When Sam Pizzigati’s Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality That Limits Our Lives was first published in 2004, the audience that the book found might well have been considered “The Choir.” There were some rumblings in the distance for those who chose to hear them, but Americans in general were still under the trickle-down spell that had lasted since at least the Reagan Administration. Now that the bottom is literally falling out, in light of Detroit execs flying to Washington in private jets to ask for handouts, million dollar office makeovers, and misappropriation of public funds to pay bonuses to already overpaid executives of failed businesses, the book may now find a broader audience.
I have always been amazed when conservatives rail against the idea of “wealth redistribution.” They seem to be completely ignorant of history and that one of the fundamental purposes of government is to redistribute wealth. This has been true since the beginning of civilization. Sometimes wealth is distributed less inequitably than others, but make no mistake, wealth has always been redistributed. When we consider the wealth of the entire nation, the profits that are produced by all of the people, it has always been redistributed.
In his book, Pizzigati, traces the history of that redistribution, from times where most of the income flowed into a tiny percentage sitting at the top of the pyramid, the so-called gilded age, to the golden age of the middle class, the 50’s and 60’s when tax rates for the rich were the highest, labor unions were strong, and government intrusion into business was at it’s height. It was during that time that CEO’s of major companies, although well paid, were low-key figures, and who’s homes were modest compared to today’s royal standards. And it was not that long ago.
Pizzigati specifically takes on some of today’s CEO’s and their unbelievable compensations and asks several questions. First, are they, is anybody, worth that much money? Given what many of them actually did to the companies they led, the answer is no. Second, is the growing chasm separating the tiny group at the top of our society that owns ninety percent of the wealth from the vast majority who create that wealth god for us as a nation, and as a society? How has it poisoned our culture?
Pizzigati’s remedies may come across as radical and could be labeled by the right as socialist, or even communist, but they are not. He is simply arguing for a return to a set of national and social values that flourished during a significant portion of the twentieth century and created the richest, and for a time, the one of most equitable of nations.
Too Much: Sam Pizzigati’s web column.
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