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"Their" Country

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"Their" country

About 100 years ago, while Vladimir Lenin was in London, he referred to British institutions as "their parliament, their law courts, their press" etc. Lenin, internationalist as he was, unlike his successor Stalin, was not using the pronoun "their" to refer to British institutions as opposed to Russian institutions. He was using it to refer to the ruling class of Britain i.e. industrialists, capitalists, aristocracy, landed gentry as opposed to the working class. Britain was "their" country, owned by them, and the poor, the toiling masses, the immigrants and all other categories lived in the country but it was not theirs.

In our day America is progressively, or, rather, regressively, becoming "their" country. It is their press, their president, their Supreme Court, their talk radio, their think tanks (American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute etc. with their well-heeled professional liars). their private lands, their expensive gated communities and their exclusive clubs. By the way, the word "exclusive" is one of those wonderful examples of how our language expresses hidden truths: "exclusive" means you have to exclude at least 95% and, preferably, 99% of the population. One wonders if Honest Abe would have liked to (or been allowed to) join one of their exclusive clubs.

Thirty years ago the top 1% of the population received 9% of the national income; today they receive 16%. Most of the time when we discuss inequality we talk of the inequality of income distribution rather than wealth distribution mainly because income is far easier to measure accurately than wealth. But in all societies, wealth inequality is far greater than income inequality; few of us have negative income, a considerable number have negative wealth. The basic measure of income inequality is the GINI coefficient see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient. There are two major points to be made in reference to the American GINI coefficient:

1. It is higher (i.e. indicating a higher income inequality) than all countries in the rest of the developed world and considerably higher than anywhere in Scandinavia

2. It has been rising for the last 30 years

Bertrand Russell once wrote that the sign of an educated person is that she can read a page of statistics and weep. Perhaps the above-mentioned dolorous Wikipedia entry on the GINI coefficient can be used as a test of level of education.

Power, wealth, and income in America are shifting to a small number of the very wealthy, roughly speaking, those with incomes exceeding $250,000 a year. The level of inequality now matches that of the 1920s, and is moving towards the even greater inequalities manifested in the "Gilded Age" of the 1890s. As Dylan sang "the times, they are a-changin' ".

I pose the simple question, is America "their" country or "our" country?

 

Mick is an immigrant working in the computer industry living in the US heartland. He immigrated from Great Britain about 30 years ago and became a citizen. He likes biking and hiking. He is married with three kids.
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