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The distribution of wealth in the United States (it will surprise you)



The distribution of wealth in the United States (it will surprise you)



The Great Gatsby curve: Working rich giving rise to the next generation of born rich and accelerating decrease in social mobility

Join us next Tuesday night for American Dream Lost?

plutocratsAs society’s grow more unequal, social mobility decreases – which, in turn, yields more economic inequality.

From Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats:

Membership in today’s “book of gold” [referring to the Venetian Book of Gold listing Venetian nobility and the ossified and stratified society it represented – ultimately undermining the economic success that created their nobility to begin with] is a degree from an elite university and those are increasingly the province of the global super-elite. Statistics have shown that graduating from college is more closely linked to having wealthy parents than it is to high test scores in high school.

Class matters more than going to class.

This intergenerational form of rent-seeking is the hardest to oppose… who can blame the 1% for seeking for their children what the 99% seeks to.



Congressman Barney Frank on financial reform

The argument that financial institutions do not need new rules to help them avoid the irresponsible actions that led to the crisis of 2008 is at least 2 billion dollars harder to make today. — Congressman Barney Frank



“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby.” Huh?

Today is the last day for early bird seats to American Dream Lost where we’ll talk about “rising economic inequality” as an American asteroid.

rent seekingFrom Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats:

“Capitalism lacks a strong lobby. That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars that firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another – not to level it. Most lobbying are pro-business – in that it seeks to support the interest of existing businesses – not pro market in the sense of fostering truly free or open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again. Strong successful market players, therefore, use their muscle to restrict such competition and to strength their possessions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one.”

When Americans turn their nose up at some less attractive aspects of capitalism, it’s likely that they’re often really objecting to what’s referred to as “rent-seeking” behavior by individuals and firms seeking an unfair advantage in the marketplace more than they are at a vibrant competition that is fundamental to free market principles. It’s a distinction worth lingering on, given that agreement would be so much more broad that rent-seeking is both antithetical to fairness, likely in part driving the increasing economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots, and not representative of a vibrant capitalism supported by conservatives. We all agree we don’t like people getting something for nothing…

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Illustration credit.



Joshua Brown: “Dear Jamie Dimon”

Screen shot 2013-10-05 at 11.37.59 AM

Join us next Tuesday for “Dinner at the Square” on the topic of rising economic inequality. Get info here (tomorrow is last day for early bird pricing).

Here Joshua Brown, a New York investment advisor, writes compellingly about the heart of America’s fury after the 2008 meltdown (without the normal tribal 1/2 view) in his blog “The Reformed Broker”:

Not only do we not “hate the rich” as you and other em-bubbled plutocrats have postulated, in point of fact, we love them… We love the success stories in our midst and it is a distinctly American trait to believe that we can all follow in the footsteps of the elite, even though so few of us ever actually do.

So, no, we don’t hate the rich. What we hate are the predators.

What we hate are the people who we view as having found their success as a consequence of the damage their activities have done to our country. What we hate are those who take and give nothing back in the form of innovation, convenience, entertainment or scientific progress. We hate those who’ve exploited political relationships and stupidity to rake in even more of the nation’s wealth while simultaneously driving the potential for success further away from the grasp of everyone else…

America hates unjustified privilege, it hates an unfair playing field and crony capitalism without the threat of bankruptcy, it hates privatized gains and socialized losses, it hates rule changes that benefit the few at the expense of the many and it hates people who have been bailed out and don’t display even the slightest bit of remorse or humbleness in the presence of so much suffering in the aftermath.

Read the entire post here.



New York Times: Two Classes, Divided by “I Do”

If you haven’t read this New York Times article about the intersection of the two American “asteroids” we’re talking about on Tuesday, October 15th – rising economic inequality and falling marriage rates/rising out-of-wedlock births – it’s time to read it now.

And we hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, October 15th (one week from today) for “American Dream Lost.”

NY Times: Two Classes, Divided by



Chrystia Freeland on America’s founding ethic of equality (and asteroid #1)

plutocratsRising Economic Inequality is tearing at the fabric of American society. The problem is getting worse the longer we ignore it, making it one of the American “asteroids” we’re going to take on this coming year in our season “Join the Asteroids Club” – a state of mind where we agree that we need to work together across the partisan divide on common threats we face. Find information on the season HERE and on the first dinner of the season on October 15th, American Dream Lost, HERE.

Here’s a take on our founding generation’s view on the uniqueness of America’s economic equality in their day, from Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats.”

“The America of the national foundation story, the country as it was at the time of the American Revolution, was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. That was the proud declaration of the founders. In a letter from Monticello…to Dr. Thomas Cooper… Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers. Our rich that can live without labor, either manual or professional – being few and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families and from the demand from their labor are able to exact from the rich and the competent such prices that allow them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families. The wealthy on the other hand and those at their ease, know nothing of what the Europeans call “luxury.” They have only somewhat more of the comforts and decency of life than those who furnish them. Can any condition of society by more desirable than this?”

Contrasting American with Britain:

“Now let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries – In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only. The proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers – you know better than I do. If they are 4 in every hundred, then the happiness of the country to its misery as 1 in 25. In the United States, it is as of 8 millions to zero or as all to none.”



Warren Buffet on class warfare

american-dream-logo-map-500“There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class – the rich class – that’s making war. And we’re winning.” — Warren Buffet.

(Agree or disagree, you should join us as we discuss rising economic inequality and family breakdown – our first two “asteroids” of this year’s dinner season on Tuesday, October 15th in American Dream Lost?)



From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”

Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”



From Twain’s “The Gilded Age”

Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.

“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”



Robert Putnam: “The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem.”

Robert Putnam, in the New York Times:

‘As successive graduating P.C.H.S. classes entered an ever worsening local economy, the social fabric of the 1950s and 1960s was gradually shredded. Juvenile-delinquency rates began to skyrocket in the 1980s and were triple the national average by 2010. Not surprisingly, given falling wages and loosening norms, single-parent households in Ottawa County doubled from 10 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 2010, while the divorce rate more than quadrupled. In Port Clinton itself, the epicenter of the local economic collapse in the 1980s, the rate of births out of wedlock quadrupled between 1978 and 1990, topping out at about 40 percent, nearly twice the race-adjusted national average (itself rising rapidly).’

‘…The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem, obscured by solely red or solely blue lenses. Its economic and cultural roots are entangled, a mixture of government, private sector, community and personal failings. But the deepest root is our radically shriveled sense of “we.” ‘

Read the whole article online HERE.

Check out our upcoming program looking at rising inequality HERE. And you can check out the whole dinner season HERE.



Tocqueville on America’s equality

“Nothing struck me more forcefully than the general equality of conditions among her people.”