I'm sorry, I seem to have overlooked this "loose end" - this post added to a thread of mine after I last looked at it. Thoughtful response of Fishin' and some good points. Clearly pointed out the weak points in Younge's arguments, foremost the lack of details in referencing and quoting, which means we have to take his word on many of his points. Like "looking through a crystal ball", indeed. Of course it was
an opinion piece in a newspaper, not a scientific study, and you do find few footnotes in the paper nowadays. In that sense it wouldnt be quite fair to discount what he says purely on that basis. Now, to some concrete points.
The reason those CEOs ended up with the great disparity rise isn't due to their annual salary. They got huge numbers of stock options as a part of their employment contracts and their net work skyrocketed with the stock market of the 1990s. Do the survey again today after the market has dropped and I'd wager that that huge disparity has shrunk greatly. The networth of those CEOs was all on paper.
Point about wages vs stocks taken. To conclude that the massive rise in the "net worth" of these CEO's (or the top 1% rich Americans, overall) was therefore "all on paper", and thus doesnt really count, on the other hand, seems a bit naive. It wouldn't even be true if people bought (or were given, as in the example) a choice of assets in 19xx and kept it, doing nothing with or about it forever. I invested a little bit in the 90s - came into some money (nothing like what we're talking about here). I bought some bonds. Every year, out of nowhere, I got a bunch of money - return on my bonds. Didnt work for it, didnt even have to gamble cleverly for it. All I'd needed was to have some money in the first place - from then on, it automatically created more money. Some will have earned that first money by hard work. Many others - and in the US, according to Younge, an increasing number of others - will have been born into it. And many will have been able to have their returns multiply a n-fold times faster thanks to the explosion in executive reward in the form of stocks etc. There's little virtuality about that. And there's other forms, of course, too. Like, many bought a house on a mortgage that was based on stock assets.
Nothing wrong with the principle itself here - one of those miraculous wealth generation characteristics of capitalism. But if the multiplication of wealth suddenly is increased n-fold for the top n%, and for them only, and the top n% is also increasingly harder to access, you lose both the meritocratic legitimisation of that wealth, and the principle of equal opportunities about it. The argument of "paper only" has that none of this actually happens
, b/c the multiplication would be virtual only - but as these modest examples already show, that's not true even on a basic level.
Then, of course, people don't
hold on to that asset they were given forever. They sell, buy, exchange, speculate. If they're clever, they can create a lot of real, non-virtual wealth for themselves that way. Of course, that cleverness is
in itself worthy of reward. But no more than a clever gambler deserves his winnings. What the disproportionate multiplication of that "huge number of stock options" CEOs were granted (often irrespective of the merit of their work) has done, is simply given the gamblers arbitrarily increased stakes to play with. So while the rest of society was to a greater or lesser degree stuck in that below-inflation wage increase cycle, the sudden and bizarre increases in the "paper" incomes of the top n% meant they suddenly had stakes in their hands to gamble with a multiple of anything they had had ever before - thus creating a system of colective self-enrichment of the top class quite separated from company achievements and national wealth increase. That's where Younge makes his point quite clearly, I think.
On the referencing, like I said, you are right about the lack of specification. But there is a priori also no reason to disbelieve him. I don't see a lot of evidence here that what he writes is wrong
, either. You seem to get close at one point, where you note that:
According to Perrucci's theories that "top class" that controls government and wealth is 20% of the US population. Not the 1% Younge uses.
But the %ages denote different things. I don't know what Perrucci means, where you quote him, about "the top class [controlling] government and wealth" -"controls government and wealth" is rather vague. Younge is pretty specific - "1% of the country owns one-third of the national net worth". So - <shrugs> - it's not much of a refutation; it can easily both be true. 1% of the country owns one-third of the national net worth (a statement of fact that shocks me, always again) - and 20% of the country owns and controls as much more as to meet Perrucci's criteria of "controlling the national government and wealth".
I don't know anyone that has ever believed in any such myth that the US was a 100% meritocracy.
I'll just refer back to that quintessential formulation of the underlying concept of America - the underlying lie of America, Younge would probably have said - on this thread, again:
New Haven wrote:
I'd say - face up to it being class
+guts+sweat+luck, and encourage intruments that help people jump across that first hurdle in the equation - that take that first element out of the equation again, period, as much as possible.