The ‘99%’ has received plenty of press coverage recently with the financial crisis and protests against capitalism. However, the issues underlying the wealth divergence are less widely looked over, and sometimes criticized for a lack of clear direction.
It is a FACT that the divergence between the richest and poorest is growing, and has done substantially over the last 30 years. Take these statistics:
In 1980 the top 1% had a 6% share of the income. By 2011 this 1%’s share had increased to 18% of the income. The last time that income was so skewed to the 1% was just prior to the great depression. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chart_of_US_Top_1%25_Income_Share_(1913-2008).svg
Manual labor has been replaced by machines in many areas, reducing the NEED to exercise for many.
Increasing technologies are making it easier for a few individuals to control larger amounts of capital and organizations. Thereby increasing the value that a CEO can add to a company. In fact the ratio of CEO pay to that of the mean pat at a company is now 39:1 in the US.
The application of computing power + global networks + sophisticated software allows a new kind of highly scalable entrepreneurship creating companies with little in the sense of traditional infrastructure but with huge market valuations, as we see with companies like Facebook.
And so, there are fundamental changes which mean that the average workers who have been marginalized from manual jobs are now being marginalized from routine jobs which are being replaced by computers. Put this in another way, the bank tellers and airport check in staff are being replaced by computers right now. In a few years truck drivers and taxi drivers will be machines. (already Google has developed a self driving car that is in trials statistically safer than a human driver). This is a potentially positive development, but the ability to earn money is increasingly dependent on creative skills applied in a strategic way. Skillswhich are not easily programmable into a machine. I would like to stress that point. To give examples, chess, scrabble and mental arithmetic are very easily programmable. Creative writing is not
Over the same period we have also seen a significant rise in the levels of obesity in the US:
In 1962 13.4% of adults in the USA were clinically Obese.
By 2008 that figure had risen to 34.3%. It is not the 1% causing this shift, there are too few of them!
There is a very strong pattern in todays society of obesity being more common for lower income earners: (http://naturalhealthdossier.com/2011/04/the-economics-of-obesity-why-are-poor-people-fat/)
(chart shows % of adults classes as clinically obese)
Why? There is an explanation for this. Nature has us hardwired to crave high calorie foods since these foods have been scarce in nature, and for the majority of the timeline over which humans evolved it was advantageous to take advantage of high calorie foods when we came across them. Natural examples being the high sugar content of some fruits or animal fats that would be available after a kill. The problem is that unhealthy calories are now more available than they have ever been. The reason for this being that the population of the USA has remained fairly constant while modern intensive farming methods have provided a huge increase in available meat products. Also the drive to produce more and more corn resulted in a by-product, high fructose corn syrup which provided the food industry with a cheap alternative to cane sugar.
Where calories were once seen as a luxury, they are now readily available, and it is the lower income groups that have been most eager to take advantage of this. Healthy foods are perceived to cost more, and take more effort to prepare.
We are now seeing 2nd and 3rd generations who have grown up eating takeout and fast food to fulfill their basic dietary requirements.
Exercise is seen as a luxury for people who have more time and money than most
As a result we have a population that is significantly less healthy, which combined with inefficiencies in the healthcare system leads to increasing healthcare costs while real wages fall.
I believe that this problem in obesity is linked to a fundamental change in our economic structure. Here is where the linkage to the 99% comes in. The advent of modern technologies has long ago changed the structure of the workforce.
Where does that leave us?
We have enough cheap calories at our disposable to be obese at almost any income level.
Healthcare is becoming more expensive and harder to obtain
Lower to middle classes as incomes fall and the population gets sicker.
Lifestyles are trending to less exercise and unhealthy diets or pre made food.
All this is very bad for the nation, the 99% is the body of the economy, and it is hurting.
The Average American is fatter, has a lower income in real terms and is less able to afford healthcare
While we cannot do much about this bigger situation, it is possible to make adjustments to our lifestyles’. This is what our blog is about. Being active, eating healthily and enjoying ourselves and families at the same time will not fix the system, but prevent us from being caught by it.
And if enough of us make these changes then the country will be in a better place also.