Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Following The Rules

Economic Outcomes

An article, by George Packer, in The New Yorker says that although much has been gained in the United States in the way of advanced technologies and the giving of more social rights to what were once considered marginal groups, including gays and women, the recent economic inequalities have made life more unfair and painful for a whole class of individuals.

Packer writes:
But when the results are distributed as unequally as they are at this moment, when the gap between promise and reality grows so wide, when elites can fail repeatedly and never lose their perches of privilege while ordinary people can never work their way out of debt, equal opportunity becomes a dream. We measure inequality in numbers—quintiles, average and median incomes, percentages of national wealth, unemployment statistics, economic growth rates—but the damage it is doing to our national life today defies quantification. It is killing many Americans’ belief in the democratic promise—their faith that the game is fair, that everyone has a chance.That’s where things have unquestionably deteriorated over the past generation. The game seems rigged—and if it is, following the rules is for suckers.
We usually think of greater inclusiveness as a blow struck for equality. But in our time, the stories of greater social equality and economic inequality are unrelated. The fortunes of middle-class Americans have declined while prospects for many women and minorities have risen. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have improved together—this is what appeared to be happening in the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies. Since then, many women and minorities have done better than in any previous generations, but many others in both groups have seen their lives and communities squeezed by the economic contractions of the past generation. Like almost everything else, the new inclusiveness divides the country into winners and losers. It’s been good for those with the education, talent, and luck to benefit from it; for others—in urban cores like Youngstown, Ohio; rural backwaters like Rockingham County, North Carolina; and the exurban slums outside Tampa—inclusiveness remains mostly theoretical. It gives an idea of equality, which makes the reality of inequality even more painful.
This is one of the largest problems plaguing America. And Canada, France, England, etc. You get the picture. When governments and corporations collude, conspire, co-operate together—you pick your word of action—in such a manner as to rig the economic playing field in their favour to such a degree that we are witnessing today, it makes following the rules less of an attractive option.

It's not about class warfare, a specious argument trotted out by unthinking right-wing conservatives to divert attention elsewhere, but about fairness, equality and human dignity—things that matter. It's not even about whining; God knows that the rich whine the most and the loudest to hang on to their entitlements.

It's about the rules, some unsaid, most understood. Why should ordinary people do so—follow the rules—when the wealthy and super-wealthy essentially do not? When you read things like Apple paying almost no taxes on $102 billion it has stashed offshore—as many American transnational corporations routinely do in taking advantage of both complex tax-shelter schemes and an inequitable, complicated tax code—it seem wrong, unfair?

Are ordinary citizens, who make up the vast majority of decent, hard-working people supposed to meekly accept their fate? When governments have greatly failed them? Ignored them? Patronized them? Fine examples, indeed!

It's not surprising, then, that the American film, The Great Gatsby (2013), based on F.Scott. Fitzgerald's fine novel of the excesses of The Gilded Age, has recently been re-released now. No work of art can better show how the wealthy view the world: as a song of praise, a paen to Economic Inequality.

You can read the rest of the article at [NewYorker]