Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Income Gap and Ideology: The Further Dehumanizing of Working Class People

  • If we made an income pyramid out of a child's blocks, with each layer portraying $1,000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but almost all of us would be within a yard of the ground.
        Paul Samuelson

There's an important question to consider when trying to understand how ideology functions in our lives: Is what I believe in the interest of other people for me to believe it?

The attacks on people of low income has turned into a competitive sport for many public figures, politicians, and citizens. We've declared a socially acceptable war on the least of these. If the attacks against the poor were leveled against any other minority group, we would have taken to the streets and called this behavior out for what it is: hatred.

We've created a straw man to beat up and blame all of society's ills on. This straw man is a composite of every negative stereotype about poor people. If we believe all of our economic woes are caused by welfare queens and meth addicts on food stamps, then we don't have to ask the real questions related to the military-industrial complex or our broken financial system. 

An ideological war is being waged against the working class. In one corner we have the working poor and in the other corner we have the working two missed paychecks from being the working poor. The saddest thing about this war is that it's a shadow war in which the ruling elite are forming alliances with members of the "47%" in order to bash their contemporaries. 

To get to the crux of the original question: who benefits from what we think? Why are so many people against raising the minimum wage if there's no empirical data to support the claim that doing so hurts the economy? Why do we blindly accept partisan talking points as facts? All of these questions have real answers; sadly, too few of us will even engage in the pursuit of these answers.

The quote from Paul Samuelson is often dismissed as class warfare. The structural problems of global capitalism go unresolved as we focus on the plight of those closest to us- instead of looking at the circumstances that caused them. Yes, there are welfare cheats. There's corruption in every avenue of life; some people will always take advantage of a situation.

I've never understood how people get so outraged over someone in their community getting over on the system, but keep quite about a fashion designer using child labor in the developing world or some company polluting the water because it's easier to dump chemicals than to responsibly dispose of them. There's a segment of our society who view the 4% of our country who are investors as mythical and magical. We get upset about the Affordable Care Act, but keep quite about a tax code so full of holes that anyone with a decent accountant can pay a lower tax rate than the average citizen. 

I'll close with a few points to ponder: first, the Federal Reserve is a private bank. It's not part of our government. Second, globally there's about 3 trillion dollars in circulation, but we have over 50 trillion dollars of debt. Last, If you work for a living: you are working class. There's no shame in this. 

Rick Roderick once offered an empirical test for anyone unsure of where they stand. He said quit your job for eight years, and if at the end of that period really bad things happened to you: you were working class. The growing income gap has the ability to affect your life more than what your neighbor is doing. The majority of us are one catastrophic accident or illness from being on public assistance.

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