It wasn't just that serious salary increases started going only to a small group of fortunate workers. The share of money that went to all employees, rather than to corporate shareholders and business owners, also became smaller. Until 1980, America's national split of "gross domestic income" was around 60-40 in favor of workers, but then it began dropping and is now approaching 50-50. That change amounts to almost $1 trillion a year, an annual average of around $5,000 that each person with a job isn't being paid. Instead, every household in the top 1 percent of earners has been getting $700,000 extra every year. It undoubtdly has been the largest and fastest upward redistribution of wealth in history.
Friedman, a free-market ideologue, published an essay 50 years ago this week in The Times Magazine in which he argued that corporations should not go beyond the letter of the law to combat discrimination or reduce pollution or maintain community institutions. Corporations, he said, have no social responsibilities except the sacred responsibility to make money.
The essay was a big hit with the executive class. Rich people were only too delighted to see selfishness portrayed as a principled stand. Friedman’s creed became the standard justification for corporate callousness. The Business Roundtable, a leading lobby for large companies, declared in 1997 that maximizing profit was the purpose of a corporation.
Critics have been fighting ever since to get corporations to acknowledge broader responsibilities.
It’s the wrong battle. Instead of redefining the role of the corporation, we need to redefine the role of the state (emphasis added).
In a U.S. society of perfect economic equality, all the money would ... be divided equally among Americans - the total income of $19 trillion (according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis) and the U.S. personal wealth of about $100 trillion (according to the Federal Reserve) all parceled out equally to each of the 129 million U.S. households.
In this imaginary America 2, every household has a new worth of $800,000 and an annual income from all sources of $140,000.
Those numbers shocked me. They shocked me so much I had a long correspondence with a Harvard economics professor about them to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding something.
In this leveled-out America 2 not only would nobody be poor (or rich) but everyone would be upper middle class. Everyone would have an income and net worth that would put them, in today's actual America, well within the most affluent top fifth of the population. It would almost be as if the American Dream tagline of the fictional town in A Prairie Home Companion, "all the children above average," came true for the whole country economically.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander. What goes up must come down. All of that good stuff!
Let's remember that democratic self-government means that it is "We the people," not the corporations or the "evil geniuses," who actually have the ultimate power. Of course, to make that work for us, we have to organize and use it.
So, having read what Andersen tells us could be possible, here's my thought: Let's make a plan!