[Marxism] Imperialism and the US working class (Was YADL)

Marv Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sun Apr 5 07:40:55 MDT 2009

Joaquin writes:

> Marv has another message replying to mine where he concedes standards of
> living of working people in the U.S. have in general not declined...
I wouldn't make too much of this, however. As I indicated, it depends which
"working people" you are talking about. Over the past three decades, living
standards have declined for the majority of workers lacking a post-
secondary education; they rose for professional and technical employees in
the expanding sectors of the economy, as you noted in your own case. The
obscene share of wealth redirected to the big bourgeoisie over this period
has been an embarrassment to a section of the big bourgeoisie itself, which
has seen it as a drag on economic performance and a contributing cause of
the current crisis.

I second Artesian's motion that you supply us with some hard information,
particularly trend data, demonstrating the transfer of wealth from the
colonial and semi-colonial world to the advanced capitalist countries and
then on to their working classes. In the absence of such data, the
discussion is necessarily impressionistic. My own reading of the sharply
widening disparities in income since 1979 suggests that most Americans have
not benefited from the the great expansion of the US-led world capitalist
economy - the reason why so many now bitterly misdirect their anger at
overseas and immigrant workers - as against your own impression that the
"overwhelming majority ...share in this imperialist privilege -- and most of
them are quite aware of it."

*    *    *

Between 1979 and 2005 the pre-tax income for the poorest households grew by
1.3 per cent a year, middle incomes before tax grew by less than 1 per cent
a year, while those of households in the top 1 per cent grew by 200 per cent
pre-tax and, more strikingly, 228 per cent post-tax.

The result of this lopsided distribution of income growth was that by 2005
the average after-tax income for the bottom fifth of households was $15,300,
for the middle fifth $50,200 and for the top 1 per cent just over $1m.

Looked at from another perspective, in 1979 the post-tax income of the top 1
per cent was 8 times higher than that of middle income families and 23 times
higher than the lowest fifth. By 2005 those ratios grew respectively to 21
and 70. The process reached its extreme point with US President George W.
Bush’s tax cuts. Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley
estimates that in the economic expansion of 2002-06 the plutocratic top 1
per cent captured almost three-quarters of income growth.

Figures for wealth, derived from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of
Consumer Finances, are less up-to-date but the picture is similar. The share
of US wealth owned by the top 1 per cent of households rose steadily from 20
per cent in 1976 to 38 per cent in 1998. The concentration is more extreme
than in any other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development for which figures are available.


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