Class Warfare Blog

March 28, 2013

Income and Wealth Inequality: What If?

I live in a racially polarized city, one of the most segregated cities in the U.S.: Chicago. There are gangs and subgangs on virtually every block of the “dangerous” sections of this city and people are being shot and killed because of gang activities at a furious clip.

Reflecting on this I wondered: if we as a people were deeply offended by economic inequity and we were to take political action much as was taken in the 1950’s and 1960’s to equalize economic opportunities, would there be as many gangs or even gangs at all? I suspect not.

I have written a great deal about what is wrong with our educational system, but one factor, a large factor, can’t be addressed directly by our schools and teachers: economic inequality. A Stanford researcher’s study of standardized test data (Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality and the Uncertain Life Chances of Low-Income Children, New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2011) reveals a 40 percent growth in the gap between high- and low-income students since the 1960s. Are you surprised?

We basically eliminated hunger as a problem for school aged children in the 1970’s but currently it is back, substantially so. It is really hard to think or even give a shit when you are hungry, especially as a child.

I can hear the conservatives screaming now: he’s talking about redistribution! He wants to take our money and give it to the poor!

Effectively, yes. Government exists because of one ability: to redistribute wealth. If the government couldn’t take people’s money, through taxes, tariffs, fees, etc., and use that money to pay public servants (police, soldiers, politicians, etc.) and buy things (weapons systems, socks for soldiers, new highways, computers for the IRS, etc.) what could it do? Anything? It could pass laws it could not enforce, hmmm. Back in the Vietnam War Era there was a bumper sticker “If the Pentagon Had to Put on a Bake Sale to Buy a Bomber …” Imagine. Government doesn’t exist without the ability to redistribute wealth.

So, the question is: what is the most effective way for that redistribution to be done?

My suggestion is that if we were a little more creative, a little more compassionate, school children in Chicago could walk to school without the fear of being shot and without their stomachs growling so loudly they can’t hear their teachers.

The benefits from those actions would be huge. Lower crime rates, less dependent children (in that they get better educated, etc.) who are also healthier and all for the cost that the rich have a little less money. They will still be rich, even filthy rich, but the world would be a better place.

For those of you who think the rich (the “job creators”) can’t afford that, consider that fact that in a recent year, the Koch Brothers wealth increased by $6 billion dollars. Now there are two of them, so that is only $3 billion each, but if you assume a 40 hour work week (to be fair they probably work more than that) and the normal federal holidays, etc. each of them made over $150,000 per hour that year. Since they spend a great deal of their money to get their taxes reduced, to undermine the alternative energy movement (they are in the coal business), to undermine the ability of minorities and the aged to vote, and various other nefarious efforts, I think they could afford a bit to help the less advantaged.

Tax the rich, give it to the poor.

One way to do this would be to raise the minimum wage. This would encourage work and restore dignity to working folks. Conservatives are against that? Okay, how about a guaranteed minimum income. This would place people in a position that they would have no excuses for not being responsible and the full weight of societal disapproval could fall on those who failed to be responsible. Conservatives are against a negative income tax, you say. Hmmm.

Sounds like what we need to do is rid ourselves of conservatives. They seem to be in favor of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, in favor of greed, and against fair wages.

Tax the rich, stamp out conservatives!

Now, that has a nice ring to it.

Addendum: For those of you who think the source of these inequalities is racial, I quote from the aforementioed study: “First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap.”

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5 Comments »

  1. Thank you for putting it so succinctly: “Government exists because of one ability: to redistribute wealth.”

    Comment by john zande — March 28, 2013 @ 11:08 am | Reply

  2. “Sounds like what we need to do is rid ourselves of conservatives. They seem to be in favor of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, in favor of greed, and against fair wages.”

    I think John Steinbeck said it best back in the 1930’s: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”

    The tea party types that oppose redistribution still live off of the fantasy fed them by a wealthy plutocracy that with just a wee bit more effort they too can be millionaires. It’s a myth dear to the American psyche.

    Comment by lbwoodgate — March 28, 2013 @ 12:44 pm | Reply

    • Just as in Mexico, the poor see themselves as temporarily embarrassed Patrones. It was the Socialist and Communist Parties in the 30’s that helped create the middle class we all knew and loved, so maybe it is time for a resurgance.

      Just sayin’

      Comment by stephenpruis — March 28, 2013 @ 1:16 pm | Reply


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