Trickle down economics doesn't work

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    In 2007, the top 20% of the population of the United States possessed 80% of all financial assets. That same year ,the richest 1% of the American population owned 35% of this country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 51%.  Together,  the top 20% of Americans thus owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

    In 2011, financial inequality was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 43%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50%, and the bottom 80% of the total U.S. population owning a mere 7% of the country's wealth. As a result of  the Great Recession which started in 2007, the share of total wealth owned by the top 1% of the population grew  from 35% to 37%, and that owned by the top 20% of Americans grew from 85% to 88%. The Great Recession also caused a drop of 36% in median household wealth but a drop of only 11% for the top 1%, further widening the gap between the top 1% and the bottom 99%.[

    According to PolitiFact and others, in 2011 the 400 wealthiest Americans "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined." Inherited wealth may help explain why many Americans who have become rich may have had a "substantial head start". In September 2012, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, "over 60 percent" of the Forbes richest 400 Americans "grew up in substantial privilege". By 2013 wealth inequality in the U.S. was greater than in almost all of developed countries of the Western world.

      In February of this year, President Obama unveiled a $4 trillion fiscal year 2016 budget that proposed to lift spending limits on national security and some discretionary domestic spending.  A month later, the GOP responded with its plan that would add nearly $40 billion in "emergency" war funding to the defense budget for next year and that contained more than $1 trillion in savings from unspecified cuts to programs like food stamps and welfare. The GOP plan also demanded full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the tax increases that finance the health care law.

             "A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are,"  Representative Rob Woodall, Republican of Georgia and a member of the Budget Committee, piously proclaimed. "We've never had the opportunity to partner with the Senate to provide real certainty."

             But if a budget is a moral document, Senator Bernie Sanders correctly noted that the "The U.S. currently spends more money on the military than the next nine countries combined. Yet, despite some 45 million Americans living in poverty, 35 million without health care and veterans throughout the country sleeping out on the streets, the only program that the Republicans want to increase funding for is the military. Why?"

             At a time when the public sector is being gutted, Philip Bump reports in The Washington Post that the top 25 hedge fund managers earned more than all kindergarten teachers in U.S. The estimated 158,000 kindergarten teachers in the United States, earned an average teacher salary of $53,480, for a collective income of about $8.5 billion for 2012.  By contrast, the 25 top hedge fund managers found that the 25 most successful managers were paid $11.62 billion in 2014.   
            The continued decline in this country's investment in public goods is directly attributable to the "market-based" mythology that dominates current American political discourse. That mythology, which extolls unfettered Social Darwinism, seeks to minimize the role of government on the theory that, all evidence to the contrary, government is the enemy of prosperity. Not surprisingly, these same minimalists also deny the notion of a  separate public interest or choose to define it, if at all, as merely an aggregation of private interests seeking to maximize their self-interests.

         John Kenneth Galbraith published The Affluent Society in 1956. In that important little book, the economist worried that the United States had become a nation that tolerated the existence of "private affluence and public squalor." Little could Galbraith imagine that by 2016 the gap between private affluence and public squalor would grow so large that the United States would come to resemble the Victorian England that Charles Dickens chronicled and ridiculed.  

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