    And best healthcare? We pay not only about as much (often more) through taxes for healthcare as many other countries, but we pay more than that over again (on top of taxes) privately. 2-2.5x the cost on average and … and even then the outcome is fairly middle-of-the-road. If you wan’t the best brain-surgeon in the world, you’d probably go to America (I’ll give you that), but if you didn’t fly in on your own jet you’ll probably never have access to that best anyway.

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