Archive for the ‘Equality’ category

Wealth Inequality in America

March 4th, 2013

Wealth inequality is a major problem in America. Why are our representatives not talking about it?

You need to see this video!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also:

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/stiglitz-some-are-more-unequal-than-others/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/books/review/the-price-of-inequality-by-joseph-e-stiglitz.html?smid=pl-share

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/equal-opportunity-our-national-myth/

http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

 

What is a Fair Society?

January 28th, 2012

It has been said that from any set of facts an almost infinite number of stories can be told. In other words, people often see what they want to see–they interpret facts through an ideological filter. For example, you see a man on the street in the cold, holding a cardboard sign that reads, “Need Help.” The man is wearing an old coat, but looks like a fairly capable person. If I am Ebeneezer Scrooge (before he changed to becoming a leftist who gives handouts to the undeserving :lol:) I am going to see this person and think, “Lazy…They do not need help…They should get a job…They probably make more than I do just standing their getting free money…They’ll just spend it on booze,” etc. On the other hand, if I am a liberal, I may see this person and think, “This person likely has a disability of some kind…They do need help…This kind of suffering is immoral and we should do something about it.”

The underlying assumptions of these two perspectives are playing out in our broken political system. The question is, what is the right approach? What kind of ethical system should we accept as a basis for our social policies? Getting together to discuss this problem has inherent challenges because everyone brings their own interests to the table. The ultra-rich have an interest in not having generous social programs that would require them to pay more in taxes. They see their wealth as their property, and taking it is theft. A low-income citizen, who may be struggling to feed their kids, may ask for a society that limits the free market and provides equal opportunity to all, and perhaps ask for economic equality. Which perspective is the fair way to set up a society? Which is more important: freedom or opportunity? And can one exist without the other? The wealthy might say that creating opportunity for all would require limiting their freedoms. The masses might say giving freedom to the wealthy would limit their own freedom and opportunity.

The American philosopher, John Rawls, addressed this dilemma in an innovative way. He proposed a thought experiment, a hypothetical situation that would help guide our ethical principles of fairness. He described a situation where all of us would be in a pre-mortal state, behind a “veil of ignorance,” where none of us would know what circumstances we would be born into. We could just as easily be born into a wealthy family as we could be born into the slums. With these assumptions, what principles would we all agree are fair principles upon which to build a society?

Most of us would not want to risk being born into poverty in a libertarian society that has no safety net. On the other hand, we may not want to risk being born into a completely egalitarian society where we may work hard for our success, only to find our possessions taken and given to others whom we perceive as less deserving. John Rawls solved this problem by eliminating unequal distribution but without handicapping the talented. He simply says, the fastest runners should not be held back, but they should understand that their winnings do not belong to them alone, and should be shared with those who lack similar gifts. He says,

“Those who have been favored by nature, whoever they are, may gain from their good fortune only on terms that improve the situation for those who have lost out. The naturally advantaged are not to gain merely because they are more gifted. , but only to cover the costs of training an education and for those using their endowments in ways that help the less fortunate as well. No one deserves his greater nature capacity nor merits a more favorable starting place in society. But it does not follow that one should eliminate these distinctions. There is another way to deal with them. The basic structure of society can be arranged so that these contingencies work fgor the good of the least fortunate.”

This is a just way to approach equality while not creating disincentives to develop talent and work hard. The current system is not a free market; and it is certainly not a just system that pays a school teacher $43,000 per year while paying David Letterman $31 million. We need something different. Rawls details a number of principles that would govern a just society (see his book, A Theory of Justice). These principles provide a general basis for how we might restructure our society—one shaped by neither the left or the right. We should start trying to get beyond liberal/conservative talking points and start discussing an ethical system that grants everyone the chance to exercise their right to pursue happiness.

Watch this video of Michael Sandel lecturing about John Rawls and the idea of a just society. It is great!

John Rawls (Wikipedia)

The Wall Street Occupation

October 18th, 2011

Now in over 1500 cities worldwide, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement is looking more and more like it will have staying power on a massive scale. The movement is still trying to refine its demands and specific grievances. Its main focus is economic injustice, but some groups within the movement have a much broader lists of complaints. One thing that is for certain, this is not simply a group of hippies—as Fox New coverage would have you believe. This is a highly diverse group that is expressing the spirit of democracy. This thrust is felt by people on both sides of the isle. This is not about left or right…it is about being American, in an America that is fair and just.

Here are some of the demands and declarations that have been made.

 

Occupiers on Wall Street

 

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City (source):

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011, with minor updates made on October 1, 2011. It is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

 

Article image

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

 

There’s a War Going On!

December 10th, 2010

In his recent speech on the Senate floor,  Senator Bernie Sanders passionately declared, “There is a war going on…a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country, against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country” (see his video speech below). There are a number of data points that indicate the truth of Senator Sanders claim. Let’s look at a few of these:

  • Corporations are enjoying record profits (source)
  • Unemployment is at a 30-year high (source)
  • The unemployed tend to be out of work longer than ever before (source)
  • US hit the highest poverty level in 15 years (source)
  • Top earners’ income continue to grow while wages are stagnant for everyone else (source)
  • Union membership has declined from one-third of the labor force in 1960, to 10% by the year 2000 (private sector union membership)(source)

We need to think about what is causing these trends and how they can be countered. We know they are not countered by extended income tax cuts for the wealthy or raising the estate tax exemption amount. Republicans seem to be doing everything in their power to speed up these trends; and taking the House this year will give them some power to continue the status quo. It it worth think about what kind of country we end up with if they have their way. It is not pretty for anyone, not even the rich. These trends need to be reversed if we are going to preserve our way of life.

Senator Bernie Sanders really says it all:

See additional graphs by clicking “read more.” » Read more: There’s a War Going On!

Women’s Equality Day

August 27th, 2010

Yesterday, the White House released a proclamation by President Obama, declaring Aug. 26, 2010 “Women’s Equality Day.”

This kind of message should be great news for all Americans–especially people with families. What is baffling to me is that conservatives often follow the out-dated talking points about distinct gender roles. Meanwhile, over the past 30 years, middle class incomes have largely been stagnant, forcing mothers (who may otherwise choose to be home with their young children) to enter the workplace. So many conservatives, who love to proclaim their commitment to “family values” and the free-market capitalist system, have voted against their own values. They like the old gender roles–daddy goes to work, mommy stays home–but they also allow (through their voting patterns) the large corporation to run the show (via the Republican Party). But it is these same powers that freeze middle-class wages (and low income wages) while increasing executive pay many, many times over. Again, equal pay and equal treatment of women is in the interests of all Americans–liberals, conservatives, men, women, and children.

I know this should  be a out-dated discussion. We would hope that it would not be necessary to have a Women’s Equality Day in the 21st century. But there is a huge need.  Here is an excerpt from the Presidential proclamation that drive this point home:

As we celebrate 90 years of progress on Women’s Equality Day, we also recognize the realities of the present.  Women comprise less than one-fifth of our Congress and account for a mere fraction of the chief executives at the helm of our biggest companies.  Women hold only 27 percent of jobs in science and engineering, which are critical to our economic growth in a 21st-century economy.  And, almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was enacted, American women still only earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.  This gap increases among minority women and those living with disabilities.

Click “more” to read the entire proclamation. It is excellent! » Read more: Women’s Equality Day