17 June 2015

Read my lips—it doesn't trickle down

It has been the heart and soul of capitalist market economics since day one—the ultimate justification for an unfair society. If we ensure that the rich get richer, the benefits will trickle down through the economy benefiting all. According to a new and exhaustive study released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if this was ever true it isn't anymore.

The report, Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective, states: "If the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth." In short, making the rich richer at the expense of the poor is not only bad for the poor, it is bad for everybody. And conversely, making the poor richer is good for everybody.

The latter is not surprising. The poor spend every penny they get, they spend it now, and they spend it locally, where it does the most good. Consumption is, after all, the main driver of the economy.

The report suggests that as the income share of the rich increases, so does their political influence, which leads to policies that favour them. Less is spent on policies that would benefit the poor such as better schools and cheaper university education, policies that would lead to increased GDP and a better life for all. Inequality leads to more inequality. According to the report, "Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time."

Actually, climate change is the defining challenge of our time, but inequality runs a good second, and if economists at the staunch free market-oriented IMF want to give it pride of place, I won't quibble.

1 comment:

  1. Nobel laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, recently attacked this sort of pitch from the TPP deal. He laid bare the nonsense that such deals "could" benefit all social strata. Yes, that could happen, but as Stiglitz revealed "could" was entirely dependent on the whim of those who actually benefited, the very richest. It was all a myth premised on the advantaged being willing to sacrifice money already in their accounts for the benefit of the disadvantaged, something for which there's never been the slightest empirical evidence.

    Bill, it's all complete bullshit fabricated by and for the exclusive benefit of the priviliged, aped by their now "captured" political minions and sold as a wholesale lie by our corporate media. I once thought that only Russians in the Soviet era could be this so incredibly conditioned. I was wrong.

    This entire neoliberal age in which we live was a function of conditioning the public to believe utter fantasy. It should never have worked. It did.