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Economic Apartheid In America


Top executives now make more in a day than the average worker makes in a year.

You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy. But you cannot have both. — Louis Brandeis

How wealthy the wealthy are does matter. If we allow great wealth to accumulate in the pockets of a few, then great wealth can set our political agenda and shape our political culture — and the agenda and the culture that emerge will not welcome efforts to make American work for all Americans. — Sam Pizzigati

Plutocracy: 1. The rule or power of wealth or the wealthy; 2. A government or state in which the wealthy class rules. 3. A class for group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth. — Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

Of the world’s 100 largest economies, 47 are nations, and 53 are corporations. Seventy-five percent of major corporations hire a consultant to stop employees from forming a union.

The alarming development and aggressiveness of great capitalists and corporations, unless checked, will inevitably lead to the pauperization and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses. It is imperative, if we desire to enjoy the full blessings of life, that a check be placed upon unjust accumulations and the power for evil of aggravated wealth. — Constitution of the Knights of Labor, 1869.

The Washington monument is 555 feet tall. Say it signifies the 2003 average compensation for CEOs in the Fortune 500. The average worker salary would be only 16 inches tall, representing a ratio of 419 to one. In 1965, the worker’s monument was 13 feet six inches tall, representing a ratio of 41 to 1.

Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government. — Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born on home plate — Forty-two percent of those listed inherited sufficient wealth to rank among the Forbes 400.

Examples:

J. Paul Getty Jr. inherited the oil fortune from his father.

David Rockefeller Sr. ($2.5 billion) is the grandson of the Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller.

S.I. and Donald Newhouse ($7 billion each) inherited the nation’s largest private newspaper chain, plus Conde Nast publications, from their father in 1979.

Samuel Curtis Johnson ($1.5 billion) is the great grandson of the flooring salesman who founded the floor wax giant S.C. Johnson and Sons.

The United Nations Development Program reported in 1999 that the world’s 225 richest people now have a combined wealth of $1 trillion. That’s equal to the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people. The richest 10 percent of the world’s population receives 49.6 percent of the total world income. The bottom 60 percent receives 13.9 percent of the world’s income. The wealth of the world’s three most well-to-do individuals now exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. Half of the world’s population of six billion live on less than $2 a day, while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 a day.

These are some of things you learn from a new book, just out, titled Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality & Insecurity by Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel with United for a Fair Economy (The New Press, 2005). The book is filled with photos, and charts, and graphs — that make it a great home schooling tool, for young and old alike.

It puts things in perspective. It keeps you on your toes. Read it.

Then listen to a little Bill O’Reilly.

Then read it some more. Contrast is good.

Stretch limousines are longer, yet more people are homeless.

Thirty zip codes in America have become fabulously wealthy. Meanwhile, whole urban and rural communities are languishing in unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, growing insecurity and fear.

It makes the perfect gift for the holidays. And you probably won’t find it Wal-Mart. Or Costco, for that matter.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, . Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, . Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

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