Oct 10 Sources: Inevitable Increasing Inequality

In a global economy, brains and talent are increasingly important. Firms and governments are finding them in short supply. A world based on merit is a blessing, but it has downsides. Inequality and instability are most obvious. Talent is unevenly distributed and constantly changing conditions allow no rest for the weary, even the talented.

The future is bright for the smart and ambitious. Never before have they had so many opportunities. But what happens to the dumb and the lazy? This is not a joke. Half of all people are below average.

It is tempting to want to strive for fairness and rationality. The balance is dynamic. We need to indulge peoples' talents and help them can reach their potential. The talented minority is responsible for most progress and wealth creation. We intuitively want to ensure that talent and merit get the recognition they deserve. I am not sure that is really such a good idea. We are not machines. Human systems require a little friction and a fair amount of randomness. If the race always goes to the swiftest and the contest to the strongest, the same people always win.

We used to have mechanisms in place to inhibit the full application of individual talent. They were not fair and they were not efficient. A good analogy is traffic in a congested old town. With lots of traffic and frequent stops, the broken down old Buick and the fast new Mercedes produce similar results. Clear the highway and there is no comparison. We are removing the impediments and sorting much more effectively.

A century ago, a person went to college to a large extent because his father had money. Many intelligent people never had a chance for higher education and many people who had the chance were not intelligent. The same goes for all opportunity. By increasing opportunity for all, we sort better. Opportunity is a great thing, but think of what we are doing. We are taking a person who is already intelligent and enhancing his natural talent with education. Over time, and not a long time, reliance on merit will produce a very unequal society.

So what do we do?

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty-power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity. Let's discuss.

Other sources are below

9/11: Five Years Later--Gauging Islamist Terrorism
Biographies of High Value Terror Detainees
Summary of High Value Detainee Program
America & the War on Terror
Balkan Lessons
Business: Congress Must Address Intelligence Oversight, CFIUS Reform
Coming to America: Initiatives for Better, Faster, and More Secure
Economic Security in a Changing World
Is Communism Dead?
Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys are Favorite Teams
Asians Hold Negative Views of Each Other
Riding the Waves of Web 2.0
Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals
The Dangerous Consequences of Cutting and Running in Iraq
The Many Sources of Stress and the Hassles of Daily Life
U.S. and World Population Trends

Posted by Jack at October 7, 2006 9:24 PM
Comments
Comment #186921

Sure, Jack. Let us talk about wealth. If you divided $100 among 100 people in the US, here is how the money would be divided:

1 person gets
$38.10
4 people get
$5.32 each
5 people get
$2.30 each
10 people get
$1.25 each
20 people get
.60 each
20 people get
.23 each
40 people get
1/2 cent each

http://www.therationalradical.com/dsep/wealth-distribution.htm
(The source is dated by a few years. If anything, the gaps have increased).

And of that top 1%, @ 60% inherited their wealth.

So why not redistribute the wealth? Why not spread take several dollars from the wealthiest 1%, and redistribute it among the lower percentiles? The top 1%, most of whom inherited their wealth, would still be stuependously wealthy. The lower percentiles would not be wealthy, but at least they might have health care, food, clothing, you know, live nearly as well as a typical Canadian.

Just wondering. Think of it as the “Trickle Up” philosophy. The increased wealth among the poorer elements would result in increased consumption, increased spending, thereby increasing the velocity of money, and making the rich even richer.

What a concept.


Posted by: phx8 at October 7, 2006 10:45 PM
Comment #186926

Phx8

The problem is that most of these guys DID NOT inherit their wealth. That is the point. Increasingly the wealth is not intergenerational. 100 years ago most wealth came from property and inheritance. Now it comees from income and investments.

Think of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet etc. Even the Waltons are just one generation from poverty. The richest guys - Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton etc inherited a very small percentage of their wealth.

Various skills and behaviors are worth a lot more than they used to be. Individuals can also leverage their star power. Think of Oprah, Tom Cruise or Tiger Woods.

The problem is how much to take away from the most productive parts of the population. I agree that to some extent this would not dampen their productivity, but at some point it would harm overall innovation.

The bigger challenge is inheritance of intangibles. Parent pass along attitudes, skills and education as well as to a large extent intelligence and physical health. I would rather inherit those things, the capacity to create wealth, than wealth. That is more difficult for society.

You can redistribute wealth, but it is hard to redistribute the capactity to create wealth.

Posted by: Jack at October 7, 2006 11:12 PM
Comment #186932

Jack is right on.

Phx8, if you simply took money from the top and spread it around at the bottom, that money would find its way back to the top again in no time at all. The structure of the economy and the ingrained habits that go along with membership in each economic strata of society ensures this.

Those at the top do not have their millions buried in the backyard. They have it invested, which means that the money is out there in the economy being used by the poor and middle class alike.

There’s no long term solution to the unequal distribution of wealth which doesn’t include the “consumer class” joining the “investment class.” Redistribute wealth so each poor family suddenly has a quarter million dollars, and in most cases that quarter million dollars will be back in the pockets of the rich before Christmas.

As I see it, Americans in general have a serious addiction to living lifestyles which are beyond their means, and the rich are those who take advantage of this.

The plasma tv, the new car, buying that million dollar home instead of the quarter million dollar one your family can actually afford, having five maxed out credit cards and vacationing in France instead of Florida. Becoming and investor instead of only a consumer takes time, patience, and the willingness to make short term sacrifices. Unfortunately, such patience and forsight is totally alien to most in our materialistic society who favor instant gratification above all else.

Posted by: Neo-Con Pilsner at October 7, 2006 11:53 PM
Comment #186934

Phx8

Can you tell me where income redistribution has worked well wherever it has been tried?

Even Sweden the liberal poster child of a socialist society, is starting to think twice. They are beginning to realize that when you give people who aren’t working everything they need that they don’t have any incentive to go back to work.

Posted by: Keith at October 8, 2006 12:27 AM
Comment #186935

Jack & Pilsner,
Oprah? Tom Cruise? Tiger Woods? Pshah, child. They do not even count as truly wealthy. To crack the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans takes $1 billion, and not one celebrity is there.

But even the Forbes list conspicuously omits the names of some of the wealthiest. It is a list for the nouveau riche. The Forbes list is limited to publicly available information. The amount of stock held by Gates, the inheritors of the Waltons, the inheritors of the Mars fortune, and so on, are roughly known.

Once the pubicly held equities are liquidated, no one knows.

It is estimated that the wealthiest .25% own 98% of all wealth.

Tell you what. I am going to assert that the wealthiest Americans hide their money under their mattresses. We are talking the truly rich, here, billionaires or more, not the mere six-figure garden variety pikers surveyed by Rand or Brookings. They are small potatoes. Let us consider the truly wealthy, where the vast amount of wealth is concentrated.

PROVE me wrong.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 12:27 AM
Comment #186936

Keith,
Income redistribution worked well in the US. Tax rates between 1945 to 1970 on the wealthiest 1% were 70% or higher.

Pilsner,
You write:
“Redistribute wealth so each poor family suddenly has a quarter million dollars, and in most cases that quarter million dollars will be back in the pockets of the rich before Christmas.”

Yes, that sounds like a truly excellent idea. The Circle of Life, you know, the velocity of money spurring consumption, investment, consumption, investment, and so on. Trickle Up philosophy. Glad you are on board with me.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 12:35 AM
Comment #186937

phx8

Right no the top 1% pay 37% of the taxes. That’s not enough for you? At what point do you say it’s enough and if you continue to take more of their money whare is the incentive to continue earning?

I think you missed the Pilsner’s point. It’s not just that it would be back in the hands of the rich, it’s also that they would be broke.

Broke lottery winners

Posted by: Keith at October 8, 2006 12:41 AM
Comment #186939

phx8

So what. What difference is it to you what somebody else has. The economy is not a zero sum game. Education, hard work, ambition is what you need to get agead, not a handout from the government.

Posted by: Keith at October 8, 2006 12:44 AM
Comment #186942

Keith,

“the top 1% pay 37% of the taxes.”

The top 1% also make 70-80% of the money.

“At what point do you say it’s enough and if you continue to take more of their money whare is the incentive to continue earning?”

So what you’re saying is that if we take too much in taxes, eventually those of the top percentile will just say screw it and steal a shopping cart?

Posted by: Rocky at October 8, 2006 12:50 AM
Comment #186943

phx8

The top 1% also make 70-80% of the money.


Can you back this up in any way?

Posted by: Keithis at October 8, 2006 12:54 AM
Comment #186944

Keith,
The top tax rates are for taxable income. I doubt billionaires rely upon taxable income. For example, municipal bonds pay interest free of federal & state taxes, and that is only one example, one which assumes the wealth stays in the country.

“Tax the rich/ Feed the poor/ Til there are/ No rich no more”

I am not discounting the value of education & hard work & ambition. I am discounting the idea that the vast amount of wealth in this country has anything to do with those values. The great majority of the wealth is inherited.

There is no reason to go to extremes. There are plenty of historical examples where extreme concentrations of wealth resulted in violent revolution & redistribution. Is it any wonder the US intentionally hides the statistics on the concentration of wealth? Why concentrate wealth to such an unjust degree, especially the lions share, which consists of inherited wealth? Does it not make much more sense for us, the wealthiest country in the world, to use the instrument of government as a means for spreading wealth, & acting with compassion, if nothing else?

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 1:04 AM
Comment #186945

Phx8, I think you’re missing the point.

“Trickle up” economics as you describe it is not the opposite of “trickle down”. In fact, it’s the exact same thing. The very idea of money moving in either direction—the “trickling”—depends on the innate structure of the economy and the ingrained habits of those involved.

Everyone is a consumer, and everyone also has the potential to be an investor. But those who only consume and borrow to consume are the eternal suckers and fiddling around with redistribution of wealth schemes isn’t going to change that for more than five minutes at a time, and could do irreparable harm.

If you buy a plasma tv, you stimulate the economy a little but you also put your money in somebody elses’ pocket. If you refrain from buying the plasma tv, save your money and instead invest it in the shares of a factory that manufactures plasma tvs, you choose to be a winner in the economic game and at the same time stimulate the economy even more.

I suppose that at some point, if everybody decides to be a winner instead of a sucker, we’ll have a whole new set of problems, if it really is a “problem” for people to be less materialistic and live more modest lifestyles within their means. But for now, there’s a sucker born every minute, and you can’t blame those who realize this and take advantage of it.

Socialist thinking has historically been disasterous, at least in the modern world.
I think it was William F. Buckley who said that the solution to the problem of balancing private opulence and public squalor is not to set about increasing public squalor.

Posted by: Neo-Con Pilsner at October 8, 2006 1:17 AM
Comment #186949

Pilsner,
I am throwing out the Trickle Up argument as a counter to the traditional, conservative Trickle Down/Supply Side argument. I suppose I am just feeling a little feisty tonight, and way past bored with the Foley debacle. Hopefully that will end soon, but when it comes to the media and a sex scandal, who knows?

Just thinking about that makes me want to lapse into complete cynicism, but before going there, I would point note that any economic system you care to name, whether it is capitalism or socialism or communism or feudalism, has created disaster when left unchecked.

It is a pretty boring & cliche comment on a political blog, but moderation works best. Combining the best of capitalism & socialism has worked well for us.

Keith,
The top taxation rate is only relevant compared with what spending demands require. It would seem obvious that, given the current deficits, taxations rates are too low. It would seem obvious that “pay as you go” makes sense, tax revenues need to be balanced against spending considerations. Clintonian budgets seemed to be very successful. If we are going to institute national health, tax rates might need to be increased. If we are going to withdraw from Iraq, perhaps rates could be decreased.

Pelosi receives trashing from both liberals and conservatives (if you think conservatives dislike her, check out DailyKos polls on Pelosi), but I think she might do much better than people think. As much as it pains me, public figures who put politics, pragmatism, and an attitude of “getting it done” ahead of philosophical ideals can be very effective. Pelosi is a true politician in that sense. We will see.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 1:44 AM
Comment #186952

phx8

Tax Rates go down and Tax Revenues go up. It happened when Kennedy did it, it happened when Reagan did it and it happened when Bush did it. Our government does not have a revenue problem it has a spending problem.

Clinton did not control spending Congress did. Remember the President does not spend anything that congress does not approve.

Posted by: Keith at October 8, 2006 2:08 AM
Comment #186953

phx8

And what about Pelosi convinces you that every time she opens her mouth it’s not politics.

Posted by: Keith at October 8, 2006 2:16 AM
Comment #186954

It is a huge mistake to look at wealth distribution in any static way. Wealth distribution in an open society will fluctuate, out of necessity, to preserve the integrity of the society. As too much wealth is accumulated into too few hands and increases social unrest, increases in wealth redistribution must take place. Conversely, when social unrest due to poverty and lack of opportunity abates, wealth can be allowed to accrue at the top again stimulating capital formation and growth.

The trick to managing this dynamic system is to NOT allow debt, either at the top or bottom, to overwhelm the potential of recovering from debt. For if either the wealthiest or the non-wealthy become too leveraged, rapid shocks to the system are far more likely to occur from which, recovery without social upheaval is negated. Social upheaval destroys societies and overthrows systems of governance, and models for governance. The USSR was a perfect example. African nations have produced others in the last 2 decades. N. Korea is doomed to this social upheaval as well, which will replace government and economic models in N. Korea.

The concurrent events of extremely high anti-incumbent sentiment and a deep recession or depression in America could have the same result, a reinvention of government and economic models by which America functions. It happened here, in the 1930’s with the FDR administration, great depression and dust bowls. Our economic and government models were radically and irreversibly altered, though the Constitution, fortunately, remained relatively intact.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 8, 2006 2:23 AM
Comment #186956

David Remer,

Good post.

phx8

I disagree with your posts in general. Even if wealth much wealth is inherited, so what? I’ve seen surveys that suggest that IQ is a better indicator of future success than any other factor. Should we tax smart people extra or force them to hang out with dumb people? Hell, they inherited their intelligence, why don’t they pay extra?

It should be obvious by now that the rich can and always will find ways to keep the IRS out of their pockets. Ironically enough, when capital gains taxes, which are typically the domain of the rich, were cut, the revenues from these taxes increased as the rich saw a chance to profit without getting such a big chunk taken out. Personally, I’d like to someday leave my future children a large inheritance. I will have worked for it, why shouldn’t I be able to leave it to whom I want without the government coming in and taking it. Is a life of servitude to these crooks not enough? Further, if you trust a bueracrat in DC to do the right thing with your money when nearly $2 trillion isn’t enough to slake their appetites, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 8, 2006 2:59 AM
Comment #186957


WHAT DIFFERANCE DOES IT MAKE ?

I could not sleep — so I turned on the T V…PBS and found out in the year 2029 the Earth is going to be hit by a comet on April { Friday 13 }. That is what they said — April 13, 2029. or if we are lucky it will not happen untill 2036.

Just though you might want to know, not trying to upset anyone… I think I will go back to bed now.

Charlie George.

Posted by: Charlie George at October 8, 2006 3:20 AM
Comment #186958

I Went To GOOGLE to see what they had to say.

They said it is not a comet — but an Asteroid, and if it does not hit us in the year 2029, it WILL HIT US ON [Sunday April 13, 2036]

Well…. we have another 30 years to screw-up the world —- then B A N G. Or should I say the BIG BANG.

Charlie George

Posted by: Charlie George at October 8, 2006 3:39 AM
Comment #186959

1LT B, one of the arguments I hear constantly from the right, which you promulgate by saying:

Is a life of servitude to these crooks not enough? Further, if you trust a bueracrat in DC to do the right thing with your money when nearly $2 trillion isn’t enough to slake their appetites, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

What I take issue with is the defeatist attitude such a perspective underwrites. It presumes that government is autonomous and not dependent upon the people, and that, those elected are all corrupt and thieves of the people’s earnings, and there is little, if anything to do about it, save hide one’s earnings from the government.

It is an all too common perspective, and lazy one. For it presumes that hiding, or safeguarding one’s earnings from the government is preferable to making the government subservient to the will of the people. Ending the corruption and wasteful use of our tax dollars is the more difficult task compared to cheating on one’s taxes or lobbying for loopholes. But, in the end, cheating and loopholing undermines the integrity of the society as a whole and denies the society the agility it needs to preserve the integrity of itself.

I know of two persons associated with my own family who hide their income illegally. I know from reports that millions of Americans do this. This is not the solution. The solution is change the behavior of politicians forcing them toward less waste, and greater accountability as we ask the same of our fellow citizens via our laws, and consequences for breaking them.

And the way to do that is to vote out incumbents in large enough numbers over enough election cycles to force politicians to accept that reelection depends upon zeroing out the corruption and waste, and responding to the people’s demand for efficient, responsible, and accountable government working on our behalf, instead of their own.

Our debt and deficits are being partially fueled by loopholes and tax cheating by millions of people as individuals and large organizations. That debt and those deficits are killing our nation’s future options to address needs in the future. In other words, they’re threatening the future of America.

It is time to force honest government. It is not IMpossible. It just takes leaving the political party mindset and voting for results by voting out those whose efforts, as politicians, are ineffective. Right now, that includes nearly the entire lot of politicians in our Congress. The job before them is not getting done.

Therefore, the rational vote is one which goes to a challenger, instead of an incumbent who has failed to alter our corrupt and wasteful government from which we feel the need to hide our assets from.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 8, 2006 4:27 AM
Comment #186960

Charlie George,

I googled the date you listed, and the articles I saw says that the asteroid won’t hit us either in 2029 or 2036. I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove, but the asteroid is only 400 meters across. Even if it was going to hit us, we can easily modify a rocket and strap a 50 megaton or bigger warhead to either vaporize or divert such an asteroid. I think you’re being a bit alarmist.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 8, 2006 4:29 AM
Comment #186964

Phx8

From what Phx8 wrote, it looks like it is technically impossible to prove anything since we cannot use available measures. Phx8 - do you accept that Gates, Buffet & the Waltons are the richest people in America?

But we are also not arguing the same thing. The problem proponents of equality have is not with wealth as much as with income. Incomes have been concentrating in the last 30 years. We talk about the rich CEOs making so many times more than workers. Few CEOs are born super wealthy. They just become that way. In most firms and professions the pay differential between the highest paid and lowest paid is growing.

In a wider world, a superstar adds a lot more value than an average person. If you can create 10 million dollars of value and I can create only 1, how much more should/would an employer pay you? Let me give an example and I would appreciate your thoughts.

I have been assigned the task of reorganizing a professional organization with about 60 people. I am learning that around 5 people do most of the innovation. Another 10-12 do most of the work. The majority adds little value and about ten of them actually produce negative results. The smartest thing to do would be to pay the five people a lot, the next twelve well and get rid of everybody else. Don’t worry; my mandate does not include such radical measures, but such things happen. I can also see the possibility of using technology to handle routine functions and I could hire low cost interns to feed the machines. This is a microcosm of the new economy. I could get rid of the bottom 40 people, pay the top five most of the money currently paid to them, pay less money in total compensation and increase productivity.

We have a similar problem with wealth. You are right that wealth is more important than income, but income CAN be converted to wealth. The problem is that not everyone does it. High income celebrities are famous for squandering their opportunities, but it applies to others. In my 25 year professional life, I have seen the vast differences small differences in investment behavior can produce in the course of time. I know several people of working class backgrounds who have enjoyed similar incomes but different habits. Some have net worths in the millions; others have essentially nothing. BTW - the biggest variable I observe is divorce. Those who stayed married to the same person for those 25 years are much better off than those who divorced or those who never married. Those who divorced and remarried are worst off. I don’t know which way casualty runs, however.

Anyway, the more choices we give people, the more likely their different talents and strategies will create inequalities. For the sake of social peace, we want to contain inequality. For the sake of productivity and innovation, we need to emphasize the differences. Where we set the balance is a societal question.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 8:11 AM
Comment #186967

David:

The concurrent events of extremely high anti-incumbent sentiment and a deep recession or depression in America could have the same result, a reinvention of government and economic models by which America functions. It happened here, in the 1930’s with the FDR administration, great depression and dust bowls. Our economic and government models were radically and irreversibly altered, though the Constitution, fortunately, remained relatively intact.

An excellent analysis. However, I would suggest a society can set into place mechanisms which permit ongoing adjustments to its distribution of wealth and thus, avoiding the “necessity” of upheavals such as the Great Depression. This is exactly what FDR did. While FDR’s mechanisms were not perfect, by the late 1960s those mechanisms had been substantially refined to the benefit of all citizens. What we have witnessed since the 1980s and, especially, under GWB is a return to the very policies and conditions which created the Great Depression.

It is none other than Irving Kristol who, points out that the social consequences of a purely market-driven economy are not desirable. Hence, the advantages of blended policy.

The extreme inequality we are witnessing today is a direct result of not taxing unearned income at the same level of earned income (wages). Additionally, we discourage work as a value when we tax unearned income at a substantially lower rate than earned income.

Posted by: Dr. Poshek at October 8, 2006 8:54 AM
Comment #186968

Keith If what you are saying is true What THE H#LL HAPPEND. Realy what happend! If you say the war in Iraq I think I will scream. Tax breaks and war can’t have both. And by the way the tax breaks DID not help anyone I know. Collage cost have gone up 80% between my oldest son 24 and youngest son 21 at the same public collage. But our fine republican gov. cut funding to give tax breaks to who the already rich.

Posted by: Jeff at October 8, 2006 8:57 AM
Comment #186970

Jack:

Where we set the balance is a societal question.

In your post’s general analysis, I largely agree with you. And, it is the issue of balance that is, indeed, a societal question. There was an interesting analysis done by a U of Conn economist that demonstrated the rather minor redistribution necessary to establish a minimum income level of $20,000/year (single household) and the benefits of that redistribution on the economy and on the society. The costs of poverty to the economy are greater than the costs of preventing it in the first play by establishing a guaranteed minimum income ($1.42 vs $1.00, in other words spend $1.00 and save $0.42) In addition, it would substantially reduce the size of the gray economy. The study’s authors, also, recommended that we best encourage work & discourage dependency by using the minimum wage to ensure that if you work, you will make more than the guaranteed minimum income. That would mean, today, a minimum wage a little above $10/hour. While the study leaves many questions unanswered as to implementing such a polcy, it could be done with the leadership of a visionary like FDR.

Posted by: Dr. Poshek at October 8, 2006 9:30 AM
Comment #186971

A simple way to solve the problem is to change the way we finance our government. We should change from an income based tax system to a consumption based tax system. A system like FAIRTAX at fairtax.org seems to answer everyone’s problem except how to punish the rich. Take a look and lets discuss this.

Posted by: Tom D. at October 8, 2006 9:41 AM
Comment #186972

Dr P

We could probably address these poverty measures w/o any significant impact on inequality. The question is whether we should merely establish a income floor.

The other thing we need to do is understand that our paradigm is overtaken by events. In the old days, the rich lived off the labor of the poor to a great extent. Today it is the poor who live off the labor of the non-poor.

In my real world case, the top 15% is doing most of the work. Others are living off that.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #186973

If you don’t have it, you can’t invest it…beyond a measly hardly adequate 401K, where you propose one generate “wealth”???? Inflation is eating up wages…domestic corporate profits since 2001 are up 72% while family income in the same period is down 0.5%.

Posted by: Lynne at October 8, 2006 9:50 AM
Comment #186975

Jack said: “In my real world case, the top 15% is doing most of the work. Others are living off that.”

What a preposterous postulation. Demonstrate for me how an entry insurance claims adjuster or school teacher is working any less than a CEO?

Comments like this really tick me off. Where in the hell would the top 15% be without the janitorial staff. Knee deep in their waste and mistakes, that’s where. You realize it takes the hard work of something like 30 employees to support supplement and maintain the work of one manager? That is 1200 manhours to give one manager a 40 hour work week. Don’t give me that crap about the rest living off the top 15%. Without the bottom 85%, there would be no wealthy top 15%.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 8, 2006 10:03 AM
Comment #186976

Dr. P. said: “The extreme inequality we are witnessing today is a direct result of not taxing unearned income at the same level of earned income (wages).”

I agree except, with your positing that the inequality we are witnessing today is extreme. It is not yet extreme. It does not begin to become extreme until there is a significant shrinkage of the middle class. The Middle Class is the bulwark that sustains our economy. Until it begins to shrink significantly, as will happen if measures are not taken to salvage the safety nets as the boomers retire, the inequality is not yet extreme.

But, we are most definitely on that path.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 8, 2006 10:09 AM
Comment #186977

Some Republicans speak about redistributing wealth when we Democrats start talking about the increasing inequality in yearly earnings. What the red column forgets is that the economy redistributes wealth by its nature.

The health of our economy, though, is dependent on the degree to which money flows through all sectors of society, even if it still does so somewhat inequally.

Fact remains, the money that goes to the poor and middle class has gone down in relation to that which goes to the rich. They’re reaping more of the rewards, leaving fewer for the people down below.

We are now essentially running a consumer economy mostly on finance and credit, as a result. That makes things more volatile, puts pressure on social structures, and breaks down financial discipline.

Additionally, the costs of low wages are only being externalized, not eliminated. The costs of public support for those who are underpaid by their employers comes back to eat up the money that investors and corporate managers save. It’s just that they don’t have to put that money on their balance sheet.

We are a consumer economy. How long can we last without a large, functional class of consumers?

On the subject of the article, I’d say this. Talent is not always fully brought to its potential. That means that the currently successful are not the only ones with abilities that could be tapped for the betterment of society. Building society primarily to benefit the already successful ignores another dynamic of economy, which is the exploitation of skill and expertise in the Marketplace. I believe we’d be doing a great deal better if we did not neglect those who have potential outside of the upper classes for the sake of those already living in comfort.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 8, 2006 10:16 AM
Comment #186980

Jack,
I am one of the hardest working and productive members of my area in the company that i work for. I work 50-60 hours a week. I will make about 50k this year. Where do you sugest that I find money to invest when the average home here costs 255K. I have 3 small boys that have the same huge appotite that I do. I am fairly well educated and am by no streath of that imagination unintelligent. I am a Helicopter mechanic, guess what you mechanic at the BMW delearship where you get it serviced makes more then I do. When you BMW breaks down you just pull over. When a 50,000 pound helicopter falls out of the sky usually people DIE! Now tell me why does a car mechanic make more then I do when I have just as many certifications and more training and experience in more systems then he does?
Hard work and intelligence will not always get you wealth even when you do invest it wisely. It is hard to make much money when all you can put away beyond your 401k is $50 a mounth.

Posted by: timesend at October 8, 2006 10:42 AM
Comment #186982
Don’t give me that crap about the rest living off the top 15%. Without the bottom 85%, there would be no wealthy top 15%.

It certainly is, for sure…there would be no wealthy 15% if the other 85% weren’t working their heinies off…who do you think generates “capital”…workers have only their work to sell…and CEOs earn their humongous “salaries” and “perks” by getting the most work out of the pack mules at the bottom of the heap.

As far as those who’ve “inherited” their wealth, they wouldn’t have it if someone hadn’t done physical labor to generate the seed money for that wealth to earn more wealth by investments in the first place.

Wealthy people should be on their knees thanking those who really DO work hard for a living…2 or 3 jobs, no vacations, no perks, more and more without the benefit of health insurance, no jetting to Paris for dinner or the weekend, no legacy enrollments at Ivy League universities, underperforming schools, urban pollution or country fertilizer spraying…of course, without 3 or 4 homes, the workers don’t have to worry about where their clean underwear is.

No one generates wealth by oneself.

Posted by: Lynne at October 8, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #186983

Sorry about the c in streach, and the r in your. but you get the point. it is kinda hard to type when watching 3 little boys.

Posted by: timesend at October 8, 2006 11:10 AM
Comment #186985

Hard work means nothing. As they say it takes money to make money. I like timesend I have worked hard my hole life and made fair money. But I have paid a heavy price for it from work injurys. I’mn 45 I wont make to 67 and nine months to retire. I do save some but S.S is likely to not be around in its present form in the years to come.

Posted by: Jeff at October 8, 2006 11:21 AM
Comment #186986

phx8 wrote;
Just wondering. Think of it as the “Trickle Up” philosophy. The increased wealth among the poorer elements would result in increased consumption, increased spending, thereby increasing the velocity of money, and making the rich even richer.

What a concept.

Posted by: phx8 at October 7, 2006 10:45 PM

Would they get food, clothing, healthcare or like the refugees of katrina get alcohol, drugs, and oh yes trips to the local strip club for some therapy?

the’re good reasons that not all have equally and will always be. you know survival of the fittest. and the’re good reasons why some will never have anything, you know like water seeks the path of least resistance.

Posted by: lm at October 8, 2006 11:27 AM
Comment #186987

Jack, the richest 15 percent do most of the work? I think this is a question of what you mean by work.

In my dreams of winning the lottery, I’ve thought some about how I’d invest. Since I’m not greedy, I’d take my $10 million or so and buy CDs and have an absolutely guarenteed income of $500,000 or so, before taxes.

What work have I done? My money is doing some work, true, but not me. The guys who would mow my lawn, clean my house, even do my taxes are doing work, but I’m not.

At some point, wealth takes on a life of its own, and as long as you are not stupid, it just builds and builds.

The problem with too much accumulation of wealth is that, even in a democracy, money talks. Money equals political power, and those with money will, for the most part, look after their own interests, and not the interests of the public at large.

Posted by: Trent at October 8, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #186988

So many metaphors, so little time.

There are those that will take the leg up and make good.
There are also those that will squander it.

The difficult part is recognizing the one from the other.

There will always be poor.
Does that mean we don’t help those that need it?

How many budding geniuses that just need a leg up do we bypass, in our haste to ignore those that might waste it?

Posted by: Rocky at October 8, 2006 11:52 AM
Comment #186989

im typical rebublican blame everyone for the actions of a few. It also reeks of raceism.

Posted by: Jeff at October 8, 2006 11:56 AM
Comment #186994

David

I am thinking of the situation within an organization (or more precisely the organization I am working on). I do not know what the precise numbers would be, but I suppose it is some variation of the 80/20 rule. Some people just do not work or they create more trouble than they create value. I have one guy I frequently catch sleeping - literally. I had another who insisted that he clear off on every document and then would not do it expeditiously so nothing moved.

If you strip away the stupid procedures and get rid of the non-performers, you are left with well under half the people you had before. Some of these people are not bad workers, but they are in the wrong job.

Timsend

I have a Honda Civic. I do not know what the mechanic gets paid who services it. It doesn’t need much servicing.

I cannot give you advice re your personal finances. It looks like you are the single wage earner. I would assume that at your firm you have lots people who are not hard working and productive. Your employer should want to keep you and maybe get rid of some of the others.

Lynne

You are right that nobody generates wealth by themselves. The problem we have is with an outdated paradigm of how wealth is created. In the recent past, wealth creation was closely tied to local resources. Lots of people had to work to extract and process those resources and there was not much differentiation among their work. If we are all loading logs by hand, the difference between the strongest and weakest will not be very great. But as you add technology and management, the difference become more and more important.

The computers we are using are a big change. My laptop has essentially replaces a secretary, mail room, filing staff, editors, spell checkers and a lot more. To publish a document read by thousands of people as I did yesterday used to cost a lot in terms of labor. Now it is mostly fixed cost. In other words, it doesn’t cost any more if I write ten articles instead of one and it doesn’t cost any more if 1000 people read or just one. Since I do not get paid for what I write (or maybe I am paid what I am worth) it doesn’t make any difference, but if I was selling something with a per unit profit think of how much leverage we have.

The decline and near disappearance of variable costs had enhanced the ability of the talented to create wealth.

I am not particularly bothered by inequality, but I recognize that if it gets too pronounced it will create social problems and inefficiencies. So I want to lessen inequality. But the METHODS proposed by those who want to redistribute wealth are not going to be effective. People now have very different capacities to create wealth. That leads to inequality.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 12:26 PM
Comment #186995

Jack: Actually, the establishment of a floor (as proposed by the U of Conn study) lowers the ceiling by about 5% and has the effect of increasing the middle by about 20% which is, of course, a desirable outcome. Hence, it does make a significant dent in addressing inequality. And while you are correct that an income floor does not solve all the inequalities problem, it does set a foundation upon which additional policies can be implemented to further decrease the inequalities.

The importance of addressing poverty first lies in the fact that the costs of poverty to the whole economy are so disproportinately greater than the number of persons in poverty would first suggest.

As far as your 15% figure, there is no basis in fact for that assertion. Further, economics research has long demonstrated little connection between the value of services as measured by the wages paid for the services and the value of services when measured as a contribution to the well-being of society. If this were not the case, volunteerism and parenthood would be of zero value to society.

David: By modern standards, the inequality is extreme and the middle class has been significantly diminished over the past 20 - 25 years. What is more problematic is the magnitude of the divide between the bottom & the top which is unparalled in history.

The only sound economic policy is one that diminishes both the top and the bottom of the wealth distribution to the benefit of the middle of the distribution. Achieving that end is neither simple nor can it be perfectly achieved for the reason conditions are always in a state of flux.

Posted by: Dr. Poshek at October 8, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #187002

phx8

The government redistributing wealth with compassion? Government, especially in the U.S., is not about compassion. It’s about greed and power.

And what gives anyone the right, government or otherwise, the right to take wealth from one person who has worked for it and give it to another who has done absolutely nothing to earn it?

While I wouldn’t consider myself poverty-stricken, economically I live pretty close to the bottom of the well.

Does that mean Bill Gates is supposed to send me a check each month so I can drive a newer car or live in a bigger house that I didn’t earn?

Yeah, that’s the ticket. let’s steal more money from the rich, most of whom DID work for it, and create more government handouts for the poor, most of whom are that way because they don’t have the drive, the intelligence or the courage to get out there and ean it themselves.


Posted by: ulysses at October 8, 2006 2:35 PM
Comment #187003

timesend,
Jack can’t understand why everyone in the USA can’t come up with $5000 to invest it. I’m not really sure he lives in the same country as the rest of us
I’m not trying to criticize the messenger, Jack, but we’ve talked about this before, and I figured I’d just save you some typing.

As for getting rich - I was taught to save, save, save! Now the government wants me to spend, spend, spend!

Posted by: Linda H. at October 8, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #187005

im,

Typical democrat race-baiting rather than holding irresponsible people who happen to be largely minority. If a massive storm or earthquake hit Appalachia and caused the same level of destruction, would you be so quick to condemn people who decried the “white trash?” Poverty breeds poverty, and the windfall of government aid that followed was just an excuse for some people to take advantage. Irresponsible people show why government redistribution of wealth won’t work; some people will always take advantage to subsidize their laziness and bad habits.

Posted by: 1LT B at October 8, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #187007

Jack,
On the most recent Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans, I count 12/21 inheriting their wealth. This ignores interesting side questions: for example, how many billionaries came from families which were already wealthy?

Is Gates the wealthiest American? Probably. The inheritors of the Walton fortune rank high on the list. But once again, once the wealth leaves the domain of public accountability (usually in the form of stock), no one knows how much wealth is truly out there, concentrated among a very small number of Americans.

Ulysses,
Do you acknowledge the concept of a public commons? Or that everyone of us benefits from public education, roads, a legal system, and so on? When government redistrutes wealth through taxation, much of the redistribution takes the form of infrastructure, both tangible & intangible.

There is both an intangible, moral argument as well as a tangible, practical one for redistrubtion. The moral argument hinges on the idea of compassion. Most of us are unwilling to see Americans starve, lack some kind of housing, or starve. I already mentioned the practical one earlier.

Does this mean plasma screens for everyone? Of course not! It does mean redistributing wealth is the right thing to do as a moral matter, and as a matter of enlightened self-interest.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #187008

PHX

Please show us where 60% of the top 1% “inherited” their money. Class envy…always a ploy of the mindless left.

Lynne

How about working for your money instead of spending so much time complaining about your lack of it. Or are you a limo liberal who has theirs and now wants to take from those who actually earned their money and hand it out to those who did not?

Work hard everyone, welfare recipients depend on you every day.
P.S.
If you want to send extra money to the government….Do it!

I didn’t think so.

Posted by: VOR at October 8, 2006 3:26 PM
Comment #187010

The share of total income taxes paid by the top 1% of wage earners rose to 34.27% from 33.71% in 2002. Their income share (not just wages) rose from 16.12% to 16.77%. However,
their average tax rate actually dropped from 27.25% down to 24.31%


And who earns what? The top 1% earns 16.77% of all income, but pay 34.27% of ALL TAXES collected. (2002: 16.12%). The top 5% earns 31.18% of all the income,but pay 54.36% of all income taxes. (2002: 30.55%). The top 10% earns 42.36% of all the income, but pay 65.84% of all taxes. (2002: 41.77%); the top 25% earns 64.86% of all the income,but pay 83.88% of all taxes (2002: 64.37%) and the top 50% earns 86.01% nut pays 96.54 of all the income. (2002: 85.77%)

The bottom 50%? They pay a paltry 3.46% of all income taxes collected. BOO freakin HOO. Oh by the way, that is down from the last reported percentage for the bottom 50%.


Directly from the IRS. Go ahead try and prove me wrong.

I’ll wait.

Posted by: VOR at October 8, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #187011

VOR,

That sounds about right (I won’t bother checking your numbers).

What’s your point? Everyone knows taxes go up the more you make. And everyone knows a small fraction receive a widely disportionate share of income.

I’d be interested in knowing how much of this income is from investments. And you didn’t address the percentages of wealth controlled by various slices of the population.

Posted by: Trent at October 8, 2006 4:10 PM
Comment #187015

VOR,

How much income did the bottom 50% receive from tax-free municipal bonds? And how much did the top percentage receive?

Vor, wealthy people do not turn their assets into taxable income, which is what your IRS statistics present. Instead, they place wealth in trusts, in safe, tax-free bonds, in real estate, and abroad in havens free from taxation.

Income is such a middle-class idea of wealth. Open your eyes, VOR.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 4:48 PM
Comment #187017

Linda H

I don’t consider your note criticizing the messenger. It is a valid concern and you have a point. I really do have trouble understanding why people cannot save and invest. I mean everybody can have hard times, but over the course of a reasonably long period most people should create some wealth for themselves.

Yes, my income is fairly high now (although not the top group) but I will have to work another 10 years before my median yearly income is as high as the U.S. median. In other words, most of my working life I earned less than the median income and even when I worked at McDonalds I managed to balance my books. I inherited money, BTW, but only enough to buy a used car and not until I was 46 years old. Anyone making the almost median income and above (more than half the population) should be able to build wealth to weather the vicissitudes of fortune.

I think the method is simple. Save even when you do not think you can. Don’t buy things cannot afford. When you do buy things you need, buy quality and keep it. I have and still wear suits I bought when Ronald Reagan was president. And Casio watches tell perfect time. That is all you need. Don’t drink to excess, never take drugs or gamble. Get married and be true to the relationship. Work hard and give your employer good value and always be willing to learn. If you do these things, you may never get rich, but it is unlikely you will stay poor for very long.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 4:57 PM
Comment #187018

I can remember when “conservative” meant wisely spending what you have and paying as you go. But this good habit is of little interest to the Neo-cons who now encourage their political lackeys in Congress to make election-time promises that throw money at this and more at that, and never once should these pork-barrel boys say where the money will be coming from. This bad-habit has become the common way of doing business for too many congressional Republicans.

A while back someone said that we have the best Congress that money can buy. That is for sure, and they have bought their jobs with money that we do not have and sold out to folks that have been feeding grandly at the public trough. Anyone ever hear of Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton?

Oh well, it is really not like it is real money, it is just a mortgage on the lives and future of our children and their children, and it also makes it a bit hard if your income is not going up as fast Congress’s income has. How much of a pay increase did these politicians vote themselves, and how big is the national debt?

It is not only time to throw the rascals out, but we also need to be careful who we let into the chicken coop on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Neo-cons can go and cluck somewhere else, I’m voting to throw their lackeys out of office.

Posted by: Ed for God's Truth at October 8, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #187022

Jack,
What a quaint idea of how to accumulate wealth! Why not take a page from Denny Hastert (pardon the pun). Hastert entered Congress with a net worth of $290,000. In just eight years, he increased his wealth to over $6 million.

“Friends.” Real Estate. Prairie Parkway.

Either you are hanging out with the wrong crowd, or not carrying nearly enough water for them.

Posted by: phx8 at October 8, 2006 5:12 PM
Comment #187024

Phx8

There are less than honest ways to get rich. Pick on Hastert if you want, but Dems have plenty of them too. Clintons are not poor anymore and I think Kerry is the richest man in Congress. Not everyone who gets rich is dishonest, BTW, William Jefferson’s cold cash not withstanding.

I am not saying the habits I mention will make you rich. But they will stop you from being poor.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #187027

VOR:

How about working for your money instead of spending so much time complaining about your lack of it. Or are you a limo liberal who has theirs and now wants to take from those who actually earned their money and hand it out to those who did not?

Can you not read? The rich are, and have, gotten their wealth on the backs of those who do physical labor…people are working…family wages have dropped 0.5% since 2001…not much reward for working hard, is it.

Posted by: Lynne at October 8, 2006 6:03 PM
Comment #187029

Jack Lets not forget Duke Cunningham while were at the spinning and Tom K street Delay. Lets hope they vote William Jefferson out of office so we doin’t look like neo-repugs.

Posted by: Jeff at October 8, 2006 6:44 PM
Comment #187032

Jeff

All those guys are gone, right? Is Jefferson running again?

Lynne

The point is that the rich no longer get rich on the backs of the poor. You could argue that the poor should get more money for what they do, but the total value added of the poorest quarter of the population is low. The total taxes they pay is even lower and the total hours they work per capita is significanly lower than other groups.

Your model for understanding the relationships between rich and poor is outdated.

Between 1979 and 2002, the frequency of long work hours increased by 14.4% among the top quintile of wage earners, but fell by 6.7% in the lowest quintile.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 7:10 PM
Comment #187035

Perhaps the rich only appear to be getting richer. Has anybody seen a study that charts the impact illegal aliens are having on this rich v. poor concept. I’m sure they aren’t helping. They are, after all, some of the poorest of the poor.

Posted by: Don at October 8, 2006 8:05 PM
Comment #187038

What other country can these wealthy folks live in and maintain or gain the type of wealth they have? I can’t think of one. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is whether they’ve inherited it or earned it, it can only be done this way in America. This is a great country. If I were one of these wealthy folks I would be honored to pay my fair share of taxes and I would expect that share to be more than the bottom or middle. Why? Because this country is what makes it possible….

Taxes pay for our legal system, our infrastructure, our safety and military, and help maintain interstate commerce. Damn right we should have a progressive tax system!

Posted by: Tom l at October 8, 2006 8:49 PM
Comment #187040

Tom

We have a progressive tax system and we actually collect most of it. Somebody has posted the figures. The poor pay almost nothing. The lowest quintile actually makes money on the tax system (i.e. their credits exceed their payments).

It is probably a bad idea for large parts of the population to pay nothing. It excludes them from responsibility. But the poor are not paying much.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 8:59 PM
Comment #187042

My Name Is Roger:

I Am A Conservative Christian Rupublican……….

I AM A AMERICAN.

I love this country.

I thank God for this country.

I would reather be living here in the United States then any other place on Earth.

This country is not perfect, but it is the best of any other country on this Earth.

We as Americans have an obligation [ both Rupublicans and Democrats ] to do all we can to correct what is not good and make it better, for ourselves, and for our children, and for our childrens children.

Let us work TOGATHER to CORRECT the wrongs and make them right, so that we can truely say

{ ONE NATION UNDER GOD, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL }.

Posted by: ROGER at October 8, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #187047

phx8,

What you’re advocating is the enactment of the Marxian concept “From each according to his ability, To each according to his need”.
History shows what a paradise that produces.

One thing you’ve conveniently forgotten is that taking property from it’s owners is STEALING.
All your arguments stem from envy.

Posted by: traveller at October 8, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #187050

Jack

Those who divorced and remarried are worst off. I don’t know which way casualty runs, however.

Good one, Jack. I think they’re all casualties.

The fatal flaw in the idea that we should just let the market determine where all the wealth should be is starting to show itself to the extent that even those with below average intelligence are starting to see it. When the richest of the rich fail to carry their fair share of the costs of society and pawn it off on the middle class, you have the kind of unhappiness and restiveness that we are starting to see in the body politic. The New Deal was a very effective way to redistribute wealth, and this is why you and your conservative brethren hate it. It violates your ideology, although you can’t point to any harm it has done and must ignore the long period of general prosperity it engendered. As we defund government programs in education and social welfare that led to the 20th century American boom, we are seeing the unraveling of the sense of united purpose we once had. The selfish rich (not all of them are, fortunately) cheer on the Bush/Republican hegemony as they see their taxes shrink and their wealth soar. Meanwhile the middle class has seen their real household income shrink over the last five years. There is income redistribution going on, just not in the direction one typically thinks of when hearing that phrase. It’s perfectly fine for you to paste a happy face on it and step over the poor on your way to the bank, but you know in your heart of hearts this relentless shift of wealth to smaller and smaller numbers of families is hurting America.

Posted by: mental wimp at October 8, 2006 10:02 PM
Comment #187057

Jack,

Anyone making the almost median income and above (more than half the population) should be able to build wealth to weather the vicissitudes of fortune.

You’ve changed your song!!!

Proud of you for admitting one needs to be making “almost the median income and above” to BUILD wealth. Sometime ago you won’t even admit there are those who don’t make the median income.

I’m assuming you meant the population of the US, not the world.

I’m simply courious - have you ever had any bad luck? You know something unexpected happen? Medical bills like a stroke, or a child who stayed in infant ICU over 3-4 weeks?, broken your leg, or arm and couldn’t work? Or prehaps lost your job just when you had to pay the rent, or house payment? Been robbed? Had a major fire? Even had your car stolen?

Unfortunately bad things happen to just about everyone. If you are already poor when they happen, heaven help you. You just keep going backwards.

You sound like you are still a relaitvely young man. Please don’t count your chickens until they hatch - and then hang on for dear lfe.

P.S - I still have sweaters from High School - but they do have some holes in them! ;-> (I grew the sweaters haven’t…):-

You’ve changed your song!!!

Proud of you for admitting one needs to be making “almost the median income and above” to BUILD wealth. Sometime ago you won’t even admit there are those who don’t make the median income.

I’m assuming you meant the population of the US, not the world.

I’m simply courious - have you ever had any bad luck? You know something unexpected happen? Medical bills like a stroke, or a child who stayed in infant ICU over 3-4 weeks?, broken your leg, or arm and couldn’t work? Or prehaps lost your job just when you had to pay the rent, or house payment? Been robbed? Had a major fire? Even had your car stolen?

Unfortunately bad things happen to just about everyone. If you are already poor when they happen, heaven help you. You just keep going backwards.

You sound like you are still a relaitvely young man. Please don’t count your chickens until they hatch - and then hang on for dear lfe.

P.S - I still have sweaters from High School - but they do have some holes in them! ;-> (I grew - the sweaters haven’t…):-

Posted by: Linda H. at October 8, 2006 10:28 PM
Comment #187058

Wimp

Sorry about the typos. The spell checker catches mistakes, but doesn’t always give the right word.

I do not know what the fair share is. The rich pay most of the taxes already. This is as it should be. Do you want the rich to be the ONLY people to pay taxes?

I think that growing inequality is a problem, but it is not the result of Bush. Inequality has been growing for 40 years. It is worldwide. Inequality grew faster during Clinton times than it did under Bush. If you want to address the problem, you need to get off the Bush bashing.

Inequality seems to be a structural problem. Certain talents are getting paid better. In 1972 the premium paid for skills and college education was much lower. There were lots of jobs that required lower skills.

The tax system has a limited ability to mitigate the problem, especially if you want to keep the productivity growth if you go after redistribution. Better might be to make sure government made bigger investments in common infrastructure for all to use.

The New Deal was fairly effective because it did this. The Great Society failed because it tried to extend into social engineering and redistribution based on group rights. In fact, the increase in inequality began during the Great Society. I do not say this was the CAUSE, but all those programs certainly did not stop it.

We can talk about what to do, but you really do have to stop the Bush bashing. The problem predates Bush and is not confined to the U.S. If you get the causes wrong, it will be hard to make take the proper steps to address the problem.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 10:46 PM
Comment #187061

Linda H

Yes. I am talking about America and America today. Many countries lack our opportunities.

It depends on what you call young. I am 51 years old.

Re bad luck. Let me address your list.

Medical bills like a stroke. Stroke no. Other medical bills yes.
Child who stayed in infant ICU? No
Broken your leg, or arm. Yes - Arm, leg, collar bone, hand and ankle. But I didn’t miss much work.
Lost your job - No, although I quit several
Robbed? - yes. Identity theft of credit cards, pick pockets, burglary
Car stolen - yes. Twice

Bad luck is common. So is good luck. We have to make hay when the sun is shining and prepare for when it is not. Chance plays a big role in life, but good luck is the point where opportunity meets preparation and bad luck is where we let things happen.

My oldest suit that I still wear I bought in 1987. It is a little out of style and it seems to have shrunk a little, but it still fits.

Of course I understand that some people make less than the median wage. I have often made the joke that half of all Americans are below average. Of course exactly half of Americans make more than the median too.

Posted by: Jack at October 8, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #187062

Mental wimp,

Never seen a more apt name.


Whatever system that has existed that has allowed me to become wealthy beyond my dreams is the one I’m in favor of.

Oh, thats the US capitalistic system. I guess that means that anything marxist is out - period. Better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

Yeah, it doesn’t produce perfect results I mean, laborers have been getting OVERPAID for years, thanks to the relentless marxist ways of the unions. Those wages / pensions / benefits weren’t AND aren’t real - hence the bankruptcies of Delphi, big Telcos, and before that Steel and the Railroads. Do you see the pattern here? Income redistribution inside a Company leads to its death - its so plain for all to see.

By the way, in my “wealth” column I also count my 5 kids as HUGE assets - you see I got to keep them, they weren’t killed as part of some population control/income redistribution social (sociopath) plan for the good of all.

Lynne,
Get a grip - no one makes a fortune on someones back anymore. If it was so bad those people would quit. If they don’t quit its simply because they have a lack of chutzpah. So sorry, they are just simply the losers in our capitalistic world. Nothing to be ashamed of. There are just winners and losers. I don’t hurt those people. I don’t demean them. I don’t wish them ill will its just that … well, they lost.

And who is to say that I will stay a winner? Soemone could come up with something that replaces my services and then what? Maybe the situation would reverse.

Its a beautiful world we live in. My competitive juices are flowing now … how do I stay a winner … ?

Posted by: echop8triot at October 8, 2006 11:11 PM
Comment #187065

Echo,

Becoming a winner is easy. It’s simply a matter of knowing which game to play.

Not said so far is the obvious point that money isn’t everything. Oh, you need to have enough to take care of the essentials, but beyond that, it’s often a trap.

What is wealth? Freedom to do what you want. What is poverty? Being a slave, whether it is to a terrible job, to the love of money itself, to status symbols, whatever.

As long as you judge yourself by externals, you are always in danger of being a loser.

Jack, the problem with your statement that half of all people are below average is that it assumes only one criterion.

Posted by: Trent at October 9, 2006 12:13 AM
Comment #187070

Traveller,
Marxism? Envy?
Perhaps. But I am one of the least materialistic people you could meet. By the standards of most people I am very well off, and very fortunate. If you really want to attack my views as mere expressions of emotion, attribute it to a devotion to social justice, you would be much closer to the marx… er, mark. Ooh, what a giveaway!

“If you want to help people, practice compassion. If you want to help yourself, practice compassion.”

Posted by: phx8 at October 9, 2006 2:06 AM
Comment #187089

im typical rebublican blame everyone for the actions of a few. It also reeks of raceism.

Posted by: Jeff at October 8, 2006 11:56 AM

Jeff, typical minority, socialist, bleeding heart response to why me why can’t I have what they have. Some people apply themselves and some don’t. Thay is no reason for you or anyone else to decide how wealth is redistributed.

Charities and Church is where benevolence comes from not government.

If I decide to redistribute my wealth I will decide who and where not you or the Socialist Left.

It is so much like you to rail about racism. It seems to be your canned response. Race has nothing to do with it. it is simply a matter of taking responsibility for your life and what you want.


be a man and get rid of your wealth. after all it is your choice.

Posted by: lm at October 9, 2006 8:46 AM
Comment #187091

Trent

Half the people have below average income in any given year and half are below (and above) the median in any measure.

Let me give you the context where I use that. I am constantly amazed at the pessimism is see in the face of our great country’s achievements. Detractors are constantly looking for failure and they can always find it.

I have actually heard statements like this made seriously, “Half of all Americans earn less than the median income and some earn a lot less.” Now doesn’t that sound ominous? In fact it is a simple tautology that tells you nothing.

Lm

I think Jeff was trying to joke about race. ALthough I am not sure. Some people really think such things about race.

Posted by: Jack at October 9, 2006 9:32 AM
Comment #187097

Jack,

There is a difference between the inequality that arises from merit and from accomplishment of somein relation to others and the inequality that arises from injustices that even the most ‘conservative’ of us can agree run counter to American values. Slavery and the Jim Crow era are examples of that readily at hand.

The goal is equality of opportunity so that all those with the merit to rise above may do so. Even then, luck of birth makes it possible for some to do better than others by being in a better position to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. No matter how bright some kid from South Central L.A. is, he or she has a MUCH harder row to hoe in order to capitialize on whatever opportunities come there way. Further, a somewhat less bright and capable rich kid may do better simply by virtue of being in a better position at the starting gate - consider Paris Hilton. If miss Hilton was a South Central or East L.A. kid she would probably have been an unfortunate statistic by now.

Then there is the inequality imposed by education. Not everyone can afford Yale, Harvard or Stanford or Princeton or Rice or … you get my drift here?

How many are relegated to community college degrees and mediocrity when they might be far more brilliant than they have opportunity to discover themselves. It is probably not a large number, but considering the population and the number of people going to community colleges, there are undoubtedly going to be some number who fall into this trap.

If we were a PURE meritocracy, like some european countries, we would consider it an investment in ourselves to subsidize the education of any who can get into the institution of their choice.

We don’t do that because as a nation we don’t see it as an investment, we see it as an unecessary expense that the rest of us should not be saddled with.

This is a characteristic of the ‘right’ in so much as it is similar to the reasoning behind cutting all research into alternative fuels which Bush did when he first entered office as president. There are a great many things that are good and worthy investments that would be bring returns to our nation in the form of economic growth and the future generations but which the ‘right’ see only as CHAFF.

I’m not arguing that smaller governmetn isn’t better. That is something I value as well, believe it or not. I am arguing only that short term gain at long term expense decisions the repubs are making make no sense and are actually GROWING the size and expense of government anyway. So why AREN’T we investing in our future?

Posted by: RGF at October 9, 2006 9:58 AM
Comment #187105

Jack:

Your model for understanding the relationships between rich and poor is outdated.

I guess then those companies that seek out illegal workers so they can pay them less and no benefits are “outdated”, too…

Please…come into the land of reality!

Posted by: Lynne at October 9, 2006 10:30 AM
Comment #187109

phx8, truly excellent posts in this thread! Once again, we are simpatico.

Jack:
“Inevitable Increasing Inequality”

I,I,I. Me, Me, Me. Such shameless selfishness! Styled as a serious statement?

Hey, that reminds me of something…

Voila! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
— The vision of ‘V’, from the film: ‘V for Vendetta’

:^)

Posted by: Adrienne at October 9, 2006 10:57 AM
Comment #187114

Jack and Trent are using two different terms…mean and median…they are NOT the same thing…maybe they should both get on the same page???

Posted by: Lynne at October 9, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #187190

Actually, Lynne, my real point was that income is only one (and not the most important) measure of success.

Posted by: Trent at October 9, 2006 1:36 PM
Comment #187225

I find it an interesting insight on the Conservative mind.
When it comes to handing over their money — they don’t trust “the government”
When it comes to handing over their children (to the military) — they trust the same government without question.

It seems to speak volumes as to their priorities and which is more important to them.

And now let the wailing begin!

Posted by: Russ at October 9, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #187229

Trent,

I certainly agree…but $$$ seems to be the only measure of “success” in the US…scholarly achievement, raising family well, living peacefully, having wisdom are all denigrated by a large portion of our population. Respect is only given those who “earn” big bucks…movie stars, sports figures, greedy politicians, grasping CEOs. Respect needs to be given to those who do their best regardless of money they receive…otherwise we don’t even have respect for life itself (torture and war are a partial result of that lack of respect).

Posted by: Lynne at October 9, 2006 3:23 PM
Comment #187232

Jack
You have the median concept correct, but not the average
You keep saying that 1/2 of all americans are below average —
unless everyone has a different value (not sure if you are talking money or IQ here) and those values are evenly spaced — it won’t happen
Mathmatical test
2 people have an IQ of 160
4 people have an IQ of 80
Average IQ of that group = 135
People above average = 2
people below average = 4
people at or above the median (80) = 3
People at or below the median (80) = 3

I love all the posts about how each and every “rich guy” “did it on their own”
sorry, last time I looked it was taxes that provided
Schools
roads
police
fire
military —
customs officials (to collect the tarrifs to prevent dumping from overseas)
electrical grid
clean water (sometimes)

I love the “rugged independence” —
Our system also allows those with tons of money to rig the system to ensure that the money flows their way — of course that is “rugged independence — sweat of the brow” sort of thing as well I suppose
What a load of hog wash

I suggest all of you who wail about “socialist unions” and how “overpaid” the workers are — that is just one more back you stand upon during your “independent hard work to wealth” effort.

One of the more successfull privately own companies is run by someone who runs his company based on what is “right” and it has turned out for him to reward him — invariably — with substantial profits — funny — without TRYING to just for profit — he succeeds where others struggle and fail.
Look into Patagonia sometime and you might try reading “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chounaird — to get just a slight glimpse of what is possible by NOT treating your workers like chattel, nor treating the environment as your own dumping ground (cheaper that way don’t ya know!)

Closed minds, closed opportunities — what losers!


Posted by: Russ at October 9, 2006 3:30 PM
Comment #187252

Poverty is a mental disease. Sorry to those of you that work hard and not smart. Congrats to those of you that work smart and hard. You deserve the benefits of your efforts.

Adrienne

Selfishness is the concern for ones own interests.
Sorry if you don’t get that. Think about it and you may see the light. Typical of you to quote a movie to try and make a point.

PHX8

Why not start the ball rolling and redistribute all of your wealth? Maybe some of your bleeding heart friends and backslappers on this forum will join you.

I didn’t think so.

Posted by: VOR at October 9, 2006 4:22 PM
Comment #187288

VOR:

Selfishness is the concern for ones own interests.

Selfishness is looking out for your own interests to the denigration of others; lack of concern for the common good; greediness.

Posted by: Lynne at October 9, 2006 6:23 PM
Comment #187291

Take away the incentive to produce income and income will not be produced. Net result is less overall tax revenue. In theory yes.

On the other hand our economy seems to be drifting into a bunch of oligopolies(sp?) by industry where prices become relativly controlled by the big players and all that matters is the stock price since that is what executive compensation is based on. Freeze or limit salary increases to the rank and file in order to meet the earnings estimate and keep the stock price (and exec comp) going up. Start up company enters your industry buy them out and lay off the workers in the name of economies of scale (and being able to control prices).

So should we tax this income at 70%-90% so some Democratic hacks can redistribute that wealth to their pet programs? How about instead we cap executive pay to some multiple of the average compensation in their company? As for productivity the head of Exxon or Mobile(I forget which) who got the $400,000,000 package probably would have put out just as much effort it that package was $50,000,000. I am not sure if this cap is the “right answer” but I do feel that the government taking the money seems to be the wrong answer.

Posted by: Carnak at October 9, 2006 6:42 PM
Comment #187301

RGF

Which of those Euro countries are pure meritocracies? I have been to most of them and not noticed that aspect.

I do not think we want a pure meritocracy. Some of the problems we see today are the result of reliance on merit. In a pure meritocracy, where all societal imputs were made perfectly equal, everything would depend on genetic intelligence and talent. We will never reach that, and it is a good thing we don’t.

One of the points I am making above is that intelligence is distributed unequally. A pure meritocracy will lead to greater inequality.

Lynne

Some companies and individuals do that. But poor workers have poor productivity. If you got rid of all those guys with leaf blowers how much would our economy suffer?

I know mean and median and average and I am aware that I mix them. The statement that half of all workers made above the median income is accurate. More than half make below the average wages. I am merely making fun of how ominous it can sound to make simple statements of fact.

Re money being the measure of success. It is mostly among those who do not have much of it. I am not rich. But like most people with enough money, money is no longer a primary motivator for what I do. I know lots of people richer than I am. Very few are motivated primarily by money. Money is a way to measure some other things.

Russ

If you read carefully, you understand that the argument is how much and what the government will do. Most of us hand over about a third of our income to governments. We think that is probably enough. You evidently disagree. Maybe you like it when governments run things. We disagree on that too.

Re statistics, please see above.

Re general ideas on conservatism, I believe you are confusing me with your own stereotypes. Please do a little more homework. Read some of the other things I have written. Then you are entitled to criticize and then I will consider it.

Posted by: Jack at October 9, 2006 7:15 PM
Comment #187309

speaking of equality, I understand that the DNC is now on the side of the boy scouts. No gay congressman working and leading pages and now we can agree that no gay scout leaders. we must protect our youth from this deviant, vile, and sinful behavior. wow what a deal. the DNC has made full circle. or is foley just wanting to be a scout leader?

such hypocrisy from the left, no wonder they cannot be trusted with our national security.

the more they protest the more they make the case that they have no substance.

the Dims are about as solid as a soup sandwich.

now that is funny even if you are a lying, hateful, homosexual, rotten stinking dirty sorry excuse of humanity, posing as a model of self respect politician Democrat in drag.

sorry after all they did open the door to name calling.

Posted by: lm at October 9, 2006 7:51 PM
Comment #187320

“Selfishness is the concern for ones own interests.”

Yeah, I noticed. As in someone thinking it is inevitable and good that we see increasing inequality in the richest country in the world. As in someone thinking it’s a great idea for America to return to the days where a class of souless, consciousless, and shameless Robber Barons were allowed to destroy our democracy. You know, the days before a fine Republican named Teddy Roosevelt said enough was enough, and before Americans joined Labor Unions and fought for the right of all of our people to be treated like human beings, rather than like drudges and wage slaves to a class of wealthy overlords.

“Sorry if you don’t get that.”

Oh I “get it” completely. I just don’t approve of that kind of selfishness. And sadly, I think it’s very clear that the Republicans are sorely lacking in fine men like Teddy Roosevelt these days.

“Think about it and you may see the light.”

I’ve done both — and that’s why I’m a Liberal! ;^)

“Typical of you to quote a movie to try and make a point.”

Yeah, it is. I’m not a snob when it comes such things. Cultural highs and lows can sometimes appeal to me equally.
But perhaps you were hoping that registered as an insult?
Hmm. In that case… Oh, how about:
“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!” :^)

Posted by: Adrienne at October 9, 2006 8:48 PM
Comment #187348

First of all, I don’t believe we should give money to those not smart enough to be born into households with good work ethics or decent paying jobs around. We should not give money to those who do not contribute something. We must rely on market forces to control the flow of money to those providing services. Right?

Think of the CEOs who make tens and hundreds of millions, often even when their corporations lose hundreds of millions! They deserve the earnings they and their cronies vote for themselves. They were, afterall, smart enough to get in position to name their own compensation packages. Even the Ken Lay’s and Bernie Ebbhers of the world who sink their companies into oblivion, must EARN their compensation. Think of the risks they took! The suckers who were left holding the bag should learn a lesson and quit working for the large corporations where they are subject to layoffs, retirement ripoffs, and dictated wages and pay rates.

Chill out, all! These things have a way of working out. When the rich are too rich and the poor too poor, the have-nots will just take what they need and slaughter the fatcats. Russia, France, Cuba, China, it has happened this way throughtout the ages and throughout many cultures.

There have been very helpful redistributions of wealth in the US’s history with positive results.
1)The unprecidented “GI Bill” offered to solders after the war. That spurred a great era of growth and we became a true superpower.

2)The homestead programs of the government and the land grabs in the early years of our nation (didn’t help the Native Americans much, though).

3)The New Deal’s CCC and Social Security Programs kept many grandmothers and grandfathers off the streets and a chance to live with some dignity after a lifetime of not “working smart” left them penniless, homeless, and powerless.

4) The advent of the modern military-industrial complex which takes tax money from the average worker and pays too often near-unregulated monies to huge corporations with little or no competition and with often soon outdated or flat out unworkable defense systems. Or pays ‘private contractors’ work that is best done by capable AND accountable military and government employees.

It is far wiser to choose a more moderate path(and I believe “Christian”… Jesus said something about giving away all you own and following him, as well as something about a rich man gaining heaven and the eye of a needle.) But the wealthy too often write the rules of engagement and competition so they don’t have to compete. I can’t complain here. I’m probably getting the $2.30 piece of the C - note. There WILL be poor always. Just make sure there’s not TOO many more of them than us! It just isn’t smart… but neither apparently are LOTS and LOTS of the people in charge.

Posted by: LibRick at October 10, 2006 1:17 AM
Comment #187350

Yes Jesus said “the poor will always be with you.” The gpal is to give everyone a meaningful job and life style.
Taxing the rich is a punishment for them. We tell every one “you’re free to become what you want and be as rich as the market allows” Then we tax the worker, While taxes help build and maaintain a society, over taxation is a burden we do not have to tollerate.
A man attains wealth and this is to improve on his world. He must learn to be cheritable. In Jewish law you are responsable for each other, This is to the point that if a former wealthman falls upon bad times the community must help him maintain his life style until he recovers.
In Islam their word is Zaduk. In Hebrew it is zadakah. Both societies believe that there is no higher deed. The word actually means that which is right.
There are always poor, as is there fakes. The latter should not cause you to defer your duty. Personal involvement in helping a man is required not a monthly check.
k

Posted by: kuzriel at October 10, 2006 2:19 AM
Comment #187369

Jack,

I actually agree with you regarding a pure meritocracy. Surprising, but I do. When I brought up the point, it was for the purpose of illustrating merely one aspect of European meritocracy: education. I lived over there for awhile and the european countries subsidize university level education for those who qualify to get in. We have sky-rocketing tuition costs that are saddling our grads with ever greater debt burden or creating insurmountable obstacles to certain institutions resulting in an actual decline in the number of kids going on to college.

Posted by: RGF at October 10, 2006 9:43 AM
Comment #187373

RGF

The Euros subsidize university, but that does not mean that the best and brightest get in or get ahead. If you were in Europe, you know that lots of the university students have just learned to milk the system. They are not interesting in learning very much and a lot of people cheat on tests (and are almost proud of it)

I know this happens in the U.S. too (so people do not need to bash the U.S.) but I do not think that defacto European education is any more a meritocracy than ours, except in their use of standardized tests, which we do not like because they produce embarrassing gender and ethnic results.

Posted by: Jack at October 10, 2006 10:23 AM
Comment #187398

Jack,

That’s not relevent. None of it. If you value education, then you understand that it is never wasted. Regardless of any other course or concern.

AS for milking the system or cheating on tests, …what relevence does that have to talking about a culture that values education enough to invest in it?
Not relevent, Jack.

You say standardized tests produce “embarrassinng gender or ethnic results?”

Not true. While all standardized tests have cultural contexts arising from the point of origen of the test, gender differences are not there and there are many exceptions to ethnic differences.

When the Vietnamese were first arriving in large numbers into this country in the 70’s and 80’s they blew the lid off the standardized tests and grades in the schools they attended and yet English was not even their first language. They did this because they WANTED it that bad. Unfortunately, the next generation has become more “Americanized.” They show up late to class, sometimes fail, sometimes struggle and often underperform and English is the first language now for many of them. I have many friends who are educators and who have seen this unfortunate scenario play out over years. The next generation of viet-namese kids are as American now as apple pie and Chevrolet.

There will always be class differences on exams because the better a family does economically, the more likely it is the kids will be exposed to good books, music and other things that help create an educated mind. That has unfortunate consequences as well, because the households that provide the least of those kinds of things for the kids are all too often also African American or Hispanic households. Not always, but to a disproportionate degree. Therefore, there is an inherent racism intwined with socio-economic class. There are even utterly offensive bigots out there who point out these kinds of disparities and get the cause and effect screwed up. They claim the disparity is somehow proof of their being right about their prejudices and bigotry. It’s a sick trap. It comes from failing to see or understand the how and why of it.

However, the reason we are less oriented to subsidized tests is because we ‘SELL’ education. It is a business. Many institutions are callous enough to consider their students nothing more than ‘tuition on the hoof’ - A term I have even heard used by a graduate school dean!

In Europe, they are trying to limit the number of kids taking certain course paths to those that will excel in those areas. Thus the greater degree of subsidized testing.

Posted by: RGF at October 10, 2006 12:03 PM
Comment #187445

RGF

We are getting off topic, but I do believe education can be wasted or more precisely time and energy can be wasted. If you are not studying something you really value or not doing it rigorously, it is a waste. I have met students in Europe who are just kind of hanging around because life is good at university. That happens in the U.S. too, but we do not subsidize it to as great an extent.

We always have a distinction between being taught or attending school and learning. You and I learn a lot from each other and from blogging here. Nobody is teaching us anything in the formal sense. I suspect a university level course on blogging would be a waste of time.

Re ethnic and gender problems with tests, that is the main reason the tests are under sustained attack in the U.S. They will not produce the results many universities are seeking.

The history of “merit” is interesting. You probably know that the tests were first created to help smart, but underprivelged, students compete with the rich kids. Then when “too many” Jews started to get in, schools moved to a more wholistic approach. There was a defacto affirmative action program AGAINST Jews. The same thing applies to affirmative action and diversity in general today. What ethnic makup would UC Berkeley have if they used only grades and test scores? Would we have diversity?

Posted by: Jack at October 10, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #187475

Education is certainly not the sole province of schools. But speaking of schools, some of my classes were great, some ok, some poor. The chief value, though, I think is that you can engage in good conversations in or out of class, if you seek them out. There are plenty of people going to school merely to get a degree because they know that will help them get a higher paying job. I have no problem with that. But the real value of attending school consists of learning new things and learning how to think about things in new ways. Anything else is vocational, which of course has its own value.

I’ve always thought of university as a tool to be used in the quest to become more educated. But it is certainly not the only tool, nor can we call ourselves “educated” simply because we’ve earned degrees. College classes, even advanced classes, are mere introductions; real learning takes place when we have the opportunity or leisure to follow our passions.

—-

I would love to see an article on the commodification of “education.”

Posted by: Trent at October 10, 2006 5:02 PM
Comment #187481

I don’t understand everyones need for someone else’s money. In this country of individuals people are free to live their lives how they want. I have no interest in being rich and famous. The problem which is compounded by television is this constant worship of the rich and famous. I work hard for a living. But not to hard. By choice. If I had a desire to be rich I would have started working harder a long time ago. If you make 50,000 a year and can barely save for retirement, but have this desire to be rich, you better find another profession. You don’t need wealth to make wealth. It helps, but is not necessary. Just look at the two guys at Yourtube who just sold to google for 1.5 billion. Just a year ago they were maxed out on all their credit cards. Bill Gates started in his garage as one of those “packmules”. Sorry, I just don’t get why people feel like everyone is entitled to be rich in this country. Like someone said earlier. There are enough tax revenues. There is to much spending going on. Not everyone is entitled to healthcare. That is not greed. That is by choice and consequence. I know lots of people. Lots of people who refuse to buy health insurance, yet drive late model cars and have every electronic gadget known to man, and go out to dinner 4 times a week. I will agree that some people can’t afford health insurance because they are barely making enough to put food on the table. But trying to feed a family of four at 22 years old because you just didn’t like using condoms or you just didn’t think high school was cool at the time so you dropped out, well that is just plain choices and consequences. Downsize and simplify your life. That’s what I did. No jetting off to Paris for me. I’ll survive. But I’ll be damned if I am going to be jeolous of some CEO at GM because he is doing it with his mistress. He made some smart choices and luck may have opened some doors along the way, but I can’t and won’t try to control that. I will worry about me. And I suggest all of you try and do the same.

Posted by: Ed at October 10, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #187503

Trent

I will try, but what do you have in mind?

Posted by: Jack at October 10, 2006 6:32 PM
Comment #187508

Jack,

Simply the notion that education is a product to be bought and sold like any other product.

In one sense, it can be seen as private companies taking over the public role of education. (Note, I am not talking about private schools, per se.) In another, it can be seen as the increasing use of pre-packaged course curriculums developed by outside concerns but used even by public schools.

A logical end is to have course “facilitators” who present this material rather than teachers.

Relatively new concepts such as “distance learning” also have a role in this discussion.

Also of concern is the use of business models, calculations of return to investment, etc., etc., which emphasize economics over less tangible aspects of education.

I am relatively old school in my thinking. My ideal is to have a teacher/mentor who is an expert in his field develop his own curriculum and engage students in socratic fashion. I believe in a liberal arts education, which, as most of us know, used to be exclusively the province of the aristocracy or of those wealthy enough to entertain aristocratic ideals. Until the 20th Century, this kind of education was out of the reach of the masses; our belief in public education has put this kind of education within the reach of almost everyone. I think we are moving away from the ideal that a liberal arts education is valuable for reasons not entirely economic.

My interest in this is societal as well as personal. I belief a liberal arts education is crucial to understanding and challenging dominant modes of thought. I fear that pre-packaged course material will, by and large, serve other interests.

I do see some use in pre-packaged materials. If I want to learn how to re-wire my house on my own, such material could be very useful. But if I want to learn about history, or literature, or economics, or philosophy, this kind of material is less useful.

I also realize that people attend schools for different reasons, and that there is nothing wrong with for someone to attend school for vocational reasons. In fact, it’s quite admirable.

I would be interested in your take on this, Jack. since as a student of Roman history, you received an old-style liberal arts education.

Posted by: Trent at October 10, 2006 7:09 PM
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