The Haves and the Have-Nots

Friday, January 07, 2011

Branko Milanovic, lead economist at the World Bank's poverty research division and the author of The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality, talks about the past and present of global inequality and what it means for democracy today.


Branko Milanovic

Comments [24]

toosinbeymen from nyc

Lehrer says it's a hard problem to solve, inequality. How is it hard? It's the easiest of all. Let's go back to the tax structure we had before Pres Reagan. Then let's stop giving tax payer funded subsidities to profitable businesses that don't need our tax money. But especially, let's finally stop subsidizing companies that send jobs off shore and reinstitute the pre Reagan tariff structure. Finally, if we could create good jobs in the US again, the inequality problem would be over.

Jan. 11 2011 09:00 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, Brian, There has to be equality. Unless you have lived it, you don't know what it is to live without money. Doing without is the worst thing ever. At some point, hopefully soon) it has to stop. Eugenia Renskoff

Jan. 07 2011 04:10 PM
Paul from NYC

Excellent, Brian! Please, more guests like Mr. Milanovic (although Elsie does make a good point)...

Jan. 07 2011 01:55 PM
S Block from NYC

The answer is (question asked on the show will become apparent in the answer):

When you live in a country with high levels of illegal immigration by economic migrants, the migrants push down the price of labor. Of course you hire their labor at the market rate, as you already pay the social costs of their presence (and benefit from the social benefits).

That doesn't mean you can't be in favor of closing the borders and/or deporting them--you don't have to be in favor or it either, but there is simply no schizophrenia nor disconnect nor hypocrisy. The disconnect is to feel otherwise.

As an example, I can be in favor of lower speed limits, or banning cell phones while driving, and at the same time, I am free to use my phone if it is legal or drive the higher speed limit. If you are in favor of legal abortion, doesn't mean you have to get one. We don't have to live our lives as ideologically pious monks. We engage the social compact, and advocate sometimes changing it, knowing full well that we will need to live under the new regime as everybody else does.

It's shocking that neither the show host nor the guest came up with this answer. WNYC is so ideologically driven. My advice, stop looking for hypocrisy in other people. If your alchoholic doctor tells you to cut down on drinking, think about your own liver, not his.

Jan. 07 2011 01:10 PM
Giuseppe from Manhattan

Public perception is also instrumental in consolidating the trend towards increasing wealth

In a recent study (, Dan Ariely
and Michael Norton demonstrate that the American public perceives wealth distribution to be much
more equal than it actually is. Also surprising are the results of the second part of their survey:
the ideal wealth distribution is even more equal than the perceived one.

Jan. 07 2011 12:50 PM
desdemona finch from Brooklyn

25 years from now, Wall Street is going to look funny surrounded by shantytowns. Wonder how the hedge funders are going to cope with that.

The greater the inequality in society the weaker the democracy. Eventually, something's gotta give.

Jan. 07 2011 11:46 AM

I wonder what the guest thinks about local currencies. That is a currency that is accepted by local businesses and service providers which expires after a certain time. That way, it can't be hoarded, but needs to be spent within the community. There are several examples in Europe of places that have good experiences with it.

Jan. 07 2011 11:30 AM
Brian from Hoboken

To Hazel-
As the object of yet another born and raised in Hoboken rant, let me assure you that I worked extremely hard through 16 years of school to get where I am now. I come fom a middle class family that values education and improving ourselves. My father had his own small business but fist want any of his 4 childrento take it over because he wanted us to do better than him. Please don't generalize like you did. Lastly, if yu want all of is young wealthy people to move out, you can return o the Hoboken of old which was the armpit of Hudson county (as a colleague of mine who was born and raised calls it).

Jan. 07 2011 11:30 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

I have to agree with Jeff about on the Republican House of Representatives and politicians in general. Let them try to deal with their health care costs without insurance. I have two sets of grandparents, one set who had very poor health insurance and one set who had what the Republicans would call "socialzed" medicine through Kaiser. My parents ended up having to take care of one set of grandparents after that grandmother's strokes ate through their entire savings. My other grandmother lived very well for 30 years after her husband died because all of his medical care, including the state of the art at that time replacement of a valve in his heart was covered. Furthermore, that grandfather was not a financial burden because he didn't have to go in and out of the hospital for years (like my other grandmother) thanks to prompt medical care. We live well within our means, but constantly have to scramble with escalating health insurance costs. The latest raise was an additional $10,000 per year for LESS coverage

Jan. 07 2011 11:29 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Thanks for this segment! It is helping me to learn more.

1968 - Average hourly was $3/hr, GDP was $912B.
2008 - Average hourly $18/hr, GDP was $14.5T.

The economy generates $9T YEARLY that the average worker does not get any part of. This shift in income is little more than ongoing theft.

My opinion, the current anti-union sentiment comes mostly from those whose parents (or grandparents) were in a union and see how union membership managed to protect their standard of living and they resent it.

Jan. 07 2011 11:29 AM

There's a book that's called "The Health of Nations : Why Inequality is harmful to your health". The findings, over and over again, are that when we feel more equal - and don't have such an incliniation to keep up with the Jones's , we are healthier and have a longer life. This has been demonstrated when comparing groups have similar histories and characteristics, live in similar environments, eat similar things, etc. It is quite interesting how much inequality affects the health.

Jan. 07 2011 11:29 AM
Rhozeng from Brooklyn

income inequality in this country has grown as a direct result of globalization -- however this has begun to mitigate global inequality. so what is your guests solution to that?!

Jan. 07 2011 11:28 AM

FaFa from Harlem, I find most economists are ALWAYS stating the obvious, usually several years after the fact.

...and with that usually some obvious solutions.

Jan. 07 2011 11:26 AM
Fafa from Harlem

I tuned in late, but every alarming thing I've heard from the guest so far is obvious. AND YET it is incredibly under-acknowledged/ discussed INCLUDING by those on the losing end, who are overwhelmed by the day-to-day survival struggle AND increasingly distracted by gadgets and reality tv and other flashing lights...Recipe for disaster.

Jan. 07 2011 11:21 AM

Why is it that Brian doesn't know the difference between socialism and communism? Social democracy has been alive and well in Europe for quite some time now - and they have considerably less inequality than America. In addition, there is now more social mobility in Europe than in America. These blanket generalizations about socialism are an extension of the Reagan propaganda years. America has been a banana republic for some time now. It has now mutated into class warfare, regardless of what apologists for capitalism may claim. Those of us on the ground know what is going on.

Jan. 07 2011 11:19 AM

I have NO problem with CEOs making 500 or even 50 million times more than the lowest paid workers. This isn't a communist country for pete's sake!

But neither are we a zero sum game, where one is only truly wealthy if he is the ONLY one with money. Without living wage requirements and universal health care coverage, those rich CEOs etc. must defend themselves to charges of unAmericanism. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet get no awards for fighting to raise their taxes.

Jan. 07 2011 11:16 AM
S Block from NYC

could you address the mathematical fact that a broad bell-curve will have people at the bottom 500 times farther away from the top than a narrow bell curve.

And since normally distributed income will be anchored at the bottom by zero (of course the gaussian is an infinite curve), the top end of a growingly wealthy economy will always seem to be getting X times farther away.

But in fact, if income is normally distributed, this is exactly what we'd want to see because all people above average would benefit, and in fact virtually all of the people below average would also benefit.

I'm not saying this is what's happening, I'm saying that somebody who tells us they know what's happening but they don't talk about it in these terms, may not know anything at all.

(we really should be using that distribution that is one tailed that I can't remember the name of)

Jan. 07 2011 11:13 AM

A banana republic...with no bananas!!!

Jan. 07 2011 11:13 AM

So is my grocery bill.
So is gasoline.
So is my car insurance
and the cable bill

and NO, I don't dine out!

We are barrelling down the road to a 2 class system! And the bottom half is not winning out!

Jan. 07 2011 11:11 AM

I have lived in Hoboken for over 30 years. It has changed from a working class/middle class community to a town full of young wealthy white people. Over 50% of residents earn over $100,000 and 19.3% of those earn over $200,000. The median family income is $130,000. The median age is 31.5. Where does someone get so much money at so young an age? From their parents! If you earn $40-50K a year you're screwed.

Jan. 07 2011 11:09 AM

The rent is too damn high!

Republicans & Democrats only care about who is funding their next campaign.

Universal healthcare is a must.
We need to raise taxes to have money to spend.

Jan. 07 2011 10:56 AM
Anne from Convent Avenue Baptist Church (420 West 145th Street)

Take action against the widening gap of "haves" and "have-nots"! Come out and support economic justice at the Mass Meeting for Living Wages next Thursday (Jan. 13) at 6:30 pm at the Convent Ave. Baptist Church on 145th St! In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight for a living wage as we approach the weekend of celebrating his life and work, this will be a mass meeting including speakers who support the living wage right here in NYC. To find out more, visit

Jan. 07 2011 10:49 AM
Marianne from Staten Island

It is impossible to live in NYC on the unemplyment check or even the food stamp amount. Health care is unaffordable; we need universal health care. Those Republicans who want to reverse Obama's health care law, have to show examples: give up their taxpayer-subsidized health care AND pension! Neither are in the Constitution.
The gap between those making $250000 and the unemplyoyed or working stiff is OBSCENE! People are at the brink because of this injustice of catering to the moneid crowd. We saw this in Feudalism and it always led to either revolt or significant correction of how the countries run.

Jan. 07 2011 10:41 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

Insurance Cost Redundancy as a vehicle to poverty:

Will the Republican House of Reps give up their tax payer based health care to save $ ?
Some of the Democrats are funded by trial lawyers, I hate all the law suites that drive up costs. All medicine has a reasonable risk as does the infamous spilled cup of coffee onto the lap of an elderly woman at Mcdonalds years ago.
But how will a family on min wage eat, rent an apt and get health care ? I think they just don't get health care and then end up bleeding out in the ER and then we all pay.
It's this redundancy of insurance, we are required to have for driving a car, getting a mortgage, workers comp and if we can afford it health care last of all, the most important.
Its also so sad that the first responders on 911 had to beg and go to court for their illness and or deaths. We all need health care Period.
No loop holes. No exclusions and no Pre -existing condition bs.
If you add all this up we are over paying for the potential broken leg at least 4 fold, and who profits Big insurance and lawyers, and the rest of us all suffer . So it just seems wrong and greedy and I think we all should agree, maybe besides a tea party we can form a party of common sense, respect for all and some regulation over the corporate greed that seems to have both parties by the short hairs.
I challenge all the politicians to give us health care or give us back theirs !
Stop the virulent spread of American Poverty.

Jan. 07 2011 10:31 AM

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