The questions of US imperialism, economic hegemony and corporate control of the world’s resources are the subject of massive popular discussion in a time of escalating conflict, inequality and deepening economic recession. Following the mass public mobilisation during the Obama election campaign, the US government is placed in a role of critical responsibility and must now lead the way in fostering greater international cooperation.
The macro march backward of domestic income and wealth distribution has become remarkable. At least we thought so enough to pen the following remarks. In 2006 the corporate profits share of the national economy retouched its 1929 high. Wage and salary income broke its 8 decade low watermark. Our new economy increasingly replicates the distributional landscape of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the relation of taxes and income of the richest among us. In their widely published research, Parisian professor Thomas Piketty and his colleague at UC Berkeley, Prof. Emmanuel Saez, have documented how far the progressiveness of the federal income tax has collapsed.1 Using their work, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in Washington produced Figure 1 below.2
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a pretty good working definition of insanity. But that is the state of America’s failed policy for poor children. For the last 25 years, we’ve basically been following the punitive ideas coming from the right side of our politics. We’ve chosen to invest in punishment on the back side rather than hope on the front side. And the results are now in: Poverty is up; prison populations are up; costs are up. It doesn’t work. Consider Alabama, four decades after the march from Selma to Montgomery. Legal segregation is no more. African Americans have the right to vote. But equal opportunity is a dream yet deferred. In Alabama, poverty is still pervasive. One in four children is raised in poverty; 44 percent of all blacks and Latinos live in poverty. Nearly one-third of the jobs in Alabama pay a poverty wage. Alabama ranks near the bottom of every public-health category. It is 47th in infant mortality. It does badly in families headed by a single parent, in percent of children living in poverty.
The quarter ending on 31 March 2007 promises to blow away all previous records for political fundraising in the United States. Never has so much been raised, so early. And never has money dominated coverage of a presidential campaign, almost to the point of extinguishing discussion of such less exciting matters as the collapse of the housing market, the politicisation of the federal-justice system, prospects for healthcare and the war in Iraq.