often make hundreds of times what their workers take home. They just
got a huge tax break too. Now, at a time when more than 40
U.S. households can’t afford the basics of a middle-class
lifestyle, they’re demanding more.
(NATIONAL) – There
was a time when the wealthiest among us were content simply to go
sailing on a Sunday afternoon, sipping their vintage Chardonnay and
munching on roe-covered canapés. For the most part, they left
the rest of us pretty much alone to pursue our own American dreams.
That was a time, back in the
century, when CEOs could feel satisfied making a mere 30 times what
average American workers were making.
At the same time, workers
good about lifelong jobs at decent wages that granted them entry into
a thriving middle class. They could translate these jobs into
homeownership, save for retirement, rely on employer-based health
care, finance their kids’ educations, and even enjoy ample
annual vacation time.
In short, the haves
who had less lived, for the most part, in a
Then something happened.
Those on their
yachts began to bellyache. They wanted more.
Their pals in academia,
supplied them with justifications for their bellyaching. In 1970, for
instance, the famed conservative economist Milton Friedman argued
that corporations had one stakeholder that mattered and one
stakeholder alone: their shareholders.
don’t count. Corporations, Friedman preached, need focus only
on generating ever-greater profits for shareholders.
Those who ran America’s
corporations found that an appealing message. To boost shareholder
returns — and their own paychecks — corporate executives
began paring back their labor costs and rewriting the social contract
that had set the tone for America’s postwar years.
By the 1990s, that contract
“The U.S. is increasingly
a nation of part-timers and freelancers, of temps and independent
contractors,” a Time magazine article observed in
1993. “One by one, the tangible and intangible bonds that once
defined work in America are giving way.”
In the 25 years since that
appeared, the bonds between workers and their employers have
given way. Capital no longer seems to need much in the way of labor,
and that indifference to workers has decimated millions of once
How deep has that decimation
recent United Way study found that today — at a time of
rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits, and a rising stock
market — more than 40 percent of U.S. households cannot afford
the basics of a middle-class lifestyle.
Those on their yachts could
They want more than higher share prices. They want more than
executive pay packages that have CEOs routinely making hundreds of
times more than their workers. They want to pay as little in taxes as
And, from their perspective,
For the most part, the richest Americans live off the public grid. So
why invest in public services?
Invest in public education?
why? The rich send their kids to elite private schools. Public
transportation? The wealthy have chauffeurs and private planes.
Public parks? They picnic on their estates. Local police? They have
private security details and live in gated communities.
And those social programs —
food stamps, health care clinics, Head Start, child care, and legal
aid — are you kidding me! The rich never need to touch them.
Back in the 1950s, Americans
faced a 91 percent tax rate on income over $200,000 — and the
economy was humming. The top rate in 2018? Just 37 percent. And our
economy? It’s only humming for Americans of means. Millions of
American families are just scraping by.
So if you’re one of those
on the yacht, no more whining! You’ve taken more than your
You’re leaving too many of
rest of us behind in your wake.
This report was
first published at
Otherwords.org and is reprinted here with permission. Otherwords is a
project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a community of public
scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment
in the U.S. and globally. IPS’s mission is to promote true
democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and