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PBS’s news magazine Frontline did a report on dangerous pathogens found in chicken sold by one specific company. The chicken made a lot of people sick and some even died. The shocking part of this story is the company knew their chicken was tainted and even knew it was making people sick but did nothing to address the problem and continued to sell the tainted chicken to consumers. The federal entity who’s supposed to enforce strict regulations to protect consumers from hazards like this also knew about the company’s tainted chicken but did nothing to protect consumers, and did not push for a recall. It’s a very interesting piece that I think holds meaning that goes way beyond just chicken.
To me this is just another reminder that corporations run our government now. It’s totally mind-boggling to me that American’s were scared out of their minds about Ebola and right before the midterm election a majority of voters listed Ebola as one of the most important issues that concerned them enough to come out and vote. If I recall the poll correctly, voters said the second most important issue was Benghazi. People are getting sick and dying because of tainted chicken and the company selling this chicken continued to sell it even though they knew there was a problem. I guess they figured it was much cheaper to buy politicians and political influence than it was to recall the chicken to protect the consumer. Adding insult to injury the government agency who are supposed to regulate and protect the citizens against this kind of malfeasance were also aware that a potentially deadly pathogen was in a consumer product yet they did almost nothing to hold the company responsible and did nothing to alert or protect the citizens who pay their salaries.
Situations like this reinforce my belief that Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime. That law pretty much guarantees that the citizens of this country and the politicians we put in office are completely powerless against the will of the 1% and the corporations they own. The media both progressive leaning and conservative tells the country what issues they should care about, and how to think about the issues they chose to report. Ebola got wall-to-wall 24 hour news coverage on every cable news network for 3 weeks straight. There were only 2 deaths from Ebola in the US, and neither of the people who died contracted the disease here in America. There have been 6 or 7 investigations into Benghazi so far and all of them concluded the same thing. There was no conspiracy in which the president and the secretary of state colluded to make sure American’s in the consulate died. But somehow voters named both of those issues (Benghazi and Ebola) as the two issues that were most important to them.
I place a lot of blame for this on the media. I find it very curious that campaign finance reform and overturning the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United almost never gets discussed on network news. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the enormous spike in ad buys that brought them unprecedented profits and revenue during the last presidential election where candidates on both sides spent over a billion dollars each to fund their bid for president. It’s very plain to see that Citizens United worked out very well for all of the news networks. Why would they want to stop the gravy train? This kind of thing breeds voter apathy and political cynicism. Unfortunately the voter apathy they cultivate works in their favor as well. The less engaged you are and the less you believe in the system they know people like that are less likely to vote. The lower voter participation gets, the more power they have.
I wish I had a simple solution to fix all of this but I don’t, but something has to change. We can’t claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave when public opinion shows that an overwhelming majority of citizens wants to raise the minimum wage and overturn Citizens United, but corporations and the 1% are against both of these things so it will never even get a vote despite the will of the people. After Benghazi and Bridgegate fizzles out, they’ll throw us another meaningless distraction and a large majority of us will eat it up just like we’ve been conditioned to. Now isn’t that sad?
As surely as rape is about power, not sex, income inequality is about power, not money. Forcing women to have babies against their will is about power, not babies. Forcing women to have babies even if it endangers the mother is about absolute power. Controlling who can vote and who cannot is about power, not political ideals. And forcing hungry people to starve is about about power, not tax dollars. Perhaps that was the allure and the ongoing attraction from racists regarding African Americans. Whites had power, and even the most down-trodden, poor white racist in 1860 “thought” he was better than the best black man. The KKK continued this abomination for power, nothing else. Power over someone else…to do as you please, when you please, regardless of the pain it causes someone else. But for today at least, I’ll stick to the economic aspect of income inequality if for no other reason but to keep my blood from boiling over at the inane stupidity, hatred and fear that drives the Tbagger faithful to be blind to the fact that a handful of the economic elite are using them as human shields in the same way cowardly dictators use civilians in times of war. The Koch Brothers and ALEC already have more money than they could ever spend in ten lifetimes, but what they want is power, because if you can buy anything you want material things lose their allure and the only thrill left is obtaining ever more power. They are economic terrorists using the hatred and a few choice causes that they could actually care less about (see 2nd Amendment “rights”) to effectuate their obsession with power. A new Census Bureau report released recently showed that since 2009 economic gains have accumulated to only the top 5 percent of households in the U.S.; the other 95 percent have gained virtually nothing; poverty remains high and income inequality has worsened. Yet libertarians still don’t understand that they’re next, or if they do, they simply don’t see light through that haze of hate that clouds their judgement and magnifies their inability to see the big picture. So, the meaningful question remains, does inequality matter in the overall economics of the United States or is it simply another liberal whining point? Is our desire for equality good economics or does it stand in the way of creativity, hard work and overall economic rewards for the entire population? Economists have debated, written and proselytized about this for more than 200 years. Adam Smith, that premier proponent of the free market meme, saw the political danger of inequality, and expressed it succinctly: “Wealth is power, as Mr. Hobbes says.” John Maynard Keynes, the bane of every libertarian’s xenophobic existence, wrote of the Victorian era: “It was precisely the inequality of the distribution of wealth which made possible those vast accumulations of fixed wealth and of capital improvements which distinguished that age from all others.” Even Thomas Jefferson, the darling of so-called libertarians (often referred to as“Lazy Marxists”)and Tea Party “Patriots” alike, had this to say regarding income inequality: “Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment, but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.” On the other hand, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter argued that inequality is the force behind technical advance. According to Schumpeter, progress is a lottery. And if the prizes are really big, more people will try to win them. Of course, many will try and fail, but many new advances will be the result. So tell me succinctly, so that I can understand, “Why have there been no libertarian countries…..EVER?” The Effects of Increasing Inequality faded during most of the 20th century, to Schumpeter’s extreme discomfort. But by 1958, even John Kenneth Galbraith could write, “few things are more evident in modern social history than the decline of interest in inequality as an economic issue.” In the 1980s and 1990s, though, inequality shot up and renewed interest in the condition revitalized. The political atmosphere leading up to the 2008 Bush Economic Meltdown was the result of deregulation, foolish unfunded wars, the assumption that the banking industry could regulate itself–despite the catastrophic failures of Enron, WorldCom, The Savings and Loan meltdown, and countless other indicators that business could NOT regulate itself any better than Congress can regulate itself–and rising income inequality causing the debate and enmity to escalate. Of course, market outcomes have always been unequal. And to liberals’ irritation, inequality is intensified in good times. In the late 1990s, under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. had four years of full employment, and income inequality hit levels not seen since 1929. The reason is simple: Inequality is driven mainly by capital gains–essentially, the income derived from owning something rather than producing something–stock options and the proceeds of venture capital and initial public offerings, all of which exploded during the information-technology boom. But do more unequal countries, generally, work better? In Europe, “labor market flexibility” has been the mantra of conservative reformers for years. According to them, skilled workers were paid too little and unskilled workers too much. The hypothetical tonic was to weaken unions, cut pensions and reduce state benefits for working people. Recently Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain carried out such “reforms.” To the conservatives dismay and denial, competitiveness didn’t return and unemployment rose. Here are two facts:
- First, rich countries are usually more equal than poor ones. For a country to be opulent and technically developed, it must — by definition — have a large and thriving middle class.
- Second, inequality and unemployment rise and fall together. If pay gaps are outsized, people will quit low-paying jobs (on farms, for example) and move to factory towns (or technology centers) where the jobs are better — but also more scarce. Those who can’t get the good jobs stay unemployed.
It’s really fairly pretty simple stuff. Also, if wage laws discourage low pay, then businesses innovate more rapidly and productivity increases. Decades ago the Scandinavians grasped this relationship, and since then, those countries have become some of the richest on earth. In short, economics is analogous to human’s blood sugar levels. There’s a healthy range. Within that range, lower is better but too low can be dangerous as well and zero puts you in the morgue with a toe tag as your only accouterment. When inequality rises, the symptoms aren’t necessarily immediate but they are just a deadly. It may not notice it until your brain—or the economy–panics; credit booms feel great. But rising inequality is a sign of a crisis on the horizon. Ignore it at your own, as well as those directly affected, peril. We saw this dynamic in 1930, in 2000 and again in 2008. You can’t eliminate inequality, and we don’t want to. But it should be kept within the “safe” range for everyone’s benefit. The Role of Minimum Wages on the Overall Economy I’ve established that on one hand, we want the lure of large rewards to help drive innovation through investment and entrepreneurial enticement. On the other hand, we need a stable and secure middle class. Are they mutually exclusive or can we have our pie and eat it too? Would raising the minimum hourly wage — let’s say to $12– threaten innovation? Of course it wouldn’t. More money in the middle class means more goods being purchased and less government assistance for those out of work. Neither would a more generous Social Security system, easier terms on student loans or a vigorous public jobs program. Quite the opposite has been proven time and time again. The lure of big rewards isn’t diminished by having to pay a little more in taxes. Realistically, it’s as significant as a gnat on a boar’s butt. Another key, though, is that innovation’s big rewards not fund family empires. The second and third generations never replicate the genius of the first(see Wal-Mart’s stark deterioration after the passing of Sam Walton). Instead, the descendants go into politics, or become speculators or tax evaders. An effective estate-and-gift tax works to prevent this. With a high rate and a generous exemption or even a full deduction for qualified altruism, those who have won great fortunes will give most of them away to promote themselves or their cause de jeur. We can stomach inequality, in other words, as long as we meet two conditions.
- First, there must be a strong, stable foundation for middle-class life with protection from poverty to keep profits and money circulating rather than stagnating in the hands of the few.
- Second, great fortunes can pile up but they must have an avenue to be circulated.
In a democracy, no one should rule by inherited wealth — or it’s really not a democracy at all is it?. – Harvey Gold