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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — You don’t need me to tell you, but it’s a whole lot tougher leading a garage band than being a superstar. What you might not have known is just how much harder.

If you want an example of growing inequality, try the rock ‘n’ roll industry. Between 1982 and 2003, the share of concert income taken home by the top 1 percent of performers more than doubled, rising from 26 percent to 56 percent. The top 5 percent collected almost 90 percent of all concert revenues.

The rock world is simply a more extreme version of the larger American experience. The top 1 percent of families doubled their share of national income between 1979 and 2011: Their take went from 10 percent to 20 percent of the whole. We live in a superstar economy.

That phrase and the examples come from Alan Krueger, the outgoing chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a speech last week at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that drove home the danger of growing economic inequality. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, we are not taking care of our own as we should.

Now you might say that all rockers start in a garage or some other humble venue with the hope of becoming Springsteen, Beyonce or Ke$ha. (I cite the last because of her name’s thematically convenient dollar sign.) The metaphor is that America may be unequal but we still offer exceptional opportunity.

Well, yes, but not as exceptionally as we think. Krueger, who has a gift for popularizing economic concepts, has invented “the Great Gatsby Curve,” which measures income mobility across generations. It turns out that the United States has far less “intergenerational earnings elasticity,” to use the technical term, than do many other countries, including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, or New Zealand. Economically speaking, “Born in the USA” doesn’t mean what it once did.

Those who defend our economic status quo have other alibis. We don’t need to make any structural changes in our economy, the argument goes. People who want to advance just need to understand that our new economic circumstances place a very high premium on education. Get a good education, and you will do OK.

There’s a lot to this, and broadening access to good schools and higher education is part of Krueger’s program. But we also need to realize that education is not the only factor in getting ahead. He explains this by invoking a study he conducted of identical twins.

  • Jim Myers

    E. J. Dionne failed to mention the LUCK of being born into the “Right” family.

    A recent President is the perfect example of this.

    He managed to bankrupt every business he ever touched, with the exception of his Major League Baseball Team. (Which, I suspect, he was given instructions to not touch ANYTHING. Everything that needed to be done would be taken care of.)

    There is absolutely no way he would ever have attained the Presidency without the power, contacts, influence and money of the “Right” family.

    Even with all of that, he needed the help of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, he would not have become President of The United States.

    True to form, he took a thriving economy, and within eight years managed to bankrupt not only the United States of America, but most of the world.

    That is a feat of unparalleled failure. Hopefully, never to be repeated again.

    • Independent1

      And the last thing America needs is for his brother to be elected president (as he’s apparently contemplating a run for) just so he can continue with the process of destroying America and the world!!

      • Jim Myers

        I think Barbara Bush said it best. “WE’VE HAD ENOUGH BUSHES.”

        • Independent1

          Smart lady!! Let’s hope Jeb (and the American people if necessary) take her advice.

          • Jim Myers

            I agree.

            Jim Myers

          • Sand_Cat

            If Jeb doesn’t, there’s an even better chance the American people won’t. Since he knows this, it’s unlikely we won’t see him run.

        • Fern Woodfork

          I Totally Agree With You All My Friends NO MORE BUSHES IN THE WHITE HOUSE!! The Only Bush That Should Ever Be There Is The One Growing In The White House Lawn!!!

    • rustacus21

      Here, here! Well said… Needing only voters determination to end such… forever…

      • Jim Myers

        Thanks for the kind words.

        Jim Myers

    • montanabill

      I think you are feeding the victim mentality by implying that you succeed only if you are ‘lucky’. I’m ‘lucky’. I was lucky to be able to overcome two serious illnesses. I was lucky I was able to work hard enough to put myself through 8 years of school. I was lucky enough to find new jobs after being fired or laid off a few times. I was lucky enough to get back up after having a couple businesses fail. Working 18/7 365 days each time until I finally got lucky enough to have a business that succeeded, because by then, I was lucky enough to have learned a lot from mistakes. I was lucky that I had $300 to start that business. I do really consider myself lucky that I wasn’t born into a wealthy family, because I might not have learned self reliance, determination, goal setting or developed a work ethic.

      • Jim Myers

        There is no intent to feeding the victim mentality.

        I was simply noting that there are individuals who are lucky enough to be born into a family with politically well connected, wealthy,and powerful family and friends. Some are people who show no skill sets that would lead them to higher office on their own merits.

        I, for one, admire the self – made, successful individuals who battle great odds, and become victorious against all odds.

        It appears you are one of those.

        • montanabill

          I appreciate your response. And for the record, even though I like G. Bush as a person, I pretty much felt the same way you did. I also think each person, including any other Bushes (or Kennedys or Clintons) should be judged on their individual merits, not family name.

          I also think the President is probably a nice person, but getting elected to the Presidency based solely on the ability to speak is hardly what we need in a leader either.

          • Jim Myers

            Thank you.

            We appear to be pretty close in our views towards the Presidency.

  • Catskinner

    Jaron Lanier says this is caused by the people with the most money being able to buy the biggest computers.

  • charleo1

    Bill Clinton said, he never met a Republican that wasn’t born in a log cabin
    they had built themselves. President Obama set the brooder house cackling,
    when he ask, “You see that business there?” “You didn’t build that!” OMG!
    The good news was, the GOP had been casting about, for a theme for their
    upcoming National Convention in Tampa. And President Obama, always ready
    to please the Republicans, (as we know,) had just handed them the perfect
    one liner. I think every speech for the entire, 3 day convention, ended with,
    “And you, DID, build that!” To uproarious ovation. But, if we come back to
    the real world, where real businesses function in a real economy. The
    President’s point was a valid one. That a successful business is actually
    the result of a combination of a number of things, outside that business.
    Such as good roads, and an educated work force, security, common sense regulation. That all that, serves as a necessary foundation, on which successful businesses are built. Something the GOP, in the thralls of their newly found, anti-government zealotry, had seemed to have forgotten. The real world, that is. I thought, who are these people? And why do they believe Mitt Romney, that had
    yet to spent one day dealing with the real world problems, of average Americans. Could know what to do, to address them as President? Of course, the famous
    47%, speech confirmed what many of his previous statements had seemed to
    indicate. That Mitt Romney’s life experiences did not provide him with the
    understanding he would need to lead America out of the morass, another rich
    kid had lead us into.

    • ralphkr

      Yes, indeed, luck does have something to do with success or failure just as having seed money has a bearing. After I mustered out I had a little capital, not from pay (getting less than $140 month as a sergeant doesn’t help build a nest egg) but from playing poker and decided to go into trucking. Got a brand new Dodge and a used trailer for an excellent price & went into the grain hauling business. Unfortunately, there was a massive crop failure so there was no business for independents since the big companies got all the jobs (hauling for less than cost). OK, bad luck beat good planning. A few years later I had a service station in Alaska and the powers that be decided to close the main road going by my place for extensive repairs in the fall. Considering that 90% of our annual profit was generated by winterizing cars I leave it up to you to figure out what happened. Yep, on Dec 30 I handed my keys and papers to my partner and told him it was his problem now. My partner had already cleaned out the upstairs storeroom and moved in with his wife.

  • rustacus21

    When, after a national economic collapse, a single demographic (the top 1% of the nations wealthy) can reap 100% of ALL income gains (for 2010 & 2011), when all others realized 0%, THAT’S pretty stunning. For apologists of the conditions & firewalls keeping inequality entrenched firmly & exactly where they stand, please explain how class warfare is waged by those (the 99%) w/out even the necessary resources to even think about how to wage an income ‘contest’ against those better experienced & ‘equiped’ for such? Public education was the ‘hand-up’ for many in the Middle-Class neighborhood of my youth. Many of us made good, but the economic sabotage of the 1980’s & 2001 to now, have made it impossible to get a decent foothold on economically mobile aspirations. If U’r determination is ‘self-centered’, as are most greedy & wealth obsessed, it’s ezy to step on & defraud the less ruthless. If U have a virtuous outlook & a vocation for extending a hand up to those struggling, forget it! We, as a nation, better get our moral act together, B4 we find the world an irreversible ‘Gatsby-land’ of a hand full of ‘have’s’ & great many, MANY MORE w/nothing – not even a hope that opportunity is wishful, Constitutional ‘dream’ of the past. This Constitution I harp on – it was instituted so we could all begin at a starting point w/’EQUAL’ opportunity. Compromising on that, from 1981 til now, has meant giving control of a peoples government to tyrants who hate people, government (regulations on their greed & selfishness) & the rule of law & order that underlay it all. Lacking the ability to understand all this is the reason the nation is in the state it is!!!