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Posts Tagged ‘Bonus Army

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life”*…


inequality Scales

… It might be that people have been studying inequality in all the wrong places. A few years ago, two scholars of comparative politics, Alfred Stepan, at Columbia, and the late Juan J. Linz—numbers men—tried to figure out why the United States has for so long had much greater income inequality than any other developed democracy. Because this disparity has been more or less constant, the question doesn’t lend itself very well to historical analysis. Nor is it easily subject to the distortions of nostalgia. But it does lend itself very well to comparative analysis.

Stepan and Linz identified twenty-three long-standing democracies with advanced economies. Then they counted the number of veto players in each of those twenty-three governments. (A veto player is a person or body that can block a policy decision. Stepan and Linz explain, “For example, in the United States, the Senate and the House of Representatives are veto players because without their consent, no bill can become a law.”) More than half of the twenty-three countries Stepan and Linz studied have only one veto player; most of these countries have unicameral parliaments. A few countries have two veto players; Switzerland and Australia have three. Only the United States has four. Then they made a chart, comparing Gini indices with veto-player numbers: the more veto players in a government, the greater the nation’s economic inequality. This is only a correlation, of course, and cross-country economic comparisons are fraught, but it’s interesting.

Then they observed something more. Their twenty-three democracies included eight federal governments with both upper and lower legislative bodies. Using the number of seats and the size of the population to calculate malapportionment, they assigned a “Gini Index of Inequality of Representation” to those eight upper houses, and found that the United States had the highest score: it has the most malapportioned and the least representative upper house. These scores, too, correlated with the countries’ Gini scores for income inequality: the less representative the upper body of a national legislature, the greater the gap between the rich and the poor.

The growth of inequality isn’t inevitable. But, insofar as Americans have been unable to adopt measures to reduce it, the numbers might seem to suggest that the problem doesn’t lie with how Americans treat one another’s kids, as lousy as that is. It lies with Congress…

The estimable Jill Lepore on accounting for inequality: “Richer and Poorer.

[image above: source]

* Jane Addams


As we search for the balance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that the National Hunger March gathered in Washington DC to demand jobs and relief.  Massing in front of Congress, the 1,670 marchers were met by an estimated 1500 police, and 1000 Marines, all armed.  They left without a hearing from President Hoover or any other official, but did have an impact: they set the stage for the 1932 march of the Bonus Army where 43,000 marchers – many veterans – descended on Washington DC to demand payment for the “service certificates” which had given to them in 1924 in lieu of cash.

hunger-march-in-pictures source


Written by LW

December 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

They giveth; they taketh away…


The Economist reports that participation in the U.S. Food Stamps program– designed to insure that poor Americans have enough to eat– had, by this past April,  reached almost 45 million, or one in seven Americans.

At the same time, Reuters reports that In 11 states, lotteries provided more revenue than the state corporate income tax in 2009… The Rhode Island lottery netted the state more than $3 for each dollar of state corporate income tax in fiscal 2009.

click image above, or here, for larger version


As we strain to think of even more regressive ways to raise revenue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that General Douglas MacArthur, on the order of President Herbert Hoover,  led two regiments and six tanks against the Bonus Marchers in Washington, D.C.  The Bonus Army was a group of 43,000 marchers– 17,000 World War I veterans, their families, and affiliated groups– who gathered to demand cash-payment of the certificates they’d been issued by the government at the end of World War Two as a bonus for their service.  MacArthur’s cavalry charged the protestors’ camp, and his infantry entered with fixed bayonets and adamsite gas, an arsenical vomiting agent, evicting veterans, families, and camp followers.

The Bonus Army incident proved disastrous for Hoover’s chances at re-election; he lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Shacks that members of the Bonus Army erected on the Anacostia Flats burning after the confrontation with the military (source)

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