If you are in the bottom 80 percent of American households, you've gained essentially no economic ground in the past three decades. Those of you lucky enough to be in the top 20 percent ($100,000+) might be heartened by the trajectory of the red line on the chart shown here—but sorry: The vast majority of those gains have actually gone to the top 1 percent (PDF) (average income: $1.9 million). And though the chart doesn't show this because the line would run off the page, if you're in the tippy-top 0.1 percent, your gains make the merely filthy rich look like chumps. (Click here to see the change in income distribution. Pour yourself a stiff drink first.]
Obama isn't proposing to radically redistribute these riches, mind you. Sure, he's advocated letting the Bush tax cuts for the most affluent expire, bringing their tax rate back to where it was under Reagan (PDF). But that's not why Forbes chose to demonize him; most of even its 5.4 million readers would not be affected. No, the reason Obama is being caricatured as some kind of latter-day Patrice Lumumba is simply that he took office at a dangerous moment for the wealthy and their enablers, coddlers, and bipartisan political minions. They faced the kind of backlash that has greeted corporate and political elites in the past when they've driven the economy off a cliff.
Since the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, there have been celebrations and congratulations around the world. Sadly for those inside China, their celebrations attracted swarms of police and caused Liu’s supporters to lose their freedoms as ordinary citizens of the People’s Republic. It makes Liu Xiaobo’s prize all the more important in its symbolic meaning, to most Chinese people and to the world — What is peace if a government can roll its tanks over peaceful civilian protesters at will, in the name of maintaining stability? What is peace if a victim of the government’s wrongdoing has no way to seek redress, yet could easily invite greater police harassment merely for doing so? What is peace if a citizen has no free access to political discourse, let alone political participation, in a country where social conflicts are suppressed by coercive forces?
Because of all the above, I support Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The opinion article in People’s Daily, signed with what appeared to be a pseudonym, appeared at least obliquely aimed at Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. He has argued in speeches and media interviews that China’s economic progress threatens to stall without systemic reforms, including an independent judiciary, greater oversight of government by the press and improvements in China’s sharply limited form of elections.
It also may have been directed at countering recent demands for democratic reforms by Chinese liberal intellectuals and Communist Party elders, spurred in part by Mr. Wen’s remarks and timed to this month’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese democracy advocate, Liu Xiaobo.