Monday, October 17, 2005

The wealth gap continues to grow in the United States.

According to the CIA Factbook, nearly "Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20 percent of households." Rising poverty is a sad state, and usually the symptom of a problem with the system. The growth of wealth only happens to those who are already wealthy, which means that something is clearly out of whack in this, the richest nation in the world.

Perhaps there's a certain danger in having faith in meritocracy. I mean, in spite of the fact that it's only the rich who get richer these days, some will insist that the wealthy are wealthy because they deserve it. The corollary of that is that it's somehow the fault of the poor that they're poor, right?

Perhaps it was my good Christian upbringing, but looking at it that way just makes me uncomfortable. However, I'm also a liberal, so that means I've got to consider all points of view before I commend or condemn them, so here goes. Let's suppose we as a nation accept that the poor are in a lower caste, and that they're there due to circumstances over which they have absolute control, but which they aren't doing anything about. Social Darwinists (or Social Intelligent Designers?) would hold that until they get cracking like the Vanderbilts and the Rothschilds, they're going to have to stay poor, and if they starve or die of slightly costly diseases, then so be it. On the other hand, the good, Christian thing to do would be to increase social programs to help these poor people who are poor because of what are apparently moral failings which hopefully they can overcome some day, so shouldn't we help them keep it together until they get it together?

Of course, you may have guessed that I subscribe to neither school of thought. I feel that a rising tide should lift all boats, and if some seem to be more buoyant than others, chances are it's because there's an inequality in the condition of the various boats in the harbor. We as a society have to decide whether we can afford to let those small craft sink during the next storm. Maybe it's because I'm descended from people who suffered from Appalachian (and Carpathian) poverty, but I couldn't sleep at night if I said, "Let 'em sink!"

For the record, my income has gone up considerably over the past ten years, and you know what? I'm still having a hell of a time making ends meet. I'm keeping my head above water, but saving money? It's impossible. I've got a 401(k), but still... And I wouldn't even consider myself to be poor, either.

This post of mine originally appeared on the Zogby political forums. Click here to read the whole thread.


At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 at 3:23:00 PM EDT, Blogger Rob said...

You lefties think that social programs and throwing money at everything is the answer. Well, we've been busy fixing what's wrong with your answers for years. About 5 years to be exact.

Did it ever come to mind, 9-11 has skewed your statistics? Yes. Poverty and more poverty. I say get 'em a job and see 'em work for a change.

At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 at 3:56:00 PM EDT, Blogger Kurt Kaletka said...

Hooboy... A Bush admirer yells at me about "throwing money at everything"! Hilarious! How's that deficit going? You got it about as high as you wanted yet?

You give me invective, but you don't actually say what's wrong with my ideas. Care to give me a little substance to work with here? That'd be great. Thanks.

Your second paragraph is just confusing. How is it that you say "9-11 skewed your statistics"? I don't get this non sequitur at all. Perhaps you can explain the connection? Because I can't see it. Thanks again.

At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 at 5:47:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The late, great President Reagan put the deficit issue to rest for all time. Numbers, schmumbers. I suppose you'd call that "Voodoo" economics. Aye? Well, it's been proven that the basis of the American economy is one that thrives on spending. We spend our way out of everything. You just got to know where to spend it.

Give it to a poor person, and what do you get in return? Hand it up the ranks, and you get a trickle down effect. Sorry, I have never heard of a "trickle up" effect. It is no secret, bubs. (if name calling is Okay, if not please forgive me as I tend to get heated from time to time)

How do you think we got 15 years of prosperity? Nope. It wasn't Al Gore inventing the internet.

Want the answer?

Reagan/ Greenspan.

Part 2? A little confused?

Well, it goes like this. Economic upturns, benefit all. The wealthy, middle-class and the poor. Prior to 9-11, we had growth. That is, an "upturn". Who could have prevented the ripple effects of such a horrific event? Minimal tax cuts did not provide all that was needed, however attempts to jump start the economy with substantial tax cuts hit road blocks at every turn of the road. Ahh. Who's fault now?

Before this gets too carried away, let me say this: I feel for those that suffer from poverty and understand your point of view. Our church does all it can to help out. I suggest that more good people from all walks of life participate.

At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 12:11:00 AM EDT, Blogger Kurt Kaletka said...

Is this anonymous post from the same Rob as before? Just curious.

Not that it really matters; I still disagree with pretty much every thing you said. There's no such thing as a "trickle up" effect, just as sure as there's no such thing as a "trickle down" effect any more than there are unicorns and leprechauns. The theory got a lot of support back in the 1980s, but nowadays economists all agree: it was bunk. It didn't work! Out-of-control spending with no regard to deficits is anathema to traditional conservative thought, but is just dandy to neocons.

The American economy thrives on spending, you say? Well, so do we all. The problem is that when you run up deficits, you're living high until you have to pay back all the money that you borrowed. Any moron can spend money; it takes a smart person to manage it. Reagan and the other neocons weren't smart in the ways of managing money, which is why we've still got ballooning deficits.

Al Gore never claimed to have invented the internet. Stick to facts, please.

Part 2: The Tax-Cut Religion

Neocons and the Reagan cult seem to think that all you have to do is cut taxes and spend more and we'll be awash in prosperity. This does not allow for the regular cycles of growth and retraction of the economy—that's to say, sometimes you need to cut taxes, and sometimes you need to raise them. At the time of the September 11 attacks, the United States' economy was already in negative growth, which means a recession. When you're in a recession, tax cuts are a good idea. However, as the Reagan administration proved, cutting taxes just for the upper income brackets does not lead to prosperity; rather, it leads to deficits. Regardless, Bush made those lopsided cuts anyway and has squeezed the middle class, sucker-punched the lower class, and has made life easier still for the rich, who still aren't "trickling down" for anyone. Or do you have actual examples of "trickling down" actually working? I'd be curious to see that. I'd like to see a unicorn or a leprechaun, too.

It's great that your church does charity work, but the fact is that the poor need something genuine and guaranteed, that they won't lose just because some organization doesn't feel like giving as much this year. We can't afford to force the poor to depend on the kindness of strangers, and the poor can't afford it, either. There's no excuse for a nation as prosperous as ours to have such a yawning chasm of an income gap growing. What is this, Saudi Arabia? Greed is dangerous, destructive, and un-American.


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