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Winner-Take-All Politics

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The authors continue to pound away with economic data to prove the old saw that the rich get richer, with a nuanced twist that it is the über rich who are doing surreally well: “The share of [national] income earned by the top 1 percent of Americans has increased from around 8 percent in 1974 to more than 18 percent in 2007.... The only time since 1913 ... that this share has been higher was 1928.” That, of course, was the year before the Great Depression commenced.

Now there is rich, and then there’s filthy rich. The top 1/10th of 1 percent of Americans has done even better: In constant 2007 dollars, the 15,000 American families in this rarified bracket enjoyed an average income in 1974 of about a $1 million – and $7.1 million in 2007. Want richer? The top .01 percent of us, or one in 10,000 households, soared in annual income from $4 million in 1974 to $35 million on average in 2007.

All of the above raises the questions: Did these unfathomably wealthy people earn all that additional income and are they satisfied with where they are, plutocratically speaking? No and no, insist the authors. The wealthy, whether their assets derive from inheritance, big business accomplishments, or working in the financial sector, have allied enthusiastically with the Republicans since the late 1970s to reduce their levies dramatically (whether on income, estate, or capital gains). They have also worked together to suppress the labor movement and to decimate government attempts to regulate the environment and fancy financial transactions like those subprime mortgage derivatives that brought the world to the brink of economic collapse.

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