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Tue Jun 16, 2015, 03:12 PM

What the Rich Always Say

When faced with income inequality questions. There are a number of responses.

HRC just faced that question in regard to the amount of money she made recently from speeches.

Her answer was to say what all rich people say: paraphrased it was something like The American People like success, they just dont want people to pull up the ladders after they are successful. We want everyone to have that success.

This is pure cop out on the question of inequality. The fact is I think most people do and should begrudge the quality of the reward given for the type of "success" she was talking about. One of the major problems with our country and its economics is that it is all about top level success and unlimited rewards for that type of success versus the lack of a decent life for the people who either have problems or do not stand out.

This disparity between success and failure is a big part of what we mean when we think of income inequality. This aspect is reflected in those great recent studies comparing peoples views of ideal distribution, actual distribution, and how they think wealth and income is currently distributed. In those studies, most Americans have no idea of the actual wealth distribution of the Country. I think this is partially understandable. From our earliest days we are taught an economic model that is based on unlimited potential and growth. It is hard for humans to deal with adverse facts that such models do not work when presented with reality. We have cognitive dissonance on areas where such models do not work such as income inequality and global climate change.

I will give HRC credit in one area. She hit on the right words for what our goals should be. For years, the corporate capitalist meme in addressing inequality has been "equal opportunity". However, as a logical construct, you could have inequality and yet have it be equal. Everyone has a chance to be one of the 1% who own everything, the rest just get to have nothing. However, everyone has an equal opportunity to be one of the elites.

In her speech, HRC used the phrase "shared prosperity" which i think is a much better goal for progressive people. It is not about mobility or opportunity or success, it really is about sharing our economic prosperity as computers, trade, increased productivity remove american workers from the wealth building equation.

However, you are not sharing prosperity if you then give the standard form answer about success and ladders. Such answers to shared prosperity have been used for years but are absolutely devoid of any content or solution. We can not reward all of society the way the 1% is rewarded in this Country. Leaving ladders in place so a few can have a good life is not the answer. Shared prosperity is not about competition for a few success slots. It should not be the goal to have all of our children compete to be one of those 1% successful people. Shared prosperity should mean what the words connote. We all share in the progress of our economic system in producing goods and services that increase quality of life for human beings.

The problem I have with HRC is I think that competition is exactly what she thinks shared prosperity means.

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Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply What the Rich Always Say (Original post)
Rilgin Jun 2015 OP
Human101948 Jun 2015 #1
Orsino Jun 2015 #8
Rilgin Jun 2015 #10
hfojvt Jun 2015 #2
Rilgin Jun 2015 #3
daredtowork Jun 2015 #4
Rilgin Jun 2015 #6
hifiguy Jun 2015 #5
Rilgin Jun 2015 #9
moondust Jun 2015 #7

Response to Rilgin (Original post)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 03:16 PM

1. Question to folks who use this formula: Can everyone stand at top of the pyramid?

 

No, of course not. And not everyone can be Bill Gates or wants to be Warren Buffet. (Well, they want his dough but they don't care to work for it.)

The thing is that everyone, no matter how lowly their position, should be able to live a comfortable life in the wealthiest country in the world.

I guess I am saying exactly the same thing that Rilgin said above.

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Response to Human101948 (Reply #1)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:42 PM

8. And is it merit that gets one there? n/t

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Response to Orsino (Reply #8)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:58 PM

10. Actually merit should not be the focus

Using merit as the focus does not address income equality. You could still have a country or world with only 10 people owning everything, the bottom 50% starving, and the other 50% minus 10 people having varying degrees of life. However, who the 10 are would be determined by merit. This is what the recent studies showed most people do not want but is close to what we have now.

Merit is exactly what I was reacting to and what every rich person says. Noone begrudges my wealth and success because it is merited. I just wish everyone could have this. Since this is not possible because only some of us deserve our success by merit, we need to make sure there are ladders to this level of success for other people worthy of this life.

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Response to Rilgin (Original post)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 03:59 PM

2. it is true though

Trump supporters do not at all mind the fact that he's rich. Neither do Jeb supporters. Neither do Hillary supporters and neither did Edwards supporters.

Also, what is a "good life"? You seemed to say here "We can not reward all of society the way the 1% is rewarded in this Country. Leaving ladders in place so a few can have a good life is not the answer." that only the legendary 1% has a "good life" in this country.

One of my problems with even "shared prosperity" is that it seems to be, at least partly, based on greed. Like everybody needs to be rich enough to set their A/C at 74 in the summer and their heat at 74 in the winter. Everybody should have their own car (everybody over the age of 16) and their own computer and cell phone and collection of DVDs and movies. And so on.

I don't believe that would be environmentally sustainable. I would sorta bet that if you asked the average American "how much money is necessary for a good life" that they would probably give you an answer that is too high. It would probably be more money than the US GDP.

Hillary, like any politician will probably tell us we need a bigger GDP, but do we - really? What about the environment? What about global warming? (Of course, they will tell you that a bigger GDP will fund the research that will help us solve these problems. And that we can't help the poor without a bigger GDP. Anybody who opposed a bigger GDP would be laughed off the TV.)

Is a bigger GDP, a bigger paycheck really the only way to get a 'good life'?

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Response to hfojvt (Reply #2)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 04:24 PM

3. In agreement with most of your post

I agree that we need to change our footprint in the world which only comes from redefinition of a good life.

I also agree that the standard solution of "Economic Growth" is not the solution either. The usual measures behind growth have both activities that are net positive and net negative to whatever we think of as the good life.

I also agree that "greed" is a problem no matter what system. First, within human nature, we have competitive and greedy genes. However, we also have cooperative, sharing and generous genes in our nature.

Secondly, in our schooling and societal indoctrination, we are taught both on a conscious and unconscious level that this is the greatest country that ever lived and that growth can be unlimited. When a running back runs over someone to the endzone we celebrate the victory and do not see the guy who got run over.

As a goal, Shared Prosperity has the one benefit that it has a non-competitive framework in the word "shared". It implies that prosperity is not defined by individual opportunity for success but the affect of our economic activity on all of us.

As said above, I agree with you that GDP growth and individual success measures are not the way to this good life for the great majority of people. However, I believe that sharing whatever the benefits of our economic activity is a better conception of a goal for our economic system rather than the looser concept of "equal opportunity" which does not limit individual success by reference to the greater whole.

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Response to Rilgin (Original post)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:17 PM

4. Outstanding essay!

She tried to make this a women's issue by saying "I want everyone to have what my daughter has". This would amount to everyone having her connections, her rolodex, and all the incremental advantages that wealth can buy.

*Rolodex may seem like an old-fashioned term, but I use it deliberately. When Chelsea got a 100k job at a consulting firm fresh out of grad school, she admitted it was because of her "rolodex".

In order to access a ladder you have to be in a particular *place*.

This is why I cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary, as badly as I want to vote for the first woman President in my lifetime: she is oblivious to the need that someone has to do something for the people who don't have these ladders available to them. Her welfare policy is EMPTY. People say don't compare Hillary to Bill, but she is just carrying over his Welfare Reform -- she hasn't shown that she has any ideas of her own in that area yet.

One suspects that Hillary SECRETLY thinks that the Successful will just get to walk over the dead bodies of the poor losers because that's the way of the world. And what all the people who are waving their arms about separating The Social now don't seem to get is the people who will be stepped on WILL be people of color - because economic injustice is one of the chief tools of racism.

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Response to daredtowork (Reply #4)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:30 PM

6. Thank You.

I actually have been waiting years to hear a politician focus on the term "shared prosperity" as opposed to "equal opportunity". I was kind of shocked and somewhat hopeful when I heard it in HRC's speech given my general feelings about her.

However, my hopes kind of turned back to reality when I heard her use the standard meme on ladders and wanting everyone to succeed. It is only when you do not question the basic tenets of success and distribution that "mobility" becomes an issue and "shared prosperity" turns away from an attack on our division of wealth into a luke warm defense of the status quo with the only solutions needed being some tinkering around the edges and fixing mobility.

Anyhow, that is what motivated my post. I thank you for your kind word about my essay.

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Response to Rilgin (Original post)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:24 PM

5. Whomever came up with the perfectly

 

batshit insane notion that infinite growth is possible on a finite planet should be publicly horsewhipped. That may be the purely maddest idea ever conceived if for no other reason than its logical impossibility alone.

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Response to hifiguy (Reply #5)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:54 PM

9. At one time

At one time, there were environmentalists and thinkers that were challenging the concept of growth in the context of being on a single planet with limited resources. Although a little before my time, I am thinking of Barry Commoner and Frances Lappe (who wrote "Diet for a Small Planet" and similar thinkers. This movement still seems alive but more individual.

Personally, I have been influenced for a number of years by a book probably no one has heard of called "The Entropy Law and the Economic Process" by Nicolas Roegen. Although I dont agree with all of this book, there are things in this book that I believe are spot on in analyzing our economic problems and the problems we would face if we really address the fact that unlimited growth is not the answer.

In particular, he points out that our reliance on pricing by work and energy used rather than by entropy gained through an activity is wrong. Energy is always conserved whether using solar, oil, or nuclear as the source of work. The main difference between the sources is the entropic costs of various energy sources. Our polution and resource issues that you reference and the problems with conceptualizing unlimited growth relate to entropy and not energy that is used in using limited resource endlessly.

He also analyzes the costs of reducing growth (to reduce entropic costs) on our need for labor. I am not sure about his solutions but I think his analysis of our problems are again directly on point.

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Response to Rilgin (Original post)

Tue Jun 16, 2015, 05:39 PM

7. "Success" isn't what it used to be.

Too much of today's "success" involves inheriting a lot of money, hiring a "money manager," then sleeping all day or heading out to the country club for golf while the broker deploys his [strike]insider tips[/strike] genius to turn your enormous pile of inherited money into a mountain. You end up with all the trappings of "success" even if you stayed in bed your whole life.

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