Monday, January 10, 2011

The Growing Income Inequality

Since my last post it snowed a few times. The first began in the early morning hours while I was delivering papers. The flakes were of the large variety and when I flicked on my car's high beams the scene was spectacular. Big, fluffy snow flakes flying at my car's windshield made the road resemble a scene in one of those snow globes that you shake. Beautiful.

On the weekdays I am done delivering papers by 6:00 AM so it is still dark when I get home. But on the weekends, I have almost three times as many customers so I don't finish until 7:30 at least. This past Saturday, the sun rise was especially pretty especially when viewed coming up over an open field some of which still exist in Perkasie area.

Last Friday I read an article which presented information detailing the growing income inequity in the United States and questioning why Middle America was not more outraged.

The information about the income inequities came from Timothy Noah at; a link to view this info is below.

My response to the author is as follows

I read your article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer with much interest as I have spent much time recently trying to understand why average Americans are not more outraged at the redistribution of income that has resulted in the stagnation of their standard of living. Unfortunately, you did not present any substantial answers. Perhaps it is because you are asking the wrong people.

First, does a plutocracy exist in America today? Probably not yet as there are too many professions that still produce exorbitant salaries. Athletes, movie stars, rock stars, hedge fund managers, CEO's of multinational companies, reality show hosts, etc, there are thousands of people who are earning millions of dollars a year. As I would include an organizational aspect as part of the definition of plutocracy, I don't see one existing today nor do I see one existing in the near future.

That being said, I do believe that there are forces at work in America that actively work to keep influence and resources in the hands of the rich while offering just enough opportunity and reward for the middle class to keep them, as Tyler Cowen so aptly defines them, as threshold earners. But these forces are not big enough to direct all the money and all the influence as many people achieve enhanced economic status through the vagaries of emotion, fads and other superficial factors that can't be predicted or controlled. Who knew that American Idol would become what it is today? (Although, the recent Supreme Court decision allowing more money to flow into politics disturbs me and certainly increases the chance of a plutocracy emerging).

A possible answer as to why middle class Americans are not up in arms is that our belief in capitalism overrides our ability to make a connection between the problems of capitalism and the growing inequality of incomes. That is because capitalism is no longer an economic philosophy but is beginning to become a religion.

The rich, of course, believe 100% in capitalism as it has worked for them. They are the poster children for hard work, entrepreneurship, individualism, etc, all the positive attributes that are associated with capitalism at its best. And, not only did it work for these individuals, but it worked for America. We are a country that went from a second class world power which just barely recovered from a decade of economic depression to the only super power in the world; all in about 50 years.

Organizations like the Cato Institute and magazines like the American Interest are the priests and rabbis of the religion of capitalism so will not be able to offer any understanding of why people who are not benefiting from it are not more outraged. They undoubtedly believe that those who are not benefiting are just not working hard enough, or worse, they have fallen all the way down the rabbit hole and believe God does not love those people.

In the end, the plutocrats are winning because middle class Americans still believe that they can be rich. And, since enough "regular" people still achieve a lofty economic status, the middle class will continue to believe so, despite the fact that the chance of earning your way to this level is slim to none.

If you want to prove or disprove my assertion, it is easy enough. Ask middle America.

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