I’m sorry, I can’t help it: when I come across something that clearly explains a key element of the political and economic mess our country is in, I have to pass it along. This one’s an article by Joseph Stiglitz titled “The Vicious Cycle of Economic Inequality,” from Politico.

Some of the choice bits (but read the whole article – it’s not long – to get the full logical flow and supporting detail):

America’s growing inequality is likely to play an important role in this election — and rightly so. Americans see that something is happening to our society: We have become increasingly divided. … The net result is disheartening: Most Americans are worse off today than they were 15 years ago.

Much of the top-most wealth instead comes because of successful “rent seeking.” Economists use the term “rents” for income derived from owning an asset, rather than from effort. “Rent seeking” refers to attempts to garner a larger share of the economic pie, rather than making the pie larger. …

Market forces do, of course, play a role in creating inequality. They have been particularly important in the hollowing out of the middle class. … Market forces…in the U.S. shape markets in ways that enrich the top — but don’t necessarily enhance growth and efficiency.

In all this, there is both hope and despair: Hope because the inequality in the U.S. is not inevitable. There are countries that, even with the same market forces at play, have managed to grow with less inequality. There are countries that have managed even to diminish the level of inequality. …

There is, however, also a sense of despair — because it will most likely be so hard to get these reforms passed. Just as our laws and regulations shape market forces to serve the interests of the top, our political system shapes our democracy so that it serves the same interests.

Our system would increasingly be better described as one dollar, one vote rather than one person, one vote — as the effects of campaign contributions, lobbying, revolving doors and disenfranchisement all take their toll.

Economic inequality feeds into inequalities of political power, leading to still more economic inequality. The U.S. is headed down the path that so many dysfunctional societies have traveled — divided societies in which the rich and poor live in different worlds.

There is an alternative. But will our politics allow it? Will those at the top come to realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand — that this level of inequality is not in their enlightened self-interest?

Or will the vast majority of Americans finally realize that they have been sold a bill of goods — trickle-down economics has never worked and is especially not working today.

In other periods of our history, when inequalities and injustices grew to the breaking point, America changed course. The question is: Will we do so again?

OK, I’ll try to lay off this theme for a while. But a lack of evidence of change for the better suggests that there still aren’t enough people paying attention.

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