Friday, February 04, 2011

Income Disparity

The more I began to read about what has been happening in Egypt, the more I saw it as part of a system of income inequality. Oh I know that means I am a socialist. Well sticks and stones and all of that; but this is something that's been on my mind for awhile and it's not so much political as cultural.

Although this inequality has probably been more obvious in the Middle East, with all its oil wealth, statistics show it growing here with more and more people who cannot earn a wage sufficient to provide their family with medical care, housing, clothing, and food-- if they can even find a job.

This has required more two income households, overtime, or working several jobs, none of which may offer health insurance. It isn't even a matter of an education as some have the college paper but still can't find jobs that will support a family. A worse problem is that some are not going to be capable of getting that piece of paper and the jobs they used to be able to do with pride and a real sense of purpose have gone overseas leaving behind minimum wage work, if they are lucky, in a service industry.

We now have 1% of our population with the lion's share of the wealth, [Wealth in the US], but not to worry, Congressmen are not among those losing ground-- [Congressional Wealth grew 13% in 2007].

The power of the middle class used to be powerful unions. It was in the government that had put in place, after the Great Depression, regulations on the financial markets, that had improved working conditions through safety regulations, and had tax policies that didn't reward extreme wealth. Those were the years of the growth of the middle.

There are always going to be some for whom there is never enough money. They are the ones who don't care about their fellow citizens but instead wonder what bigger house they can build, what size yacht, how they can display their wealth to impress others. If government doesn't do anything to rein in such levels of wealth, do people really think the rich will do it themselves through donations and living more moderately? The answer is obvious now if it wasn't before. For every Buffett, there are hundreds of others who not only don't care about how others are doing but delight in profiting off the losses they are suffering.

How can anyone find joy when they know their prosperity is being funded by the near poverty of others? Evidently it's not hard for some. Do the ones who think it's not their problem really believe anybody poor just was lazy? This isn't about handing people money, unless they are disabled or children; but about recognizing you cannot tell a man to work if there are no jobs. This is about not asking for a bigger piece of the pie; so there is room for someone else to earn a living wage. It is about not working to get tax policies that make it profitable to send jobs overseas.

Apparently in Egypt, where we were sending $3 billion a year to encourage them to not turn against Israel or us, where we sent our war prisoners for Mubarak's people to torture, the money we sent helped the ruling class to stay in power. From what I can tell, the ordinary people were getting educations that didn't lead to jobs. 40% of their young people were out of work. Does that sound familiar as our own rate of unemployment in young people is becoming a national disgrace?

Some in our country make a big deal out of the very thought that there would be any government help regarding avoiding income disparity. Oh woe, cannot do that or we will be socialist. We haven't seen revolts like in Egypt here in this country.

The tea party, when they have their demonstrations here, want to hold onto more of what they have, are responding to feeling threatened by the idea that health care for all is bad news for them. But if we keep cutting back our police force, find more and more people out of work and feeling powerless, earning paychecks that don't cover their cost of living, we might yet see it.

How can that feel good to anybody? Is there any pleasure in going to a grocery store and knowing some there cannot afford all the food they need for their families-- even with food stamps? Wouldn't it feel good if we all were doing okay, sure some better than others, but all could afford to feed, clothe and shelter our families?

It wouldn't to you? Well then who are you?

I know one thing about you. You're not a follower of Christ's teachings whatever you call yourself. Try reading Matthew 25:31-46 if you don't think the government should be involved in programs to help people who are poor. And if you don't think the poor are your concern, check out the story of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37. The Samaritan wasn't considered a Jew. The story is more like a non-christian helping a Christian. Others passed by the injured man. The Samaritan was the only one to help based on need, a man who was a stranger, a man he didn't ask for repayment or to accept his idea of God. Jesus said at the end of the Parable-- go and do likewise.

No, it cannot be Christians who are denying help to the least of our citizens. They would remember how Jesus said the sheep and goats were being separated based on what they did for the least of their citizens. He wasn't separating them based on pretty words they said. Not what church they attended, their being baptized; no, it was what they did for those in need.

Churches that might be buying themselves fancy temples and big gymnasiums for their members' use, sending a few dimes off to help others while they try to gain new members, churches like that, if there were any, of course, would find themselves covered in the Book of Revelations with its analysis of what might be expected in the end times.

No, it cannot be followers of Christ, who would be denying help to the people in this country. So who is it?

Oh I can hear the right now saying we give to our church or the missionary service we support. Jesus wasn't talking about that. Funny there is no reference in anything Jesus said anywhere about building big temples to him or gymnasiums.

Also in this particular one, he's talking about a reckoning of the nations. Who might the nations be? Many countries take great pride in their military. Think a big powerful military will make points with him?

His words really are a blueprint for what many righties today call socialism. Now he doesn't talk about how it's okay to call it help while it's wasted on fraud. The responsibility of the nations would be to be sure it's not-- that it really does help.

The kind of help that Christ is talking about we can and have offered through government programs. When it's effectively done, it's a hand up, not a hand-out. That's though socialism to the right wing.

Do we need words from a holy book to convince us it's the right thing to do and we all will benefit from that rising tide that carries all citizens with it? You know most of the non-believers I know already believe in helping others-- they don't need a carrot or a stick to convince them either.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty, and give you drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see you sick, or in prison and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." "...truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to the least one of these, you did not do it to Me.' translation from New American Standard Bible
Will we get the message before it's too late here?


Ingineer66 said...

You make some good points Rain, but if we took all the worlds wealth and equally distributed to each person on the planet today, by tomorrow some people would have nothing and some people would be rich. I agree that we have a smaller middle class in this country and a larger upper class and lower class. I wish I knew the answer to that. But in this country, what caste you are born into has nothing to do with where you end up living your life. Look at Bill Clinton, he was trailer trash with a slut for a mother and ended up being President. And we have rap stars driving around in $400,000 cars that were poor nobodys a few years ago. America still is the land of opportunity and people are still coming here for the American dream. It may just take a little more hard work and a little bit more time than it used to.

In the words of Steven Colbert, "America may suck, but it is still 1000 times better than any place else."

Rain said...

And you make some good points. It would do no good to hand out money to anybody unless they are disabled, old or children; but we can do more with creative taxation to encourage investment that leads to jobs. We should not have had the last tax cut that Obama caved on for those making over $250,000 a year in a time when we are so much in debt. That made zero sense. The rich haven't been hurt by this downturn. We also can look at ways to deal with corporations that reward their CEOs with huge salaries (which have only grown bigger) and left the working person behind. The money going out was the same but who it went to was not.

I don't much care what celebrities or sports figures make as that's a voluntary thing to pay into it (other than those expensive arenas but even there people generally did vote for them). But a CEO directly leads to higher prices on goods I might have no choice about purchasing. It leads to more layoffs below him and lower wages. The middle class is what buoyed this country and where is it heading?

I don't even care that some are extremely wealthy. The issue here is tax policy that doesn't help them get wealthier yet at someone on the bottom's expense.

Ingineer66 said...

Well we sort of agree, but I am sure not completely. I think keeping the tax rates the same was a good idea, but if it had to be raised it should have been raised above $500,000 or $1,000,000.
That would have had less impact on small business. You say you want creative taxing to stimulate investment, but then you say we should have raised taxes on the small businesses that are the backbone of the middle class and the people with the money to invest.

I sort of agree about the CEO wages being out of whack, but that is the fault of the board members and stock holders being asleep at the switch. Much the same way the government salaries in Bell California were out of whack and the people in the community nor the media were not paying attention.

But if a CEO is making his company $10 Billion a year shouldn't he make a pretty good salary? I think they also got carried away with the bonuses of certain employees. It is reported that hundreds of employees at Bank of America make over $1million per year. I could see a few top players, but hundreds? WTF? I know some folks at one of the biggest oil companies in the country and their pretty high up money people don't make half that.

Kay Dennison said...

I think you got it right on the money -- pun definitely intended.

There will alway rich and poor. I know that. However killing opportunities to earn a living is pure insanity. I would still be working if jobs had been available. And the bottom line is that that the welfare system is that it isn't designed to get one out -- it's designed to keep one there. The Bill Clintons and rap stars are the exceptions -- not the rule.

Rain said...

They tried to get them to go for over $1 million and the Republicans wouldn't even go for that. Remember this was income tax and small businesses have a lot of write-offs which is as it should be as I think small business is where most jobs can be had. It was income though and not net worth.

We agree quite often actually :)

Paul said...

We absolutely should help the poor ! The question often comes down to. "How do we help the poor?" And there is the rub. Of faith, hope and charity-charity is paramount. There should not be a poor person in this country and it is a shame that there are. Poverty impacts everyone . It is no respecter of persons. And where are all these jobs being created that Obama talks about ? Who does a better job of creating jobs-the federal government of the private sector ? Jobs, after all help to reduce poverty.

Phil said...

There is a realization on my part that there will be differences in prosperity, but does the divide have to be so wide. As you point out, when it widens enough we see what is happening in Egypt.
I wonder why a country so wealthy will not (it's not a matter of can) make sure we all have good healthcare, a roof over our head, care for the disabled/mentally ill. What we have done to the disenfranchised is shameful in our wealth. At the very least we are capable of providing basic living conditions and health to our socieity (and it would cost us less than our current health care system).
And to rant on....I will never understand how we consider cutting at home, when we spend a billion dollars a day fighting a war. We can protect ourselves for less, and provide for more.

Rain said...

How to help is indeed the rub. There is nothing wrong with public sector jobs and we have many we need like building and maintaining roads, firemen, policemen, military, those who run local and federal government offices. We need a lot of those. The thing with the private sector is we just shouldn't make it more profitable taxwise to send jobs overseas than keep them here. There are ways to give tax breaks to those who invest in new technologies for jobs to be kept at home. Government has a place in all of that.

And how Obama is doing, I reserve judgment on it. He sure hasn't done what I might've hoped most on many many things. How it works out though,that's the question. Some say the big mistake was the stimulus was too small. I looked at a recent article saying that states often misused the money given to them as stimulus as there were no strings on how they use it. For a Republican who wants those decisions made at home, that should sound good but it ended up not creating the jobs the feds hoped to get. States and local governments aren't always wiser in how they spend...

Rain said...

We'd have lost two big auto manufacturers without government help to keep them going until they could reformat their plans. Obama took a lot of flak over that from the tea party types; but it looks like both GM and Chrysler will have paid back the loans and be in the black soon if not already. That was a good use of government even if it was a gamble as losing our own auto manufacturers could not have been good-- not to mention all the jobs.

Ingineer66 said...

WE still lost them. Chrysler is owned by Fiat and a large part of GM is owned by a Chinese company. And they still closed a bunch of factories and dealerships costing many jobs. The only thing that was saved was the union contracts for Obama's union buddies. If they would have gone into bankruptcy the same number of jobs would have been lost but it would have cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars less.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I get irritated by people who believe that providing equal access to medical care and education is somehow "redistributing the wealth". It it NOT!

Everyone should have the right to realize their own potential, to compete in the marketplace of life. But decent society has an obligation to afford to others the rights which we would want afforded to us. Removing the barriers to decent health and education is an ethical basis for encouraging self-determination.

Rain said...

Be careful of your sources for that kind of thing, ingineer. The Fiat deal was in the works long before Obama and China didn't own all of GM last I read. But on any search almost every source came up right wing for the info on it.

As for Obama's union buddies... so the working man is Obama's buddy, the guys who have union backing which are often those who work with their muscles, they are his buddy? Who does that make the buddy of the Republicans? Which group has contributed most to the income disparity I am writing about here and that concerns me? Those high union wages you don't like are a pittance in the whole picture of economics and you know it. They have contributed to higher wages for those not in unions also. Having grown up in a union household and seen the problems but the advantages of unions, I think they are being maligned a lot by those who have taken a lot more from our country than the workers they represent...

Incidentally I will be offline later today and some of tomorrow; so please post comments but if they don't show up right away, it won't be because I rejected them for disagreeing with me :)

TaraDharma said...

excellent post, Rain. See my post of Dec. 30 along the same lines:

I would think by now that everyone who knows even a small amount of human history would understand that the way we truly thrive is to spread resources in the most equitable way possible. It's in even the richest's best interest to spread the wealth. Every single society on the planet eventually falls due to resource disparity - whether that's money or food or other basics of living.

There are, I'm afraid, people who are selfish and stupid enough to believe that people are poor because they are lazy. There is a mountain of evidence to refute this, but of course the selfish are not going to bother themselves with the FACTS.

Egypt is the latest example of the common man finally saying, "Enough is enough." I'm actually incredible proud of how most of the protestors have conducted themselves, especially since the people who started this thing seemed very non-violent and egalitarian.

Darlene said...

I don't care how you slice it, there is something very wrong with our economic system when the upper 10% have more wealth than the rest of the 90% put together. Most of the wealthy inherited their riches and did not earn it by the sweat of their brows or by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

Corporations are in the business of making the largest profit for their stockholders that they can. If that means shipping jobs overseas, then that is what they will do. There is nothing wrong with making a profit, but there is something very wrong with making people work longer hours for less pay to improve the bottom line. In a sense, a bad economy works to their advantage because they know the underpaid workers will have no choice but to 'take it' when their are 10 people waiting for that job.

The disparity in incomes is the largest since the Depression and it is getting larger. The rich get richer while the poor get laid off.

Yes, the poor will be with you always, but if the Bible thumpers really believed in Jesus as they proclaim, they would also follow his admonitions to care for the 'least if these' and that includes adequate shelter, food and medical assistance. Those are basic human rights.

Ingineer66 said...

I have a philosophical problem with the big unions like SEIU or UAW. Their leaders fly around in private jets and they own multi-million dollar country club retreats. And they seem to support any democrat party cause, even ones that actually harm their members. I am watching it happen in California where Jerry Brown is proposing some of the same things for State employees that Arnold did. The only difference is that when Arnold did it he was called every name in the book and blocked by numerous lawsuits by the unions and now that Jerry is doing it, he is doing what is right for the State during tough times.

As for the car industry, it is doing pretty well in the US in non-UAW States. But the UAW helped kill the golden goose. Paying some guy with an 11th grade education $75,000 a year with full medical and retirement to tighten bolts on a car cannot be sustained.

Rain said...

Where did you get your salary figures, ingineer? I saw this one when I did a search-- Average GM employee salaries with a list of what most of them made for various jobs as of February. I do not know how accurate but i have read before that the inflated figures given by the right haven't been right.

I don't for a minute doubt anytime you have power in humans, there will be some who abuse it. I also know that the states are facing big problems with the pensions they have been offering employees and their inability now to pay workers for those jobs because it's all going to somebody who is retired. Unions will try to block any changes. I am not sure how we deal with it.

I read an article this morning about some of the problems Egypt has faced and one has been the government blocking any kind of group activity of the citizens except the Muslim Brotherhood. They didn't want unions or parties and it was to keep their power. I don't honestly know the answer other than without unions most middle class families would never have gotten the wages they did. If you want to compete with say India or China, are you willing to work, yourself, for $20 a day? That's the problem we face.

Ingineer66 said...

Clearly the $75k figure was for a factory worker with a lot of seniority. The $40,000 GM average includes people that work parts counters and wash cars at dealerships.
Interesting that I found over 1000 GM job openings, but yet we have 10% unemployment. I wonder what the story is there?

Rain said...

Yeah, that jobs available issue is one of those places that I think Republicans have a point. A lot of people don't want to take certain types of jobs even if they could do them and they won't move to where jobs are. That is something our ancestors understood better than our current generation. Looking at any newspaper's want ads and you see jobs available; so what gives...

I think you said before that you knew people who wouldn't get a job until their unemployment ran out. I saw an example of that in our own newspaper where a guy then started his own gardening business but didn't until he had run out of unemployment. That doesn't make a person feel good although the article was supposed to do exactly that.

We are in a time where there aren't a lot of 'easy' answers to any of these things.