Conspicuously absent from RT''s coverage of Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Sarah Bloom Raskin's speech to the Society of Government Economists and the National Economists Club was the equivalent data on the asymmetric wealth distribution of the oligarchs of Russia since 2009. While one can cavalierly dismiss this absence as propaganda, such a response would reveal an imperviousness to the real strain in our social fabric. In their report on the uneven American economic "recovery" from 2009-2011, the
reported that the mean net worth of the most wealthy 7% rose $697,651 or 28% while
the lowest 93% saw their mean net worth decline $6,079 or -4%. Eight million households with nearly 3/4
million more asset value and 111 million households with $6,000 less asset
value - a disparity that is growing in 2013.
Now 2/3s of the denominated wealth of Pew Research Center America is in the hands of 7% of
the population. Sarah and the Russians
both saw fit to point out that this disparity has short term social
consequences and long term fundamental economic consequences.
Before we dive into this information any further, let's put it in context.
America - that
great capitalist experiment currently is precisely in the middle of the income
disparity statistics for the world's 180 measured countries. The "richest 10%" have nearly 16
times more than the "poorest 10%" according to the UN's data. Scandinavia and Eastern
Europe lead the world in parity while several African and South
American nations enjoy the most egregious dispersions. Reagan's rhetorical boast of America as,
"that God-given place between two oceans… a shining house on the hill,"
appears to be more aptly described as the working class suburb invested equally
with fast-food joints, bars, Wal-Marts, strip clubs and Bible churches.
When "God" gave this place, he
obviously had pre-ordained contempt for those who were the previous stewards -
groups like the Lakota Nation surviving at Pine Ridge where the per capita income is the decline in net
worth for the bottom 93% in the Pew data. That's right, the Lakota earn what the bottom
in the "recovery". In America,
our heritage keepers die five times faster at birth and die twice as fast in
adulthood all the while being forgotten by a world that entombed them in
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Indian Reorganization Act.
Board member Raskin's speech is worth heeding as a vital commentary on the self-evidence of the fraud that is the much heralded "recovery". The fact that Russian TV found it noteworthy is fascinating in that their treatment of her speech is actually quite reasoned and absent the "I-told-you-so" diatribes of an ideological past. What's deeply alarming is that, apart from the Russian media, only the Federal Reserve's own site provided much coverage of her speech. While everyone piled onto Ben Bernanke's effervescence on the innovation economy - the very economy that his banking policy has entirely neglected - no one seemed to hear the oracle that is Sarah Bloom Raskin. The lonely Reuters report addressed her dissonance on the consensus sunny outlook but missed the moral implications of her address altogether.
Poverty. I'm fascinated by our inoculation against speaking about inequality and injustice - about Pine Ridge and human trafficking to support Wal-Mart's Everyday Low Prices. But what I find even more fascinating is the degree to which our society seems to be incapable of recognizing that monetary metrics miss the unraveling at our society's core. The Pew data showed that most of the asset growth among the wealthy was not in activities that build the future - infrastructure, glorious architecture that once graced all with aesthetic beauty, or community spaces. Rather it was in speculative trading bouyed by aggressive fiscal intervention and tax manipulations design explicitly for the effect they achieved - the largest wealth dislocation in modern times. And while the EU finance ministers are responding to the base erosion and profit shifting imbalances that have fostered tax shelter booms, this week Tim Cook will assiduously circumvent Congressional contempt and blame tax policy for Apple's $100 billion tax evasion rather than taking moral leadership in reforming the legacy of Steve Jobs' profit obfuscation for egoic immortalization. Who is poor? Apple sycophants or Pine Ridge diabetics? Tragically, both!
Poverty is a symptom of a more consequential disease. Its absolute manifestation arises from an inflection in the human condition where individual future uncertainty and fear exceeds the impulse for network resilience. The moment I decide that my hording for my uncertain future is more important than creating well trafficked exchanges of mutual value, I unleash the conditions for poverty to manifest. Wealth is not measured in absolute assets. Rather it is measured in the capacity to engage in value exchanges with reliability. Sure, at times the hedge fund manager or venture capitalist who has amassed great monetary resources may be seen as "wealthy" but his or her true wealth is not in asset command but in transactional stewardship. Equally, the poetic homeless magician who has the audacity to interrupt my walk on
Downtown Mall with an apparently random Tarot card "reading" winds up
closing a circuit in my brain that unleashes a whole new venture - a venture
worthy of venture capitalists! Whenever
we close ourselves off - whether through the illusion of abundance or want - we
are impoverished. Whenever we engage the
resources we steward to build network resilience and value exchange - we
Thank you Sarah Bloom Raskin and
for reminding us
to care about the growing unraveling. I trust that each of you readers share this
with your networks and see if we can get a conversation growing that celebrates
the value of transacting value so that We the People can regain a humanity that
can illuminate a more suitable future. Pew Research