The Inequality Debate

April 27, 2014

For the past few weeks I’ve been vaguely following the Inequality Debate, that is, the controversy surrounding arguments by Paul Krugman and others that economic inequality in the United States is worse than ever, that we live in a new Gilded Age, that our government is essentially an oligarchy rather than a democracy, and that presuming those at the top “earned” their way up the ladder is ludicrous.

I agree with all these ideas—actually I’ll call them facts. And none of them is new. But while the right wing panics because people are saying these things, and the left wing panics because they are true, I’m stuck as usual in a middle position. My heart is with the left but my head insists on caveats. The complicated sentiments that keep me in the middle can perhaps be reduced to a series of propositions—call them facts if you will.

  1. Although the wealthy have inordinate influence in America, our state and national governments are still run by elected officials.
  2. Our elections are, by and large, fair and honest. That is, votes are counted accurately, and despite conservatives’ efforts to shorten the voting rolls, people who make an effort to vote generally can.
  3. Among the candidates who run for office, some are considerably more sympathetic than others to the 99 percent of us who aren’t wealthy, and it is usually easy to identify these more sympathetic types.
  4. Although voting districts have been gerrymandered (by both sides), they are not so skewed that 99 percent could not outvote 1 percent.
  5. Therefore, if we the 99 percent voted consistently in our own interests, we’d have a hell of a lot more influence over policy than we do now.
  6. The fact that we don’t vote in our own interests cannot be blamed on anyone else. Sure, the right wing will try to con us into believing the latest version of the trickle-down theory, and a car salesman will try to con us into buying a gas-guzzling SUV, but whose fault is it if we let ourselves be deceived? As adults, shouldn’t we know better?

I propose adopting the following simple declaration:

We the 99 Percent of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this rule: that we will vote in every election, and vote smart, and not let the fucking bastards con us anymore.

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