Friday, November 21, 2014

November 20, 2014
President Obama has been accused of being a socialist. Absurd as that charge is, it is part of a long tradition; any progressive initiative is sure to be called "socialist," implying something profoundly un-American. Despite the inanity of the charge, it works; as Edmund Wilson said, "The surest way to shake an American reformer and make him back down has always been to accuse him of socialism."[79]  It has been suggested that public opinion is changing in a way that would deprive the label of its sting, but this is based on the opinions of younger voters, so any effect may lie in the future.[80]
Bernie Sanders might run for the presidency. He is a socialist, and would face widespread denunciation and misrepresentation. However, if he were able to get his actual views across, and to point out that they are not subversive of anything other than the rule of the rich, he might do well, and rescue "socialism" from contumely.
The need for a little socialism was underlined by a report that 29 of America’s 100 largest corporations paid more to their CEOs in 2013 than they did to the federal government in taxes. Included are 7 of the 30 largest corporations: Boeing, Chevron, Citigroup, Ford, J.P. Morgan, General Motors and Verizon. All seven were profitable, together reporting $74 billion in pre-tax profits in 2013, but together, they received $1.89 billion in refunds.[81]
Another indicator is the increasing concentration of wealth at the top. Thomas Piketty has shown that about 71% of is wealth owned by the top 10% of the population, about 34% by the top 1%.[82]   A paper by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman carries it a step further, showing that the top .1% holds over 20% of wealth, the top .01% over 11%. "At the very top end of the distribution, wealth is now as unequally distributed as in the 1920s. In 2012, the top 0.01% wealth share (fortunes of more than $110 million dollars belonging to the richest 16,000 families) is 11.2%, as much as in 1916 and more than in 1929. . . . Wealth is getting more concentrated in the United States . . . .[83]
Something needs to change. Let those who have nothing better to do fuss about labels.

Murray Kempton, Part of Our Time, p. 140
80. been-called-socialism
81. taxes

Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century; see chart p. 348.
83. A link to the study is here:  The quote is from the paper’s Abstract. Charts follow p. 46.


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