Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders

So much anger and angst about “Inequality” fills the American press without suggesting solutions.  Do they propose taking from the wealthy and handing it to the poor?  Just what do they want?

Do Americans really want economic equality, considering the vast economic differences in the world’s economies?  How about economic equality with the 10 poorest countries in the world?

  • Malawi: (pop 16 million, GDP per capita of $226.50)
  • Burundi: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $267.10)
  • Central African Republic: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $333.20)
  • Niger: (pop 21 million, GDP per capita of $415.40)
  • Liberia: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $454.30)
  • Madagascar: (pop 20 million, GDP per capita of $463.00)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: (pop 77 million, GDP per capita of $484.20)
  • The Gambia: (pop 2 million, GDP per capita of $488.60)
  • Ethiopia: (pop 104 million, GDP per capita of $505.00)
  • Guinea: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $523.10)
 http://gazettereview.com/2016/06/top-10-poorest-countries-world/

United States (pop 300 million, GDP per capita of $51,638.10)

How much of your lifestyle would it take to “level the playing field with these 274 million African people who average $460 per year?Are you ready to make your contribution?

I do not think so.  It seems that the perceptions of difference limited to Americans are much more important to the critics than broader global realities.  This way of thinking of the world in discreet nations is automatic for most people.  We blithely ignore the fact that America is near the top of the economic “food chain” when we cry “inequality.”  Even the TV weather seems to stop at our borders.  But money does not.

The internet and international trade have dissolved the economic borders of nations.  People can buy and sell goods and services among the countries of the world with fewer restrictions and barriers.  Countries with lower cost labor compete with businesses in countries where wages and costs are much higher.  Globalization has revealed the world’s true economic inequalities.

American workers were paid well to operate factories and do skilled and unskilled jobs; now many are displaced by globalization, and other technological and cultural factors.  New jobs in America require different skills, and higher levels of education, knowledge, and experience.  Those who do not or cannot adapt and learn are left to compete for lower-paying jobs.

Creating financial success is not an equal opportunity phenomenon.  It tends to favor those who are born with successful parents, intellect, talent, and drive.  Globalization and technology have created business opportunities that can make people wealthy overnight, widening the wealth gap between the haves and have nots.

Where did the concept of economic equality come from?  Has any country survived and thrived under mandated economic equality?  When, in history, were people equal in anything?

In its early form, America was unique in the world to propose that citizens govern themselves with the precepts of equal civil and legal rights under our constitution and laws.  Under our system, we have equality of liberty and freedom for citizens who obey the law.  We are not promised economic equality.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Conceptually, we asserted this in the context of renouncing the right of a king to rule his subjects.  We were announcing that no one has a birthright to a lower or superior class or nobility in America.  Further, it reads “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  We were not announcing anything beyond natural rights to life, liberty (from overreaching, arbitrary laws and rules of monarchs), and the pursuit of happiness.  We were not announcing redistribution of wealth, or handicapping the blessed.

Humans are born different and unequal in almost every aspect of being, including intellect, strength, size, eyesight, and other things that allow them to operate successfully in the world.  The fact is, people are never equal; that is what makes them unique.

 

 

 

Free Press – Free to What?

Is a free press free to use public forums to promote their own adversary, political agendas?  Are public figures free to eschew blatant attacks, avoiding angry public exchanges by picking and choosing news sources and using more moderate press pools to communicate?

Managing news coverage has been an important strategy for recent presidents.  The news media has paid a great deal of attention to President Trump’s conflicts with them.  However, the press has a short and selective memory when it comes to which presidents used such strategies.  President Trump is far from the first to employ the tools about which they complain.  Here is what the Atlantic said in an August, 2014 article about Richard Nixon’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barak Obama’s relationships with the “media.”

“… the Obama White House has used new media to take image control to new levels. It sends a stream of tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos directly to the public while bypassing journalists. Last year, (July 8, 2014) in a separate letter*, 38 news organizations complained to Obama’s press secretary that photojournalists are often barred from public events. They said the White House prevented photographers from covering presidential meetings with congressmen and Middle East peace negotiators but then released its own photos of these events using social media.

 Obama also avoids interviews with White House reporters, preferring appearances on The View and late-night talk shows where easier questions are asked.”

 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/nixons-revenge-his-media-strategy-triumphs-40-years-after-resignation/375274/

*http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1253

The proliferation of “news” media has been exponential since 24/7 CNN.  The internet has allowed anyone to pose as a journalist.  At the same time, the public has become enervated to violence, scandal, and weirdness.  The competition for “eyes” has fomented “Jerry Springer” news.  Now the media is dominated by “breaking news,” and blatant, personality-driven opinion/commentary/spin/attack entities (e.g. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times), versus the few remaining sources offering dull, objective reporting of events from balanced, professional, factual reporting (e.g. BBC).

This evolution has turned “news” into espionage, and propaganda.  That means idea wars; that means information combat.  No intelligent person would stand still for their enemies to strike them.  Hence, defense and offense to offset the attacking forces.  Now we watch and listen to accusations, threats, partisan presentations, and ad hominem attacks.

Through such perspectives, we no longer have well-meaning people making bad choices, we have evil people making sinister choices.  We have rampant, belief “racism.”  We have created unthinking, philosophical camps with labels for “us,” and “others.”

Why do we decry racism, ethnic hatred, and other generalized biases?  Because it keeps us from knowing each other as people; it causes us to treat other people with contempt without knowing anything else about them.

How do we create these idea-based “races?”  We assert that all liberals believe “X”, all conservatives believe “Y”, all evangelicals believe “Z”, all millennials believe nothing, etc.  With this context, we form “righteous” cohorts of like-minded people to oppose other “inferior” or “evil” cohorts.

This intellectually lazy “groupthink” replaces critical thinking; this dissuades individuals from developing personal, unique, diverse combinations of beliefs, which they form over time, from life experiences, education, discussion, and research.  It also inhibits real exchanges of ideas.  Conversations, and discussions become unchanging, competing monologues.

The press is free to publish and broadcast what they will, but pernicious ideologues need not be ushered through the gates of those they despise.

Plugging Leaks – How to Find Out Who in 30 Days

Information is vital in politics, government, healthcare, warfare, and business.  Secrets are a type of information that has value and power if the confidences involved are maintained.

Secrets are kept to protect the information from other people who might use them to their advantage, or to harm the people the secrets are designed to protect.

When secrets “leak,” they can cause serious damage to systems that rely on confidentiality.  If the attitude about classified information that the State Department displayed under Hillary Clinton prevails, our national secrets are not safe.

Recent leaks of the contents of General Lynn’s secret phone conversations with the Russian ambassador, are intentional betrayals of trust by employees of the federal government, violating their security clearances, and pledges to maintain national secrets.  The leakers are enemies of the US Government, and should be treated as dangerous to our national security.

The question for the Trump administration is how to quash the subversive elements hiding in the bureaucracy.

It seems likely that employees of the Intelligence Community are responsible.  The heads of these agencies have failed to structure, manage, and supervise their staffs to prevent such leaks.  Therefore, these agencies involved cannot be trusted to fix the problem.

It will take a focused, rigorous, and ruthless effort to find and punish the leakers, cauterize the wounds inflicted, and inoculate the intelligence bureaucracy against further subversion.

President Trump could direct his Director of National Intelligence to lead the effort to uncover the leaker(s)

The president could also appoint a Presidential Commission for this purpose.  A commission might be more effective, and manageable to investigate the leaks.

Whichever authority he chooses could announce a four-stage, 30-day, no-nonsense plan to find the person(s) who leaked the contents of the phone call.

Stage 1.  Identify all agencies and staff positions with authorized access to the phone taps and transcriptions.
Stage 2.  Provide incentives, and substantial rewards to those who report the leaker(s).
Stage 3.  If no one identified within 10 days, suspend or revoke the security clearances of those with access.
Stage 4.  If no one identified after 30 days, replace agency heads and their managers.
Is this unfair to innocent, loyal employees?  Maybe.  However, those who do not think that national security is critically important, and do not take their responsibilities seriously, are in the wrong jobs.

Political “Racists” Accuse Tom Brady of Racism

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Tom Brady had just led his New England Patriots football team to an historic, overtime, victory in the Super Bowl, after overcoming a 3rd quarter, 25-point deficit – a Super Bowl record.  But, he is a friend of the president.  How stupid and arrogant can political “racists” be to cast racist aspersions on Tom Brady for quoting inspirational, non-racist words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem to his son John, “If–”?

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ‘
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay, India.  He grew up in the age of Imperialism, as the British Empire was reaching its peak.  Critics point to his 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” as racist, and it was, as was the rest of the Eurocentric Imperialist world.

Nonetheless, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author.”  That did not make the Nobel Committee racist.

If we discarded all works of culture, art, music, & history because they came from times, authors, artists, and views we now condemn, the libraries’ shelves would be empty, the walls and pedestals of museums would be barren, the world would be silent, and we would be ignorant savages, banging stones against stones; but wait, some people insist on just that.

When have human beings not been “racists?”  How long have civilizations existed and progressed despite built-in bigotry, bias, and fear?

Ignorance, when clung to righteously, becomes stupidity.  Criticism from a platform of vapid views of hatred is wicked silliness.  I would not give any credence to the blather spewing from such a source, nor would I value anything else it produced.

(In their related article, the Heatstreet Staff called the critics “liberal nasties.” http://heatst.com/culture-wars/tom-brady-under-further-fire-from-liberals-after-sharing-poem-from-racist-rudyard-kipling/?mod=sm_tw_post)

Public Radio – Public Disgrace

You would think the 2016 campaign is still raging, after listening to two segments of Think on KERA, hosted by Krys Boyd, today.  Both were patently political, and anti-Trump fearmongering.  Is inappropriate, biased, rhetorical conjecture the policy of KERA and public radio?  Is anybody reviewing the balance or objectivity of the programming?  If so, who?

The first segment was an interview with Kennette Benedict, who has a BA from Oberlin College, a PhD in political science from Stanford University. She is a former executive director and publisher of the  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which recently moved the Doomsday Clock from 3 seconds to 2.5 seconds until midnight. The whole discussion was a not-so-thinly-veiled criticism of President Trump for the increased likelihood of nuclear war, and, with a strange detour, the woes of unchecked climate change.  I did not hear any details of her solutions to these issues.

The second segment was naked rant of hatred against the president, forecasts of dire consequences, and calls for mobilization against him.  The guest was David Frum, author of an essay about “Building an Autocracy.” Published in the March issue of The Atlantic.  The subtitle, “The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.”

According to Wikipedia, “Illiberal democracy is a term used by  Fareed Zakaria, a journalist, in a1997 article in the journal Foreign Affairs.[4]    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1997-11-01/rise-illiberal-democracy   It refers to governments that give the appearance of democracies, but are autocratic in practice.

The very long treatise may qualify as “future-fiction,” as it starts by describing America in 2021 as Donald Trump starts his second term.  He describes a downward spiral towards a corrupt, Orwellian democracy, in which Trump enriches himself, pardons his friends, harasses and punishes opposition; Slovakia owns The Washington Post; illegal aliens can stay in the shadows to work; young, black, and other liberal voters find it difficult to register and vote in some states.

This is followed by pages and pages of postulations and fears; he took way too many pages to say, “We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered.” “Trump bad!”  “Trump evil!”  “Trump hurt us!”  “Hate Trump.”  Stop Trump.”

 

Children Threatened in Public School Classrooms – Federal Laws Deny Them Protection from Disruption

Civilized societies set behavioral norms, and prescribe consequences for violating those norms.  For example, it is not okay to harm another person without cause; it is not alright to harass someone, or “disturb the peace.”  Families can set broader boundaries inside their homes, but not in public.  However, sadly misguided federal laws and rules subject public school children and their teachers to violent, threatening, disturbing, unpredictable, disruptive behavior every day, in the name of “equal education.”  This violates common sense and the rights of the other children to a peaceful education.

In the so-called “real world” normal people do not put up with violent or disruptive people.  The disruptive person is usually fired from a job in a work environment, ejected or arrested in social or public environments.  Medical treatment is indicated, to the extent emotional disabilities or mental illness are involved; punishment and fines are indicated otherwise.  In other words, society separates or isolates disturbed citizens and insulates normal citizens from their disruptions.

I do not know any normal, emotionally healthy people who are made to endure the disturbances of disruptive adults.  Why do we subject our children and public school teachers to behavior normal society does not allow?  Most teachers are not trained psychologists, and none of the students are trained to accept and deal with such frightening, threatening behavior either.  Even if they were, there is no excuse for making public school so trying, and perhaps harmful.

 The current federal laws paint children with “disabilities” and public schools with a broad brush when they require inclusion and mainstreaming without stipulation.  Do they think normal classrooms are therapy for violent and disturbed students?  Do they think the distress and disruption help normal students learn?  Disturbed, violent, and disabled students need added, special resources and treatment that normal students do not.  Why subject the whole class to special efforts that scare them, delay normal learning and deny them the knowledge they are present to obtain?

Special needs children deserve to be taught the same knowledge as other kids.  Many special needs children are not disruptive.  However, their special needs may require different teaching approaches and intensive, trained, instruction to attain that knowledge.

The advocates of “mainstreaming” tout the marginal benefits to special needs students, but blithely avoid discussion of the serious detriment to “mainstream” students and the teachers that must cope with the stress and interference required to produce those benefits.  This attempt at social engineering is so obviously lame, it cannot stand a reality check.  Does anyone remember when even whispering in class, and passing notes were punishable infractions?  They were infractions because they distracted students and teachers from the purpose of the class.  Has this idea expired from political correctness?

If the needs of the few can be met without expense to the many, I say, so be it.  Find another way to fulfill the needs of violent, threatening, and disruptive students.

How Much Equality Do You Want? – Animal Farm?

The Power of Words

Ayn Rand authored several books that captured the attentions of whole generations of rational American readers during a cataclysmic battle between individualism and collectivism.  She was born Jewish in Russia in St. Petersburg, in 1905; prophetically, this was a year of Revolution that began with the tsar’s Imperial Guard firing on a peaceful workers’ demonstration, killing 200, wounding 800, and ended with the formation of the first Duma (lower house of parliament).

The turmoil continued with the people and the aristocracy battling over the supremacy of the tsar.  Ayn grew up during the First World War, the rise of the Bolsheviks, the fall of the Tsar, the death of Lenin, and the union of the communist soviets.

She graduated from Petrograd State University in 1924, 2 years into the formation of the Soviet Union.  She came to the United States in 1926, and became a US citizen in 1931. She witnessed the collectivism of the USSR, and the rise of Stalin, from America, as the global depression suffocated economies and hope; as the world precipitated into war.

Her plays and books advocated reason over emotion, and individualism over collectivism.  Among my favorites are “Anthem,” and “Atlas Shrugged.”  “Anthem” describes a world in which there is no word for “I” or “me;” “mine” or “yours.”  All personal pronouns are collective.  She demonstrated the power of language in controlling the minds of people.

The Myth of Equality = Good

“Atlas Shrugged” tells the story of talented, creative, productive people whose individual efforts and contributions benefit average citizens; they profit personally from their efforts.  When these people are hounded and what they produce is confounded, and impounded, they escape to a hidden, peaceful, prosperous place populated by others like themselves.  They were “inequal” in the parlance of today.  Their society lost the benefits of their gifts.

George Orwell wrote a book, “Animal Farm,” which was required reading in my high school English class.  It tells the story of farm animals taking over the farm because of inequality.  They establish 7 commandments of “Animalism,” the seventh of which was “All Animals are Equal.”  The operation of “Animalism” proved very unequal.

A Call to Collectivism

Now we have lots of vague talk about “inequality.”

Question:  Where and when have equalities ever existed among humans?

Certainly, humans have been born all over the globe and across a wide spectrum of attributes, but nothing has ever been equal on any measurable attribute.  The only “equality” experiments I know of are utopian communes, and communist governments, none of which have had durable successes, except perhaps, to spread poverty and suffering equally among members and comrades.

The most glaring example of equality today, is North Korea.  I am sure the average American pines and prays to have that thrill of starvation and repression in the name of equality.  Oh, and some comrades are more equal than others.

The Absence of Definition & Context

The term “income inequality” is not a recent invention.  Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, in 1754.  He describes two types of inequality:

Natural, Physical– differences one human’s body and another

Ethical, Moral – wealth, nobility, power, personal merit.

He proposes that natural, solitary man is a savage who lacks language, reason, and society. He is not motivated by fear of death, because he cannot conceive of it. He is only corrupted by social association with other men, causing:

  • Competition – best dancer, singer, strongest, fastest, handsomest, smartest
  • Self-Comparison with Others – ranking, e.g. second-best, IQ, “the Joneses”
  • Hatred – envy, jealousy, covetous, fear, anger
  • Urge for Power – dominance, entitlement, control

This led to the source and basis of inequality:  private property.

Angus Maddison, a respected economic historian tracked global income inequality of 25 nations since 1820.  His findings show increases in globalization were the major factor in disparity of incomes.  Retreats from globalization resulted in lower inequality.

The recent rants about “inequality” sound like envy to me.  Envy is not constructive.  The authors neither define equality nor any acceptable level of inequality; they also omit the context, methods and means of achieving less inequality; the ranters do not appear to have a clue about the sources of wealth, business success, or any idea what they are proposing.  This is evident from the example they have chosen to shock the reading public.

The Eight Richest People on Earth have wealth equal to half the people on Earth.  Sounds amazing, until one does the math or looks at who these men are.  Wealth is defined as: $Assets – $Debts.  It does not mean income.  These eight men have $485 billion dollars’ worth of valuable assets more than what they owe*.

Who What Arena Billions**
Bill Gates * Microsoft Computer Software           91.0
Amancio Ortega* Zara and Inditex Fashion Retail           71.2
Warren Buffett* Berkshire Hathaway Investments           73.6
Carlos Slim Helu* America Movil Telecom           49.4
Jeff Bezos* Amazon Computer Retail           67.2
Mark Zuckerberg* Facebook Computer Social Media           50.8
Larry Ellison* Oracle Computer Software           41.8
Michael Bloomberg* Bloomberg Investments           40.0

*Created their own companies

**Bloomberg reports as of 12/31/2016

I am not astonished at these numbers, nor that six of the eight are Americans, nor that five of the eight are in technology.  Look at what they have built.  Think of the services and products they have created and distributed to willing buyers.  Their wealth is the result of creating value for others.  All of them created the companies that represent most of their wealth.

What astonishes me is the fact that 3.6 billion people, (including children) own an average of $135 each.  Who do you know who has $135 total wealth?  Think; who owes more than they own?  Anyone who has a job, rents an apartment, has no savings, uses credit cards, and borrows money to buy a car, or go to college.  During the recent recession, plenty of people were “under water” on their mortgaged homes.  That is here in America; I am sure Asia, the Middle East, India, Central America, South America, and Africa have plenty of poor people with no prospects for improvement.  Whose responsibility are they?

It is unclear what the article is suggesting, but the point is lost on me.  It sounds like envy.

The only thing this article suggests to me is, that if you took every penny from the world’s 8 richest people, and distributed it among the 3.6 billion poorest people, they each would have $135 more than they have now, and we would not have the services and goods these eight produce.

Our Glass House

One thing that stands out about the debate over equality is the way Americans limit their geographic boundaries.  We seem to talk about inequality only within national borders.  Income and wealth disparity is greatest among nations.

If you want to silence a discussion of inequality, mention this: The USA has 4.5% of the world’s population and owns 33.2% of the world’s wealth. We Americans would have to give up 86.4% of what we have, to equalize wealth with the other 7.2 billion people in the world.  Is that what the authors propose?  I doubt it.

One estimate of the total wealth on our planet is $255 quadrillion dollars.  That would mean about $36,000 per person when divided by 7.5 billion people.  However, infrastructure, education, access, communications, logistics, culture, climate, security, resources, health, age, and many other elements are not evenly distributed or available.  Some societies do not allow women to own property or have money unless it is controlled by a man.  Other societies are so corrupt that what they have is stolen from them at every turn.

History suggests that even if all assets were evenly distributed, the money would soon be redistributed to the few who provide the goods and services for the many.

Bloomberg’s listing of billionaires includes 197 whose total wealth is $3 trillion.  I do not know what percentage of the world’s population that matches, but it is about 15% of the $20 trillion national debt of the USA.  That would be $2.86 for every person in the world; $62,700 for each man, woman, and child in America.  What would be the average wealth of an American if we subtracted $62,700 from their net worth to pay the debt?

A Bigger Pie

Consider this:  those who decry inequality pose it as a problem, but offer no solutions.  What would the authors of the inequality protest recommend to raise the wealth of the earth’s inhabitants without confiscating the value created by others?