Posts Tagged 'social justice'

Is Reducing Income Inequality Really “Class Warfare”?

An essay in last Sunday’s Washington Post carried the title “Obama Shouldn’t Be Afraid of  Little Class Warfare” by Sally Kohn.

The piece opened with these points:

“On Monday, defending his plan to raise taxes on the rich to pay for job creation, President Obama said: ‘This is not class warfare, it’s math.’”

“No, Mr. President, this is class warfare — and it’s a war you’d better win. Corporate interests and the rich started it. Right now, they’re winning. Progressives and the middle class must fight back, and the president should be clear whose side he’s on.”

The article went on to make its case with some history and some very interesting data about increasing income inequality in the U.S.  The statement that I found to be most provocative was this:

“After all, according to the CIA, income inequality in the United States is greater than in Yemen.”

The link above took me to the CIA Factbook which publishes an index that measures income equality or inequality among all families in each country.  A country with perfect equality would have a score of 0 and a country with perfect inequality would have a score of 100.   (Note – perfect equality according to this measure does not mean that everyone earns the same amount, but rather that all discrete income levels, from richest to poorest, contain about the same number of families.)

It’s good to be able to see so graphically how the U.S compares to other countries.  The U.S. is indeed much closer in terms of inequality to some of the most unstable countries in the world.

Here are some of the CIA Factbook Entries comparing the U.S. to other countries:

US:     45 (2007)   (40.8 in 1997)

Sweden:  23

Norway: 25

Germany:  27 (with one of the most robust economies in the world)

Spain:  32

Switzerland:  33.7

United Kingdom:  34

India:  36.8

Indonesia:  37

Yemen: 37.7

Israel:  39

China:  41.5

Russia:  42

Rawanda:  46.8

Mexico:  48.2

Zimbabwe 50.1

Zambia:  50.8

Columbia:  58.5

Bolivia:  58.2

Haiti:  59.2

Sierra Leone:  62.9

To illustrate the inequality in the U.S. Kohn’s article also gave these facts among others:

“Between 1979 and 2007, the income gap between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the poorest 40 percent more than tripled. Today, the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth, while, according to recently released census data, average Americans saw their real incomes decline by 2.3 percent in 2010. Though our economy grew in 2009 and 2010, 88 percent of the increase in real national income went to corporate profits, one study found. Only 1 percent went to wages and salaries for working people.”


Who is the enemy? Who are the socialists?

In the major industrialized countries that have public health care and legal abortion the abortion rates are much lower than they are in the U.S.  Is that really so startling?   Taking good care of pregnant women and new mothers and their children seems to be a good idea.

How long will it take for so many Americans to get over fears of “socialism”?  Maybe not so long.   The problem isn’t “socialism” – it is corruption, abuse of power, bureaucratic bloat and inefficiency.   Socialism is discredited because it has been associated (fairly and not fairly) with the creation of  ineffective, self-serving, over-reaching systems, not because socialism – taking care of each other –  is inherently bad.   We need to unite, progressives and conservatives, against the real common enemies:  Corruption, greed, abuse of power, and irresponsibility – wherever they can sprout and grow, whether in government, corporations, or non-profits.

(Later the same day)

On the other hand, I think I’m being a bit too rational here – in talking about uniting differences when the differences are so extreme, for so many, and so based on fear, frustration, and desire for … gaining a sense of power.   Something very unrational is going on right now.    A kind of hysteria unleashed and amplified so that it is spilling out into public view, with scary effects.    Unfortunately, those who could have the most influence are motivated to keep their influence, and thus to either say nothing or to further stoke the anger of “their” people.

Obama’s Radical Middle Messages

Barack Obama is a Radical Centrist, preaching and teaching dialogue, finding common ground, and listening and speaking “fair-minded words” with an open heart and an open mind.   These themes appear in all of his speeches on controversial issues, which are about the only issues he speaks about.   Controversy is everywhere, paralyzing us, provoking verbal hostilities and worse, wasting our time, energies and resources and producing ineffective solutions that seem to only get us into deeper troubles.

Here are some excerpts from two of his recent speeches.

From his May 17 speech at Notre Dame in which he focused on abortion:

About dealing with conflict:

“Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”

About finding common ground:

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”

From his June 4 Cairo speech to Muslims around the world:  Continue reading ‘Obama’s Radical Middle Messages’


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