Is the increase in inequalities the fault of the “9.9%”?

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The 9.9%: the new aristocracy that entrenched inequalities and distorted our culture by Matthew Stewart

Published in October 2021.

Matthew Stewart, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford, puts forward three main arguments in The 9.9 percentt.

First, Stewart locates the extreme and growing levels of income and wealth inequality in America as the fundamental determinant of political polarization and extremism, the health and healthcare crisis and our environmental catastrophe. looming caused by climate change.

Second, Stewart blames our increasingly stratified society not on the very wealthy but on the 9.9 percent of professionals who benefit from and maintain the economic status quo.

Third, the appropriate arenas to combat rampant stratification are politics and policies that benefit working people rather than wealthy investors.

Some definitions: If your total net worth is between $ 1.2 million and $ 20 million, you are in the top 9.9% of the wealth distribution. If your household income is around $ 200,000 or more, you are among the highest 9.9%.

The first objection that most readers of The 9.9 percent aura is to question the decision to group together families whose combined household income barely fits them into this classification with the truly wealthy. After all, the richest 5% of households have a net worth of over $ 2.5 million. The richest 1% earn $ 500,000 or more. And the richest 1% of individuals enjoy a net worth starting at $ 4.4 million. Of course, there is a huge range in that 1 percent. At rarefied levels of 0.1%, individual net worth starts at $ 25 million.

Anticipating this objection, Stewart argues that membership in the 9.9% is as much of a mindset as paychecks and investment portfolios. If you own your home in an area with reputable public schools, you’re probably in the 9.9%. If college for your kids is a certainty, not dependent on scholarships but manageable with loans, then you’re in the 9.9%. If you don’t live from salary to salary and have a financial cushion to absorb a job loss, you may also be eligible for inclusion in the 9.9%.

How are 9.9% responsible for the increase in inequality if almost all the gains in wealth have accumulated at the top of the distribution?

Stewart argues that it is the 9.9%, made up primarily of the professional class of medicine, finance and technology, that administer (and benefit from) our unequal economic system. Well-paid financial advisers and investment professionals primarily manage the portfolios of the very wealthy. Physicians are well paid not for their impact on improving the health of the population, but for their enforcement (through professional associations) of an artificially low supply of physicians. Tech professionals work primarily on technologies that extract money (through attention or purchase) from the poorest 90% and redistribute those dollars to wealthy shareholders and a few executives.

How is higher education involved in the 9.9% tyranny? Stewart criticizes university endowments that accumulate tax-free. It highlights the ways in which nonprofit colleges escape contributing to their local communities by avoiding paying property taxes. In the most selective and renowned universities, wealthy students represent a disproportionate percentage of the student body

Does reading The 9.9 percent convince anyone to change their mind about how we think about inequality or what policies to support or oppose? Doubtful. While it’s not clear that any of us change our minds about great things because of what we read, see, or hear. If you are inclined to believe that increasing levels of income and the stratification of wealth are central issues of our time, then you are probably a reader of The 9.9 percent. Most readers of The 9.9 percent will come from this income / wealth category.

Being blamed for the problem (growing inequality) makes the reading experience captivating. One wants to keep arguing for the sake of not being convicted of the charge, and Stewart continues to make compelling arguments for the guilt of his readers. conservative readers of The 9.9 percent, if such a reader exists, is unlikely to be troubled by his guilt in perpetuating inequalities.

To what extent is our postsecondary ecosystem responsible for increasing levels of inequality?

How much do the rising cost of higher education and growing student debt contribute to the story of increasing economic stratification?

Do the economic theories that have emerged and refined within academia given the intellectual coverage of the rich justify their extreme wealth?

If you are among the 9.9%, how does your work directly contribute to or improve levels of inequality in our society?

What are you reading?


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