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As every public figure knows, there are certain words that can not be uttered without causing shock or offense. These words, commonly known as "slurs," target groups on the basis of race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and sundry other demographics. Many of us were reminded of the impact of such speech in August, when the radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger repeatedly uttered a racial slur on a broadcast of her show. A public outcry followed, and ultimately led to her resignation. Many such incidents of abuse and offense, often with much more serious consequences, seem to appear in the news by the day.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

C.E.O.'s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

  • [Campus Group Gets Attention By Offering to Go to Church](http://rich



RE: Our Banana Republic

Income inequality is the single biggest flaw in conservative thinking (if you can call it thinking). We have already been where they are taking us. It was called the Middle Ages and we didn't like it much. Handing over the riches of our nation to 1% of the populace is just screaming for trouble. I see this as the biggest threat to American democracy (if you can call it that nowadays).

R.I.P. middle class America.

Hello Brazilification!

Actually the wealth distribution was much more even in the middle ages.

Royalty were really just the folks with stone houses and a few hundred achers. Poor people just had a wood house and the shirt on their back.

Today the rich have pretty much more than a human brain can concieve. and the poor have years in salary of debt.

I am going into air condition repair.

The amazing thing is how self-perpetuating the slide into Banana-Republic status is. Consider the following two sentences from Kristof's article:

(1) From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
(2) In the past, many of us acquiesced in discomfiting levels of inequality because we perceived a tradeoff between equity and economic growth.

Now, since most Americans have lost whatever ability they have once had to think critically, they are unable to penetrate the propaganda served up the right-wing media machine that serves the interests of the richest one percent.

First of all, the evidence that proposition (2) is true is very thin. It is Cato Institute dogma, but I've never seen it convincingly demonstrated. Secondly, and much more important, even if it is true that annual GDP growth is higher by a few tenths of a percent because of inequality - 99% of the people still experience a lower rate of economic growth! How much good does it do a country of 310 million people to have a few million people with lots of yachts, private tennis courts, more house(s) than they know what to do with, ... while the schools, parks, and infrastructure are decaying? Just how can people sit and drool while Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity rant about socialism while their way of life is slipping away?

Jeez, Dr. Feynman : The man truly was an educator!

"I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who." Rudyard Kipling

The secret - unless you have the intellect of a Feynman - is to use those serving men judiciously.

I read a quotation many years ago by a scientist in India (whose name I forgot) which went "When I ask 'why?' I am a hindu, when I ask 'how?' I am a scientist."


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