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He Went There: Obama Attacks the 1 percent

11 April 2011 Written by   Brit Published in Blogs

Thank God. Finally. Having come to office with a promise of healing divisions, and being faced with an obstructionist opposition veering increasingly to the zero tax anarchy of the Libertarian Right, your President finally came clean. No he isn't a corporate tool. (Hell, if he was, wouldn't he have taken those Wall St job offers rather than a meagre community organisers job?). Yes, he went there, and picked on that 1% which Joseph Steiglitz has so graphically depicted as enriching themselves in the last two decades. For those who haven't read it: here's his opening premise:

"It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow."

My emphases

 Does Obama listen? Does he dismiss as sanctimonious those who have criticised him for not pushing back? For being missing? Not any more. Here's the moneyquote from his speech today.

"Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President. The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."

(Full speech here) Full disclosure. Though I'm thought of as an Obamabot, I'm actually well to the left on economic issues, especially income inequality, financial modal monopolies, and the importance of a mixed economy. Having sought consensus, and being delivered with a financial crisis not covered by his electoral mandate, I'm glad there are signs he is finally pushing back on this issue. His argument is fact based, personal, anecdotal. It's not about ideology but reality. It's one of the few ways to convince what, in the 30 years I have known it, has become an increasingly right wing anti Government country. What do my fellow Kossacks think?

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