The Fugger Factor

Five hundred years ago, as the Reformation was brewing in Germany, the Fugger family soared to
Jakob Fugger „the Rich" (1459–1525), by Albrecht Dürer
Source :The Yorck Project {PD-US-no notice}
heights of wealth never before attained by captains of industry. Though the Fuggers strove to monopolize all of their markets, other capitalists caught on to the possibilities and managed to join the conspicuous ranks of the aristocracy. On the brink of Europe's most sweeping cultural change in centuries, the wealth of the upper class brought about what Will Durant called "the greatest economic disparities as Europe had not known since the millionaires and slaves of Imperial Rome."

In commemoration of this quincentennial, I would like to offer a new metric for recognizing the potential for disparities in economic wealth to bring about radical societal disruption; introducing "the Fugger factor." I'll leave it to folks like Thomas Piketty to quantify this metric, but suffice it to say that today's Fugger factor in the U.S. is as high as it's been since the Great Depression to the point that today's richest 0.1 percent of U.S. households now own about as much as the poorest 90 percent of the country combined.

Only the most blindly loyal of his followers hold to the promise that Blowhard's proposed budget will ultimately benefit the poor. According to Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman, if we again follow the trickle down fallacies of the Reagan years, "...inequality could really reach extreme and totally unprecedented levels in the years ahead."

Perhaps Melania will read the President to sleep with passages from one of the books Pope Francis gave him during this week's visit. Laudato si contains some surprisingly germane passages on economic justice, to wit:
...we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.
In their platform that advocates giving every citizen a livable income, the Green Party points out how these disparities should be viewed as a governmental problem:
The growing inequities in income and wealth between rich and poor; unprecedented discrepancies in salary and benefits between corporate top executives and line workers; loss of the "American dream" by the young and middle-class—each is a symptom of decisions made by policy-makers far removed from the concerns of ordinary workers trying to keep up.
Pope Francis takes this same view on down to other elites besides government, also pointing out the effect of urban blight, and adding a cautionary note for us green folk.
Indeed, when all is said and done, [the poor] frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
While the Reformation brought about a power realignment away from the church in Rome, this time it looks like the Pope is leading the charge for those who no longer care to go along with all this Fuggery.

 

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