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    managing government finances "just like families do"..., 2011-08-04 15:51:05 | Main | dear closeted socialists, it gets better..., 2011-08-04 17:54:40

    manners are no substitute for the right diagnosis:

    Civil oligarchy is an impersonal, institutionalized government in which the law is stronger than any individual. ...

    Wealth defense is a constant even in civil-oligarchy regimes that have robust welfare states. In Finland, for example, the top 0.5 percent of the population owns 71.6 percent of the capital market, compared with 41.4 percent in the United States. The Scandanavian countries have high taxes, but these are consumption taxes, which burden the entire citizenry rather than concentrating on the rich. The extremely rich have always managed to ensure that they shared their tax burdens with the merely prosperous. Similarly in America, where the top tax bracket starts at $250,000. Bill Gates pays the same nominal rate as his dentist.

    Once the various methods of tax avoidance are taken into account, it becomes clear that Americaís tax system is actually regressive: in 2007, the top 1% of taxpayers paid an effective rate of less than 24%. The top 1/10 of 1% paid less than 22%. The top 400 incomes paid less than 17%. (246) The marginal rate for some hedge fund managers, five of whom earned more than $1 billion in 2007, has been zero, because they operated through offshore partnerships that let them defer taxes. ...

    Americaís oligarchs are unusually greedy: the Bush tax cuts, a major source of our huge federal deficit, were spearheaded by rich Republicans who decided that their enormous gains in the 1990s boom just werenít enough for them. Winters canít account for this, because, as he himself shows, oligarchy is a constant across civil regimes. Americaís fetishizing of the wealthy and powerful, its contempt for the weak and needy, and its eagerness to thwart its own legitimizing narrative of equal opportunity (as I write this, college aid for the poor has just barely escaped the budget ax), needs a different explanation....

    Winters offers a valuable perspective on how inequality persists, but he canít explain the peculiar cruelties of modern American politics.

    I think I find this dissuasive. Since the founding of the republic we've had something of an oligarchy, by this standard, and the problem we face now is an oligarchy that's been muscled over by the kleptocracy of high finance and doesn't seem to realize it.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-08-04 17:21:53 CST | link





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