Archive: 07/2014

Israel and Palestine

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

And so Israel and Palestine are back at it again—not the biggest conflict in the world or even the biggest in the Middle East. The Shia/Sunni conflict pitting Russia against the U.S., Shiite Iran against Sunni Saudi Arabia, and the intermingled Shia and Sunni regions extending from Lebanon to western Afghanistan involves a far greater geopolitical theater, global energy resources and hundreds of millions of people. In contrast, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict embraces no more than 11,000 square miles and 11 million people. (To provide a sense of scale, Nebraska encompasses 77,000 square miles and only 1.8 million people. Palestine/Israel contains six times as many people as Nebraska in one seventh of the area). Real children, however, are dying from Israeli bombs on the supposition that a Hamas member may live in their house. Real rockets scare Israeli urbanites nightly and disrupt life constantly. The struggle has gone on since 1948. We have been desensitized. “It’s just the Israelis and Palestinians going at it again for a week or two.” But the more than 50-year-old war sits in the center, and the other Middle East conflicts are its entailments.

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Income Inequality: Is There Any Hope for Change?

by Hank Van den Berg
UNL Professor of Economics

The popularity of Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, suggests that people are finally waking up to the fact that economic inequality has increased sharply over the past 40 years. Piketty presents a great many charts and tables, based entirely on official U.S. government data, to show that both income and wealth have become as unequal as they were during the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of capitalist excess. What is frustrating is that this rise in inequality in the U.S., the highest among all developed countries, comes after New Deal programs and subsequent social legislation actually greatly reduced inequality during the 1950s and 1960s.

Even more troubling is Piketty’s finding that just in the past five years inequality has continued to grow. The wealthiest 10 percent have recovered from the financial collapse very nicely, but the rest of the U.S. population has not. There is no sign of the growing inequality reversing itself. We must change the system; we cannot just tweak it.

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