Moyers: Rampant Capitalism Has Created a Social Disaster -- How Do We Right the Ship?
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BILL MOYERS: So we put together some recent headlines. The merger of American and US Airlines, giving us only four major airlines and less competition. Comcast buying NBC Universal, also reducing competition. The very wealthy getting a trivial increase in taxes while the payroll tax of working people will go from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. Colossal salaries escalating again, many subsidized by tax breaks and loopholes. The postal service ending service on Saturday. What's the picture you get from that montage of headlines?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, for me it is captured by the European word "austerity." We're basically saying that even though the widening gap between rich and poor built us up, many of the factors that plunged us into a crisis, instead of dealing with them and fixing that problem, we're actually allowing the crisis to make the inequality worse.
The latest research from the leading two economists, Saez from the University of California in Berkeley, and Piketty in France confirms that even over the last five years of the crisis, through 2012, the inequality of wealth and income has gotten worse, as though we are determined not to deal with it. All of those headlines you talked about are more of that.
I mean, the astonishing capacity to make it harder for people to have a delivery of their mail on Saturday, to save what is in a larger picture, a trivial amount of money, but that will really impact-- thousands of people will lose their jobs, everyone will lose a service that is important, particularly in smaller places around the United States that are not served by anything comparable to the Post Office.
And then as you pointed out, and I have to say a word about it, this amazing display in which we raise the top income tax on the richest people from 35 percent to 39.6 percent only for those over $450,000 a year, while for the 150 million Americans who get a weekly or a monthly check, their payroll tax went up a whopping 48 percent from 4.2 to-- this is so grotesque an inequality that you're watching a process that is sort of spinning out of control in which those at the top have no limits, don't recognize any constraint on how far they can take it.
BILL MOYERS: If workers at the bottom get the increase in the minimum wage that President Obama proposed in his State of the Union message, they will still be faring less well than their counterparts did 50 years ago.
RICHARD WOLFF: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: What does that say to you?
RICHARD WOLFF: The peak for the minimum wage in terms of its real purchasing power was 1968. It's been basically declining with a couple of ups and downs ever since. So that if you adjust for the current price, the minimum wage was about $10.50 roughly, back in 1968 in terms of what it could buy.
And it's $7.25 today in terms of what it can buy. So you've taken the folks at the bottom, the people who work hard, full-time jobs, and you've made their economic condition worse over a 50-year period, while wealth has accumulated at the top. What kind of a society does this? And then the arguments have come out, which are in my profession, a major staple for many careers, are arguments that, "Gee, if you raise the minimum wage, a few people who might've otherwise gotten a job won't get it because the employer doesn't want to pay the higher wage."