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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Sep 2014
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30 Aug 2014
Needed: An Honest Debate on War

Our country in September 2014 needs an open, serious and honest public debate so that this time, we can make … Read More.

Too Rich for My Taste


"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration."

Any semi-plausible 2016 White House candidate knows it would be the kiss of fundraising death to be caught on YouTube uttering such subversively un-American, anti-business sentiments. If you want to understand just how far to the right our politics have moved, you only have to know that the opening lines above are a direct quotation from the first annual message to Congress by our nation's first and greatest Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

What brought Honest Abe to mind was the Federal Reserve's recent release of its Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years, which confirmed conclusively what you probably already knew: The rich are getting ever richer, while everybody else is losing ground. Between 2010 and 2013 (remember that the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009), the median income for all American families, which has dropped every year since 2006, fell another $2,300, down to $46,700 a year. The only Americans whose incomes did not shrink between 2010 and 2013 were the richest 10 percent.

To me, the most disheartening numbers deal with the growing concentration of the national wealth among the economic elite. The richest 3 percent of Americans controlled 44.8 percent of U.S. wealth in 1989 (right after the second term of Republican Ronald Reagan), which increased to 51.8 percent in 2007 (in the second term of Republican George W.

Bush). In 2013, in Democrat Barack Obama's second term, the wealth share of the top 3 percent had swollen to 54.4 percent.

Conversely, the share of the nation's wealth belonging to the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell from a third during the Reagan years to less than a quarter. To make the point even more painfully, the nation's minimum wage, in constant dollars, was worth more — $5.06 an hour — in 1984 (Reagan again) than it was last year, down to only $4.87 an hour.

The evidence is clear. The United States is more and more unequal. Recall the criteria offered by the only American ever elected to the White House four times. A great Democratic leader, Franklin D. Roosevelt told us in his second inaugural address: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

By every human measurement, we have ignored Lincoln by deferring to and all but genuflecting before almighty capital while treating labor with indifference bordering on contempt. Year after year, as more is added to the record abundance of those who already have too much — and everyone else falls further behind — we fail FDR's test.

At one time, we honored these two men — Lincoln and Roosevelt — enough to build in our nation's capital two inspiring memorials to their leadership and their values. Is it not time we answered their summons and met their challenge to build a more human and humane American economy?

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




3 Comments | Post Comment
I agree. I am in the lower 90%. So, what do you propose, Mr. Shields?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Eric Wixom
Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:31 PM
Sir;... Such news demands a fatalistic response: Either we will revolt, and start over with the promise of a better deal, or we will eat this crap, and become slaves. I am afraid there is no alternative third choice. I guess we could all be slaughtered by disease, or war, and with less need and more opportunity, all could be well for a time.

Overproduction and underemployment are markers for the success of capitalism. Now, we have no place we can dump our products that does not want to dump on us better than we can dump on them. And it is easy to agree with Marx that glut is synonymous with high profits, but unless they start killing us off, sooner or later people will realize that if a fraction of the people working all the time can support all the people mostly living like crap that we can all work and all live better if we work for need rather than for profit. And that is exactly why the building world war and the rise of pandemic is so essential to the survival of capitalism.
People reach a stage in their lives when they can take all they have learned and transform it into some sort of philosophy, or world view through thought. If enough thoughtful people can communicate their thoughts to enough other people the vast sweat machine of capitalism is doomed. We need war and disease to kill off the poor who threaten the eat up the profits of the rich, but we also need disease and war to kill off the thoughtful. To question capitalism is to destroy it. And you might ask yourself how in the future we might prevent the rich from taking over society, and then denying to the population the democratic remedy that should be ours. It is inevitable, and yet undesirable, and still, every generation that finds itself in need of remedy must fight its own battles and win for itself its own revolution. Killing off the population so that what remains of wasted resources and opportunity will last the rich for a little longer is a fine solution. At the risk of being one of those killed off to make a success of capitalism let me suggest an alternative. We don't need the poverty, the crime, the disease, the war or any device capital finds expediant for the preservation of high profits. We could live with less profits and more humanity, for example.
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:55 PM
RE: JAS. Just listen to the talk given to his contributors during Romney's 2012 bid for the presidency and you recognize that the war has not only begun, it is in full battle mode. And Mark's statistics show who is winning.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:30 AM
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