I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where My Jaw Hits The Floor

Reading this morning's Star-Ledger editorial:
Americans lucky enough to have jobs this Labor Day have little to celebrate in the wake of the Great Recession. Wages are falling or stagnant and middle-class workers are picking up a larger share of the health insurance costs once covered by their employers. Job security is a distant memory.
Even when times were flush, middle-class Americans were not getting a big piece of the action. In 2007, before the epic downturn took hold, the wealthiest 1 percent of American families were already raking in 23.5 percent of total income.
I'm not shocked by that statistic; I'm shocked I read it in the S-L. Income inequity is almost NEVER discussed in the news. I was amazed and happily surprised to see it here.

Tea party factions outraged over the supposed redistribution of wealth under President Obama’s “creeping socialism” somehow fail to register that unbridled market capitalism has already accomplished that redistribution, but with the middle class getting the short end of the stick. It’s the kind of shift in wealth that threatens the social fabric, as the chasm between the haves and have-nots grows wider. Extending the Bush tax cuts makes no sense in this climate, especially for those earning above $250,000.
Right on the Tea Party; right on the Bush tax cuts; completely wrong on why we're here.

There is no "unbridled market capitalism" in this country anymore. I don't want that, but I'd prefer it to what we have now, which is basically a kleptocracy.

The entire game has been rigged to keep the wealthy on top of the heap, and it's become increasingly harder for talented, driven people to break into that club of even the modestly wealthy.

We have a tax system that takes less tax from wealth "created" by moving around pieces of paper on Wall Street than it does from wealth created by people actually doing stuff and making stuff. We have an education system that practically ensures failure in poor areas and practically ensures success in rich neighborhoods. We have a great health care system for those who can afford it and a miserable one for those who can't. Wealthy special interests work the government at all levels to their advantage, all the while laughably decrying onerous regulations that they themselves have made more onerous by tilting the playing field (if you haven't read David Cay Johnston's books on this, you should).

If capitalism is a system where capital - including human capital - is allowed to move around freely, I'd say we're not even close to a capitalist system. But not because of the government; things like universal health care and great public education and a strong infrastructure help to make capital move where it's needed.

No, we've moved away from capitalism and toward a system that puts the protection of wealth before its creation. Which is why I agree with the S-L here:
The longer term challenge is wealth distribution.
During the last decade, about 70 percent of the nation’s income growth went to the richest 1 percent; the rest of the population experienced no real gain in wages.
Any recovery that only benefits the elite is no recovery at all.
That’s where attention should focus next. National health care reform will help, but a tax code that addresses the inequities is needed too, along with policies that ensure access to good education and job training.
For Americans adrift, it would be a lifeline in a sea of uncertainty.


deciminyan said...

A related problem is that even when companies are doing well despite the Bush Recession, they are still screwing the workers.

Duke said...

Went to school in Ra-cha-cha; Mrs. Jazzman and I used to go apple picking every fall. It's beautiful around the Finger Lakes, and we used to love going to actual working farms.

So many of those have been converted to big agri-business factories or agri-tourism stops. Not that I have a problem with agri-tourism, but...

The Mott's story is unfortunately so typical - especially around upstate NY. Auburn, Schenectady, Utica, even Syracuse - they're starting to become ghost towns. Rochester got killed when Kodak and Xerox got hit, and even though it's still a great city, it's a shadow of its former self.

Don't we care about that any more? About loyalty to employees? To communities?

What's happening to us? I wonder...