Archive for September 17th, 2020

“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

I was going to write a much longer entry this morning about the vast income inequality that is the underlying problem for many of this country’s ills but thought I’d share the selection above from Kurt Vonnegut. This was brought on by a study released by the RAND Corporation that was featured in a recent TIME Magazine article pointedly titled, The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%—And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure.

Even though they kind of give away the message of the story in that ridiculously long title, believe me when I say that it is an article that should be read. It shows how that if we had simply maintained the same income distribution that the US had in the the three decades following World War II, from 1945 to 1974, that the aggregate income of the bottom 90% of workers would be $2.5 trillion higher each year.


That is such a large number that most of us cannot even begin to fathom it unless we break it down into smaller, more digestible bits. Well, in this case, 2.5 trillion breaks down to about $1144 more per month for every working person in the bottom 90% of the population. Or to put it another way, the level of income inequality we have accepted since 1974 costs the median income of the average full time worker about $42,000 per year.

The Counterfactual Column is What Might Have Been With Income Equality Maintained

I could go on with numbers and figures but what I want you to do is imagine if we had maintained that level. You might have to go back to the period fro 1945-1974 to get an idea. It was a time that so many people here yearn for now because it was marked by many of those things to which we all aspire still. The great American Middle Class was at its peak. Think Happy Days, okay? Building and infrastructure increased tremendously as our national highway system was built and suburban communities popped up with housing developments. The average worker could buy a home and prosper with a single income, most often in jobs that came with health insurance and a retirement plan.

I want you to imagine what this country look like now if we had continued that arc?

Our infrastructure would be the best in the world. Our GDP would be through the roof. Our health system and school systems would be among the best in the world. Small businesses would boom because wealth builds from the bottom up, despite what supply-siders would have you believe with their snakeoil concoction of Trickle Down economics. People would not be so upside down in their mortgages or auto loans.

It comes down to the fact that most could live comfortably on a regular job that would have vacations, healthcare, pensions and more free time for ourselves.

There are a lot more examples that I know I am missing. This is just off the cuff so I hope you will take the time to imagine them.

I am not saying it would be perfect. Social problems– crime, civil rights, homelessness, etc– would remain but might not be exacerbated by the high levels of poverty that we see now.

The rich would still be rich but just not as rich. Ask anybody old enough if there were rich folks in those years between 1945 to 1974. The wealthy were still rich as hell. Maybe Betsy DeVos would only have one luxury super yacht instead of the three or five or whatever the hell she has now.

But that is the beauty of the ruse the wealthy has perpetrated on the American people. The average worker worries about the welfare of the richest of us more than those folks in their own economic strata. You see it whenever there is talk about raising the minimum wage. It is the people who make just a bit more than the minimum wage who scream against it the loudest. I think they see it as devaluing them in some way.

And maybe it does. It should. Instead of railing against someone getting a living wage and a better life, they should be yelling about why they themselves aren’t getting a bigger piece of the pie.

You also see it in the people who attend the president***’s rallies. Most of those folks are working class who are rotting for a creature who is peddling policies that go directly against their own self interest. He doesn’t talk about higher wages for those with jobs. He doesn’t offer them better healthcare. Well, he promises healthcare then moves on to a newer distraction without delivering anything at all. He spouts about the stock market and has these working folks believing it is the economy, even though the bulk of them don’t own a share of stock or understand that in order to return maximum profits to their shareholders, these companies need to keep wages and expenses low.

They root for their own lower wages.

I could keep going and going and going. I don’t have an answer except to say that we will never get back to that time if we don’t acknowledge that there is a real problem. And even then, we have so empowered the top 1% that they will never willingly agree to go back to that level even though they would not experience any real decrease in the quality of their lifestyle. In fact, they would be rewarded with a society that would be far more pleasant in which to live.

Okay, that’s enough. At least I got it off my chest.  Just read the article.

And remember that this not from some left wing think tank. It’s the RAND Corporation. Look them up if you’re not aware of them.

Oh, and have a good day.

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