Posted by: stillironic | September 25, 2010

Income Disparity or Too Many Anchovies on the Pizza (Don’t Blame Pluto)

Anchovies in a tin

The super filthy rich

I don’t know how you feel about anchovies, but I find one torn up on a slice of pizza to be quite tasty. But I don’t want to eat a whole tin. That would probably make me throw up. Which is kind of how I feel about the super filthy rich. One exceedingly rich person in the group spices things up. But a whole tin of them mashed together and smothered in anchovy oil is bound to test anyone’s gag reflex.

It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone in the U.S. had a fighting chance to become super filthy rich or just rich. Or even just almost rich. But ever since the 1980s, for a combination of reasons, the middle class’s standard of living has stagnated like a fetid pond. Meanwhile growth of U.S. income has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the anchovies.dollar sign

According to Slate Magazine, anchovies (the wealthiest one percent of our population) took in more than 80% of the total increase in U.S. income between 1980 and 2005.

So during decades when the government failed to raise the minimum wage one lousy cent, the president and Congress—home to 237 millionaires—allowed? directed? sat by and watched while? wealth flowed like anchovy oil into the bank accounts of … well, the anchovies.


Richest 10% of our population

According to the University of California at Santa Cruz, anchovies:

  • “at the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity”; and
  • “at the top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of nonhome real estate.”

dollar sign

Pretty disgusting. What would such small fish with such large mouths do with all those trust funds? Filet them?

One anchovy

Anchovy swimming toward his trust fund

As we know, however, money equals power. This begs the question: is the U.S. turning into an anchovy republic?

Some say it’s turning us into a plutocracy.

Now, my high school may have been third rate—half my teachers were alcoholics is only a slight exaggeration—but I did learn about our solar system. So, using my stealth powers of deduction, I figured out that plutocracy would be government by Plutonians.

surface of Pluto

View from cold, dark surface of Pluto

Thing is, astronomers have pretty much decided that Pluto’s too dark, cold, and full of nasty methane to support inhabitants. Probably a good thing, too. Pluto’s been downgraded to a dwarf planet. Be quite a bummer for anyone living there.

pluto dog cartoon

Pluto with bone; happy from licking black spots off the pavement

Plutocracy could refer to government by Pluto, Mickey’s faithful furry friend. Now dogs may be known for their skills ruling a pack. So we can’t rule out their ability to lead and to govern. But in all frankness, they’d rather lick black spots off the pavement than wheel and deal behind closed doors. Can you imagine dogs figuring out how to circumvent campaign finance laws? They have no idea what “circumvent” means, for starters.

Besides, Pluto is from a cartoon. Could a cartoon character possibly respond to a natural disaster with this level of astuteness: “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job!”

On the other hand, living in a cartoonocracy would probably be a better deal for the middle class than living in an anchovy republic.



  1. I love the way you present this type of material is such a palatable way (no pun intended). Another good piece. Thanks for raising the level of discourse in the blogosphere.

    • Thank you, kindly, and it’s my pleasure. Although it’s not all pleasure trying to understand this stuff. I’d be a genius if I only remembered one-fourth of what I’m learning. (Is it possible to be a genius if you only have an average IQ?)

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Boehmer, Jayne Martin. Jayne Martin said: Income Disparity or Too Many Anchovies on the Pizza (Don’t Blame Pluto): This writer rocks! Read her latest. […]

    • Many thanks, Jayne, for the tweet. I’m in your debt!


      • Debt — nonsense! It such a pleasure to find a kindred spirit and share your voice.

  3. So, assuming the rest of us are plankton… what do we do about it? We seem to focus all of our energy on getting our fingers on the secret formula for crabby patties.

    • I know. It does seem frustrating. The GOP had from the ’96 election when they took control of Congress, through 2008 to get us into this mess. And they weren’t alone. Clinton’s signing of the bank deregulation bill in ’99 was a disaster. But I think expecting the Democrats to put Humpty Dumpty back together again in just two short years is just magical thinking. I’m for giving them another two years and throwing them out in 2012 if things aren’t better. I don’t think giving the steering wheel back to the guys who drove us off the cliff at this point so they can take us back to the Bush economic policies, which is what they’ve proudly said they want to do, is the best way to go right now.

      Plus a few well-placed Hail Marys couldn’t hurt either.

      • It’s going take longer than two years. Bush created a train wreck, but it was the culmination of the ascendancy — descendency might be a better word — of the unregulated market ideology. The Republican certainly won’t try to fix that — they’ll give us more of the same and tell us that it’s working fine.

        The problem is that our political system is broken. A nonentity like Scott Brown holds up modest financial reform over a minor point. The right-wing media cows moderate Democrats into supporting an extension of the Bush tax cuts, something no sane person right or left should support. Meanwhile, the left wing media accuses liberals of being afraid of the right while it endorses the teabaggers as populists. Gah.

    • Power to the plankton!

      It would be nice if we could take some control of the discourse in the political arena and be able to articulate why letting the rich run things isn’t such a hot idea.

  4. Pluto is still a planet. Ron, Pluto IS still a planet, and you can join those of us working to either get the IAU demotion ignored or overturned. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity–a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned. Find out more from my blog at

    And plutocracy can also mean rule by supporters of planet Pluto. Don’t let the wealthy co-opt this term; they don’t deserve it. I agree with everything else you say. This country is waging war on the middle class, and that is a direct route to our becoming a third world country.

    • Laurel, I admire your passion! I don’t see the point of Pluto not being a planet, actually. And was only vaguely aware of the controversy surrounding the issue. But I don’t think of it any differently. It’s still out there in the same place, challenging the imagination.


  5. Actually, deregulation began in the Reagan administration.

    It is very bizarre to me that Obama is being blamed for what occurred beginning in 96. The billions that have been poured into Iraq really got the ball rolling. The big financial cow pie added fuel to the conflagration. Now the rich are still getting richer, and the middle class is still getting screwed.

    • Hi, Judie. Ah, yes, Reagan the deregulator and union buster. What a guy! You might find a book called “Screwed: The systematic destruction of the middle class” by Thom Hartmann interesting. He’s a fine writer and very, very well educated on the subject.

  6. I guess as long as Republicans/Tea Baggers control the discourse, they’re able to blame the Dems for everything that goes/has gone wrong.

    For instance, it’s very possible had Gore been elected president–oh, that’s right, he WAS elected president–that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. The Clinton administration was following al Qaeda’s activity pretty closely, including the movements of the mastermind, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed. But when the Bushie’s took office, they dropped the ball and didn’t follow up. Appointing Condeleeza Rice, a Soviet expert, as Sec of State, when the Cold War was effing over is just an example of their thinking. But in the mainstream media we never or barely ever hear a peep about Bush admin. negligence.

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