Liberty, equality, fraternity: America and the return of the Ancien Régime

On Bastille Day, I posted a little screed on Facebook proposing that the French Revolution, which erupted 225 years ago on July 14, 1789, disproves the adage that history is always written by the winners. At least in English, I argued, the history has largely been written by people sympathetic to the aristocracy, supposedly overthrown in the name of equality, along with liberty and brotherhood. Continue Reading

Golden years? Income inequality and the ability to retire

Are you ready for retirement? While the idea might have its appeal, especially with the winter weather making for long commutes this year, an awful lot of workers are not on a track to be able to retire. That’s according to a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), conducted annually. They found that only 18% are “very confident” that they’ll have enough for retirement and a further 37% are “somewhat confident”. That’s up from the 2013 survey, in which only 13% was “very confident”. Continue Reading

Inequality: A feature of the system

In his inaugural speech, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio returned constantly to the theme of “A Tale of Two Cities”. New York is big enough to be both of them at once – one a poor city where people barely get by and another that is wealthy beyond the imagination of most people. But it isn’t just his city that de Blasio wants to fix. “This inequality problem bedevils the entire country,” he intoned. “But it is not just a moral outrage, it is a horrible constraint on economic growth and on giving people the security they need to tackle problems.” Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The American Revolution II

The idea that America is heading into an all out revolution may be absurd and to some extent unthinkable to most of us. Never the less, the factors that could ignite such an event are quietly coming into place, and although not imminent, they are plausible. Especially if the trends that are creating them are not reversed. At any rate, the possibility is worth examining – along with hopeful reasons why such an event may be deterred.(Author’s note: Please be aware I am not proposing, advocating, suggesting, or encouraging the actions described below; this diary is designed for commentary and discussion)The causes of most revolutions are historical, well known, and provable. It virtually is always a rebellion against an elite, defined by excessive concentration of power and wealth. Continue Reading

Fixing income inequality

There’s no doubt that income inequality is finally getting the attention it deserves. President Barack Obama assailed it in his second inaugural address saying we can’t succeed “When a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” Ben Bernanke decried inequality for “creating two societies.” Pope Francis famously tweeted his opinion. Even Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein called for “some redistribution” to create a stable and just society. But for all the talk, not much is happening. Why is that? Continue Reading