Jan 9, 2017
I’ve done a lot of writing about inequality, but I’m feeling both my readers and I are missing the point. Critical comments (which I welcome, always learn something) seem to fall into these categories:
- Those that rightfully remind me that it’s not only Republicans, not only Conservatives, who have created the mess we’re in. Democrats and Liberals are also to blame. And, sometimes my labels are poorly applied–liberal, conservative, etc.
- Those who rightfully remind me of a litany of mistakes, excesses, problems, waste, etc., etc., which is characteristic of government, especially Federal government. I only remind that private industry also has many failures, losses, poor management.
- Reminders of regulatory restraints on personal and small business activities which seem unnecessary and expensive. I agree.
- Reminders that we don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthy to a level which dampens the motivation to go out there and take risk and work hard to become successful. We still believe in the Horatio Alger story. I agree with this, also.
- Reminder that some, many many of the successful have contributed something very special to the betterment of the country and maybe the world. Examples include Microsoft, Apple, Google, Uber, and many others. I agree.
- Reminder that many of those same winners in the game are also big philanthropists. Maybe most end up giving away the bulk of what they gain, before leaving this world. I don’t know whether this is true overall, but I acknowledge the outstanding ones, like the Gates Foundation, which purposefully finds the greatest global problems and eschews giving to universities, churches, and pet projects.
- Some in this vein simply want to argue that the rights to the gains for those who take the risks and find the solutions to success should indisputably be theirs–all of it, 100% of it, and the less tax we impose on them, the better. Can’t agree on this.
- And, along this line, some continue to argue that a supply side solution is coming–if we can just reduce the taxes further and further on the wealthy, they will take all those “savings” and invest them in jobs creating businesses, and this will solve the jobs problem. Can’t agree here.
- Some who want to remind me that there is something good being developed by those on the Right, such as Trump’s plan for border taxes. I don’t dispute such, but never quite see how the magnitude of such individual things (like the Carrier deal to save 800 jobs) is sufficient to truly start to reverse the trend in inequality.
- Some who argue that inequality is natural, a good thing economically speaking and that there will be enough “trickle down” if we can gin up the growth rate by reducing taxes and regulation. Can’t agree, can’t see how anyone can continue to believe it.
- Some who argue the issue is not inequality, a natural thing, but we should focus only on equal opportunity. I’m not so sure about that focus, but the record of the last 40 years is not good in terms of opportunity either, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
- I’m sure there are many who really don’t care about this issue, perhaps because it doesn’t affect them personally. I can understand–sometimes it feels that protecting our family is all we can do. But I hope you’ll reconsider.
Often I feel I am wasting my time and that of those few who are kind enough to read what I write. I feel we are both missing the point. The question I want help with is simple: First, do we acknowledge that inequality has risen to an extreme level? If yes, is there acknowledgement that this is a big problem, if it is not moderated?
If so, then let’s bypass all the above and thoughtfully move on to address individual views of practical ways to improve the situation.
For example, many want to remind me of the problems of government, frustrations with government, all the regulations which hamper business. I agree with a lot of that. But is the implication of such criticism of government that if government will just “get out of the way,” that somehow, magically, private industry will solve the inequality problem? I don’t think that’s going to work. Capitalism does many things well, but its core is the profit motive. Travis Kalanick is not motivated to find jobs and protections for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Uber workers if he discovers that self-driving cars can do the job at less expense. In fact, if he did try to do that, the cost of such would sink his company. So, who’s going to try to create solutions for those people, hopefully solutions which are not simply welfare, but ways to help the displaced become productive again? Do we believe that’s simply “up to those now unemployed?” Do we think that as a society we have no obligation or no opportunity to collectively help to improve the situation for our fellow citizens? Can’t we see that doing something collectively to make all that displacement better is going o benefit all of us?
So, I’d like to suggest that perhaps we can agree inequality is a problem, a major problem, and we can start to address solutions, hopefully solutions which are not just a drop in the bucket, but preferably comprehensive.