You Say You Want a Revolution?


The chart comes from Pavlina Tcherneva. The blue bar is the bottom 90% of the population, measured by income; the red bar is the top 10%. The vertical axis is percentage growth in income, averaged over three to nine year periods.

What the graph shows is that since the so-called Reagan Revolution in 1981, most income growth has been in the top 10%. Since the start of the Bush presidency in 2001, essentially all income growth has been in the top 10%. President Reagan’s famous “rising tide” didn’t just fail to lift everyone’s income; it has drowned 90% of the income-earners in America. It didn’t “lift all ships.” It sank 90% of them.

Perhaps the whole Tea Party movement should be seen as an imperfect realization of the harm that “conservative” economic policies have done to most Americans. The only honest part of the Teabagger thing has always been its unfocused anger, its rage. The ten percent – really the one percent – who have been the overwhelming winners in the economic sea change since 1981 have attempted to direct that anger away from themselves. While most Teabaggers have not shown they’re smart enough to figure out they’ve been had, you can only hide as big a scam as “Reaganomics” for a while. Eventually the sheep will look up.

At the same time the future has dimmed for 90% of Americans, the safety nets have been zealously cut away. Because buried in the chart is the hard fact that not only have the 90% of Americans seen their income stagnate or decline; a very substantial number have lost their jobs entirely, or are trapped in minimum wage jobs with little chance of escape and, if the ten percent have their way, no hope of a raise.

This blog post’s title is shamelessly lifted from a cut on the Beatles’ White Album, of course. WC’s revolutionary buddies were shocked, shocked that the Beatles had abandoned the Revolution. But, after all, they were all millionaires by that time. Part of the 10%. Part of the 1%, probably. But history teaches us that if you take away hope, if you take away dreams, and make a people desperate, you get a revolution.

Seen in this context, the militarization of the nation’s police makes a kind of frightening sense.


One thought on “You Say You Want a Revolution?

  1. There is, most unfortunately, something in the way those data are presented that does not pass the smell test, as follows:
    Each set of bars represents different periods of time (5 yrs, 4, 3, 9, 4, 4, 8, 10, 7 and 4, respectively). It is absolutely impossible to conclude anything from the data as shown, other than that if presented in a Stats 101 class, its creator would deserve an F.
    Presented properly, there may be a case. Or not. We simply don’t know from what is here shown.

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