Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Nation Where the Few Devour the Many

On April 9 of this year, the editorial board of the New York Times published one of the most insightful editorials I have read in many years,"The America We Need." It's a compelling argument for a progressive restoration that's long overdue in a country that once aspired to democracy but has, instead, become a nation where the many are at the mercy of the few.

Here are some excerpts:

“Liberty,” Roosevelt said at the Democratic Party’s convention in 1936, “requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.” His administration, working with Congress, enshrined the right of workers to bargain collectively, imposed strict rules and regulators on the financial industry, and created Social Security to provide pensions for the elderly and disabled.

...Over the past half century, the fabric of American democracy has been stretched thin. The nation has countenanced debilitating decay in its public institutions and a concentration of economic power not seen since the 1920s. While many Americans live without financial security or opportunity, a relative handful of families holds much of the nation’s wealth. Over the past decade, the wealth of the top 1 percent of households has surpassed the combined wealth of the bottom 80 percent.

...For those at the bottom, moreover, the chances of rising are in decline. By the time they reached 30, more than 90 percent of Americans born in 1940 were earning more than their parents had earned at the same age. But among those born in 1980, only half were earning more than their parents by the age of 30. 
The erosion of the American dream is not a result of laziness or a talent drought. Rather, opportunity has slipped away. The economic ladder is harder to climb; real incomes have stagnated for decades even as the costs of housing, education and health care have increased. Many lower-income Americans are born into polluted, impoverished neighborhoods, with no decent jobs to be found.
...The wealthy are particularly successful in blocking changes they don’t like. The political scientists Martin Gilens of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Benjamin Page of Northwestern have calculated that between 1981 and 2002, policies supported by at least 80 percent of affluent voters passed into law about 45 percent of the time, while policies opposed by at least 80 percent of those voters passed into law just 18 percent of the time. Importantly, the views of poor and middle-class voters had little influence. 
...“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,” Roosevelt told the nation in 1944.
...Advocates of a minimalist conception of government claim they too are defenders of liberty. But theirs is a narrow and negative definition of freedom: the freedom from civic duty, from mutual obligation, from taxation. This impoverished view of freedom has in practice protected wealth and privilege. It has perpetuated the nation’s defining racial inequalities and kept the poor trapped in poverty, and their children, and their children’s children.

...If individual income had kept pace with overall economic growth since 1970, Americans in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be making an extra $12,000 per year, on average. In effect, the extreme increase in inequality means every worker in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution is sending an annual check for $12,000 to a worker in the top 10 percent.

...The purpose of the federal government, Lincoln wrote to Congress on July 4, 1861, was “to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders, and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”
It's an engineered disaster. As former World Bank chief economist and Nobel laureate, Joe Stiglitz, is always quick to remind us, the rampant inequality that brings America low is neither market- nor merit-based. It is legislated, enshrined in tax codes and ancillary legislation. 


Anonymous said...

This is nothing more and nothing less than the absolute truth. Anyong

Trailblazer said...

Over the past decade, the wealth of the top 1 percent of households has surpassed the combined wealth of the bottom 80 percent.

Wealth becomes influence.
With influence comes absolute power.
And so the cycle goes on.

We live in a world that has, until recently, been kept alive by credit and debt, two sides of the same coin.

Much of the Western world lives in a credit card serfdom where personal debt controls daily decisions including voting !

At the end of the day we have only ourselves to blame in that we vote for those that offer easy remedies for complicated issues.
We , amongst other self destroying attitudes, make purchases based upon price and not value in either quality or morality.


John's aghast said...

The ballot box doesn't seem to work. What next?

the salamander said...

.. 'if individual income had kept pace with overall economic growth..'

I may now have read that line.. and paragraph.. 5 times, easily
From my POV.. it may be the most damning implication & accusation.. It seems to strip bare the 'premise'.. the principle, nay, the barrage of sloganeering and Potemkin Promise spewing constantly from 'political parties' (or whatever they are..) 'Growing The Economy' .. so called 'Nation Building' ..

The implication is .. 'the growing of overall economic growth' forgot to include the simple enhancement of everyday basic life for ordinary people. Upon consideration, it actually may be tithing or a tax on behalf of the well to do.. and pass the collection basket please.. give generously ! Church of the high n mighty is now in session ! The sermon today will be delivered by the investment groups or hedge fund that owns & directs a majority of Canadian Main Media ! Please review your complementary bible and register with the paywall & be entered to win a free trip to Fantasy Island !!

We call it Canada Day, Mound.. and amen.. I dig it.. but I aint doing backflips or blowing off fireworks.. The Boss is unruly, glad of a day off from losing the battle in Music World where her band may never tour again.. in th early Morning Rain.. the dawgs still misbehave and I can't find enuff time in the day to reinvent meeself. But we will dine outside on fresh Erie perch sizzled at the table, steamed fiddleheads and little round potatoes.. sip a lovely Pelle wine (ha hah .. I have sum Beaux's 'Lugtread' craft beers a chillin) May have a puff or two of my son's homegrown.. 'we aint goin nowhere' today.. soak up the day, watch for butterflies, feed the blue jays & cardinals

We will hoist a toast to you and all the Indy boyz.. I will slam one for all First Nations peoples.. we'll think of all the creatures being extirpated to 'grow somebody's economy'.. or somehow heat our houses 'ethically' from Asia or Nova Scotia.. and all that Bitumen Wealth in the ground.. and will listen to Winnipeg's Crash Test Dummies rip down 'God Shuffled His Feet' .. or Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman and 'American Woman' shredded perfectly

Obviously 'my Canada' or the Canada that fostered me, a kid with no mom or dad (mightily, I might add) aint for everyone.. or anyone neccessarily.. but it sure aint Jason Kenney's or Stephen Harper's or Jenni Byrne's or Christy Clark's, Rich Coleman's or Ray Novak's or Stephen Lecce's 'vision' (whomever th hell they are.. or think they are)

PS.. comment was delayed a day.. Google password issues.. we enjoyed the toasts.. and the foody bounty !

The Disaffected Lib said...

John, for the ballot box to work, it requires an informed electorate. If the voting public is sufficiently groomed they'll vote against their interest. The rest can be discouraged and just stay at home.

In Canada, a 40 per cent share of 60 per cent who turn out to vote can result in a solid majority government. That's one quarter of eligible voters. The winner rules because the "consent of the governed" plainly doesn't exist. We are not governed, we are a people ruled. Too often we fall back on the old saw that we get the government we deserve. We damn well don't.

It's no wonder we wind up with governments in service to private interests at the expense of the public interest.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Jesus, Sal. You had me at Lake Erie perch. A little butter in a pan and - Heaven. It's been years. As for the Pelee Island wine, I have sampled that awesome product. When the inter-provincial walls come down I will be having more.

As for the rest, when I started this blog around 16 years ago I dedicated it to "the restoration of progressive democracy." Too many Canadians don't understand what we risk if we don't make our democracy truly progressive. Too many Liberals imagine that being somewhat left of the Conservatives means they're progressive. If doesn't. It means they're a bit to the left of a Conservative or 'Conservative-Lite.'

If we want a progressive restoration while there's still time to achieve it, the only way forward begins with electoral reform. While he was in opposition, Trudeau promised it. Once in power he recognized that could lead to something not at all in his party's interests. That one betrayal alone is why I will not vote Liberal until we have a democratic, honest and representative vote.