Our City Online

Messageboard - Politics

NOTE: You are viewing an archived version of the Columbus Underground forums/messageboard. As of 05/22/16 they have been closed to new comments and replies, but will remain accessible for archived searches and reference. For more information CLICK HERE

The United States of Income Inequality

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Politics The United States of Income Inequality

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 1,212 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #83327
    Jeff Regensburger
    Jeff Regensburger
    Participant

    Slate recently launched a series on income inequality called “The Great Divergence”. I expect it to be an interesting read. Here’s how writer Timothy Noah sums up the project:

    Quote:
    But income inequality is a topic of huge importance to American society and therefore a subject of large and growing interest to a host of economists, political scientists, and other wonky types. Except for a few Libertarian outliers (whose views we’ll examine later), these experts agree that the country’s growing income inequality is deeply worrying. Even Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman and onetime Ayn Rand acolyte, has registered concern. “This is not the type of thing which a democratic society—a capitalist democratic society—can really accept without addressing,” Greenspan said in 2005. Greenspan’s Republican-appointed successor, Ben Bernanke, has also fretted about income inequality.

    Yet few of these experts have much idea how to reverse the trend. That’s because almost no one can agree about what’s causing it. This week and next, I will detail and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of various prominent theories as to what has brought about the income inequality boom of the last three decades. At the same time, I’ll try to convey the magnitude of its effects on American life. The Great Divergence may represent the most significant change in American society in your lifetime—and it’s not a change for the better. Let’s see if we can figure out what got us here.

    Part One: Introducing the Great Divergence

    Part Two: The Usual Suspects are Innocent

    #401288

    JonMyers
    Participant

    I dunno Jeff, these type of articles seem to assume that people are somehow entitled to a high wage job, irregardless of the economic realities and playing field that the job exists in.

    A large majority of millionaires are self made and own their own businesses.

    The beauty of living in America is that you can do something about it if you want to make more money.

    #401289
    Jeff Regensburger
    Jeff Regensburger
    Participant

    JonMyers wrote >>
    A large majority of millionaires are self made and own their own businesses.
    The beauty of living in America is that you can do something about it if you want to make more money.

    Noah briefly addresses social mobility in the first article. He points out that while people in the U.S. certainly believe they have a high level of social mobility, the truth is we’re less socially mobile than many countries that we typically view as much more class rigid:

    Economic inequality is less troubling if you live in a country where any child, no matter how humble his or her origins, can grow up to be president. In a survey of 27 nations conducted from 1998 to 2001, the country where the highest proportion agreed with the statement “people are rewarded for intelligence and skill” was, of course, the United States. (69 percent). But when it comes to [i]real[/i] as opposed to [i]imagined[/i] social mobility, surveys find less in the United States than in much of (what we consider) the class-bound Old World. France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain—not to mention some newer nations like Canada and Australia—are all places where your chances of rising from the bottom are better than they are in the land of Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick.

    Similar sentiments were echoed in a recent Economist article,

    Compared with people in other rich countries, Americans tend to accept relatively high levels of income inequality because they believe they may move up over time. The evidence is that America does offer opportunity; but not nearly as much as its citizens believe.

    Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful. Different groups of Americans have different levels of opportunity. Those born to the middle class have about an equal chance of moving up or down the income ladder, according to the Economic Mobility Project. But those born to black middle-class families are much more likely than their white counterparts to fall in rank. The children of the rich and poor, meanwhile, are less mobile than the middle class’s. More than 40% of those Americans born in the bottom quintile remain stuck there as adults.

    #401290

    coolbuckeye
    Participant

    Meritocracy is as real as Santa. I still want to believe in Meritocracy…

    #401291

    TaraK
    Participant

    coolbuckeye wrote >>
    Meritocracy is as real as Santa. I still want to believe in Meritocracy…

    A-men.

    #401292

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Yeah, I read those parts, but there’s a big difference in believing one may move up over time and actually doing something about it.

    Most people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to move up, they’d rather just talk about it.

    If it’s true that the class bound old world described in the article has higher levels of upward social mobility why do you think that is?

    #401293

    Tigertree
    Member

    So far I would +1 everything Jon has said.

    #401294
    hugh59
    hugh59
    Participant

    I wonder how much of the income inequality is because of profits earned in industries that create luxury items or handle money. The plutocrats of the 19th century amassed fortunes manufacturing steel, railroads, coal mines, and oil wells. I wonder who the top 1% of income earners are today (and I wonder about who the wealthiest 1% are in relation to the top 1% of income earners).

    If you make a lot of money providing necessary goods or services for people then you are doing well for yourself and for the community. If you are making a lot of money by making it easier for others to provide necessary goods or services for people, then you are also doing well for yourself and for the community. But if you are making a lot of money providing goods and services that are not necessary (or that are harmful), then maybe you may be doing well for yourself at the expense of the community.

    I wonder how much of the vast wealth today is on account of goods and services that are far removed from necessary goods and services?

    #401295

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Hugh, I would propose another kind of industry or company, I don’t even know what you would call it, but it’s one that I see often. I’ll use Apple as an example.

    They have excellent product designers and they’re world class marketers. They also outsource all of their manufacturing to companies like Flextronics.

    I know most people would call Apple a product company, and I would as well, but only to a certain extent. How Apple and many American companies operate is not really what we would think of as a traditional product company.

    If I had to guess, I would say that this hybrid approach of being research and product design driven, rather than being driven by manufacturing is responsible for a large amount of the wealth you’re describing.

    #401296
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    coolbuckeye wrote >>
    Meritocracy is as real as Santa. I still want to believe in Meritocracy…

    There’s a big difference between saying “I want to be rich” and “I want to do what it takes to be rich”.

    For instance, if someone goes in to library science or social work to get rich, I’d suggest an error in logic.

    Not that both of those don’t have their place, but they’re not professions with high incomes.

    #401297

    gramarye
    Participant

    Tigertree wrote >>
    So far I would +1 everything Jon has said.

    As would I.

    I don’t like the article’s choice of language when it talks about your “chances” of moving up, as if it’s somehow just a lottery pick.

    We have competing values or cultural memes or whatever you want to call them in America. On the one hand, we have that strong culturally ingrained belief in upward social mobility. On the other hand, we also probably have a stronger belief in “doing what you love”–whether or not that’s in a high-paying field with high advancement potential–than most other countries. There are those who refuse to acknowledge that those could possibly be incompatible, and I’ve had to shake my head at times at those who think that it’s unfair that opening an antique store or making wicker chairs or being a whitewater rafting guide in West Virginia isn’t likely to put you in a $600k house. Sadly, though, how much you love doing a particular activity is not a guide to that activity’s market value.

    #401298
    Chris Sunami
    Chris Sunami
    Participant

    jeff_r wrote >>
    Noah briefly addresses social mobility in the first article. He points out that while people in the U.S. certainly believe they have a high level of social mobility, the truth is we’re less socially mobile than many countries that we typically view as much more class rigid:

    This isn’t as much of a paradox as it seems. In a system with no legal barriers to social mobility, other methods of preserving the status quo naturally arise. These can often be even more effective at preventing social mobility because they are largely invisible.

    In the United States, this chiefly manifests in our dysfunctional education system. I would go so far as to claim that the reason educational reforms always seem to fail is that there are powerful social forces –which are not necessarily under the conscious control of any individual or group –that both support and benefit from systemic educational inequities.

    The false meritocracies that emerge from this kind of systemic inequity are highly effective as systems of social control because both those on the top and those on the bottom believe that they “deserve” what they have.

    #401299

    JonMyers
    Participant

    Chris, is it safe to say that these “powerful social forces” you describe are simply culture?

    #401300
    hugh59
    hugh59
    Participant

    Lots of good observations and thinking on this page.

    #401301
    rus
    rus
    Participant

    JonMyers wrote >>
    Chris, is it safe to say that these “powerful social forces” you describe are simply culture?

    I dunno… powerful forces not under the conscious control of any individual or group… I was gonna go with Cthulhu.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 1,212 total)

The forum ‘Politics’ is closed to new topics and replies.

Subscribe below: