Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Country That Works

That's the title of Andy Stern's book. I just saw an interview with him on the news, and he was amazing. He points out that this economy -- although up and running according to the numbers -- is not working for most Americans. That we need to realize health care linked up with our labor does not make sense in a global economy. In other words, instead of paying for healthcare for workers, companies simply relocate to Canada. That we need more middle class jobs. That trickle down simply does not work. That the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer, and the gap shows no signs of closing unless something changes. Basically, that America needs a government that works (clearly the present one isn't working). That invests those billions of dollars not in a war of choice, but in America's common good (and before you believe Iraq has anything to do with terrorism: where exactly is Bin Laden?). OK so the idea of the "common good" is coming to me from Clinton's amazing speech the other day.

Anyway, so here's Stern in an interview:

The world is changing; this is not our fathers' and grandfathers' economy. And even Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, Warren Buffett, and yes, President Bush's new Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, acknowledge growing problems with the market not working for middle class Americans.

Second, Stephen, your one defense to show that living standards are improving for middle class Americans was the increasing number of Americans who own stock.

Wrong again: The Federal Reserve and the Economic Policy Institute report that less than half of all Americans are invested in the stock market in any fashion directly or even indirectly through mutual funds or 401(k)s.

In fact stock ownership DECLINED from 51.9% in 2001 to 48.6% in 2004. And this decreasing "Ownership Society" also has produced less stock market assets for individual households. The percentage of households with more than $5,000 in stock FELL from 40.1% to 34.9%.

But here is the inequality gap in black and white: The wealthiest 20 percent of all households in America own 90 percent of all stock value and the wealthiest 5 percent own 65 percent of all stock value directly or indirectly.

This is not a country growing together. A rising tide is only lifting the luxury liners.

As I write in my book, we can make this A Country That Works, but it means facing up to reality and recognizing difficulties confronting hard working Americans. Stephen Colbert intends to be funny. Stephen Moore cooking the books on TV, radio, and in print is not funny. We need a serious effort to find ways together to put America back on track – for our kids and grandkids.

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