2014

23 April 2014: Unequal prosperity equals injustice

Unequal prosperity equals injustice

If we’re to move forward to develop an economy that allows for the potential of every American to be successful, it’s imperative to move away from the either-or dichotomy of looking at capitalism: Either one has blind faith and is a fervent believer in it or one is considered a socialist.  That notion is nonsense on several levels, but suffices to say those who profess that are being simplistic.

Our economic system is mixed with governments at all levels playing key roles, but in the private realm, corporations dominate.  They have since the nascent days of the republic with the result of money getting concentrated in the hands of a few.  Andrew Jackson took on the banks and Teddy Roosevelt, the trusts; but despite their and others heroic efforts, today, the 400 wealthiest individuals control more wealth than the lowest 150 million Americans combined.

The great sycophant of corporate largess Ronald Reagan and his economic whiz-kid David Stockman sold the notion of “trickle-down economics,” but as Gary Reber in his column “The Path to Sustainable Economic Growth” holds, “‘trickle-down’ is a non-sensible theory and only results in ‘trickle’ menial, low-pay jobs, private charity, and public taxpayer-supported welfare, in plain view and disguised.”

In short, Ronald Reagan capitalism has resulted in increased poverty and reliance on the state for assistance.

“The poor and middle classes,” Reber continues, “are unable to realize their needs and wants no matter how hard they work, because they cannot earn enough through a job to consume what the economy can produce.”

By shipping manufacturing jobs overseas, corporations have managed not only to eviscerate an essential element of our economic engine, they have increased competition for the remaining lower-paying service jobs, jobs that cannot be shipped.

Technology, ostensibly our economic great savior, likewise cuts hard against the grain of economic growth.

“Effectively, technological innovation and invention limits new higher productivity jobs to relatively fewer workers, leaving most other people willing and able to work with lower paying job opportunities or no jobs at all. This increasing majority is finding it more and more difficult to afford the products and services that are increasingly produced by productive capital.”

Robots can be far more efficient than humans and don’t require coffee breaks, wage increases, health benefits and two-week vacations.  Displaced workers, even those with advanced degrees and skills, find themselves bagging groceries at their local supermarkets in which they once shopped, working for wages that barely cover living expenses let alone I-phones.

Second, the whole process of innovation and invention is controlled tightly by the wealthy elite.  As a result, the average Joe and Jane are increasingly becoming outsiders in a market economy that is supposed to be inclusive.  They can look but not hope to buy.

In his piece “Perpetual Unemployment and Underemployment,” Reber argues that our old way of doing things, the labor-intensive economy, has gone the way of the Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Mercury.

“No longer is the American economy labor-intensive with opportunity for jobs that strengthen the middle class.”

Further, he holds, “The root cause of present injustices is the fact that the mass of people are practically bereft of ownership of wealth-creating, income producing productive capital.”

The world is changing economically.  While we can look at our past for comparisons, the reality is that this evolving economy is not the traditional economical construct in which we, boomers and pre-boomers alike, operated, and it is also radically evolving for our progeny: the millennials and other post-boomers.

The rules have changed and with that has come economic distress and dislocation on a global scale.

Given that we’re living in a version of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” in what is rapidly becoming a dystopian social construct, Reber states, “It is essential that people focus their thinking on the understanding of who and what creates wealth, in order to fully understand how to solve growing income inequality and the disintegration of the nation wherein the majority of citizens are regulated to low-pay job serfdom and public welfare.”

“The required new thinking must respect property rights, and the right of all citizens to acquire private and individual ownership of wealth-creating productive capital assets. This is the path to prosperity, opportunity, and economic justice — the only path that will assure democratic and free market conditions.”

Reber’s thinking is provocative, to be sure, but this I know: What we have in place sure ain’t working anymore.

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