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Hartmann: What Has Greed Cost America?

"Thom Hartmann begins a conversation about how greed has destroyed the American economy."

From Thom Hartmann's radio show this Tuesday, he discusses a couple of really great articles. One from Alternet: The Stark Facts of Global Greed, a Disease as Challenging as Climate Change:

Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured.

We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the world, to stop the incessant flow of wealth to an elitist group of people who are simply building on their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is the message derived from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD).

It's already been made clear that the richest Americans have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession. But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon. The GWD confirms just how bad it's getting for the great majority of us. Read on...

The other is from The New York Times: Living Wages, Rarity for U.S. Fast-Food Workers, Served Up in Denmark:

On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.

That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.

“You can make a decent living here working in fast food,” said Mr. Elofsson, 24. “You don’t have to struggle to get by.”

With an eye to workers like Mr. Elofsson, some American labor activists and liberal scholars are posing a provocative question: If Danish chains can pay $20 an hour, why can’t those in the United States pay the $15 an hour that many fast-food workers have been clamoring for?

“We see from Denmark that it’s possible to run a profitable fast-food business while paying workers these kinds of wages,” said John Schmitt, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington.

Many American economists and business groups say the comparison is deeply flawed because of fundamental differences between Denmark and the United States, including Denmark’s high living costs and taxes, a generous social safety net that includes universal health care and a collective bargaining system in which employer associations and unions work together. The fast-food restaurants here are also less profitable than their American counterparts. Read on...

Charlie Pierce weighed in on The New York Times' piece as well: American Exceptionalism:

The story is interesting in that it pretty much blows a hole below the water line of every precept of conservative economics promulgated here since Ronald Reagan turned the federal budget process stupid in 1981. Quite simply, if you, the average Dane named Hampus, wants to make a career out of working at Burger King, you can do it. Everybody needs to have a dream. [...]

The other real, if unspoken difference between Denmark and the United States is that the members of the Danish corporate class are not trained from their adolescence to become public sociopaths. This is not a minor distinction. [...]

Believe it or not, American corporations used to operate on that principle, too. (Even an old crank like Henry Ford wanted his workers to be able to buy the cars they were making.) Then along came Reaganomics, and the upward acceleration of most of the nation's wealth to fewer and fewer people, and the abandonment of organized labor by (alas) both sides of the political divide and, somehow, public sociopathy came to be celebrated as yet another example of American exceptionalism.


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