Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Today's Echidne-the-Political-Economist Thought

Income and wealth inequality in this country are growing.  The rich get richer, the rest of us either run in place or get left behind.  Now keep that in mind.

Then notice how concerned the politicians are about getting the entitlements under control:  We need to slash public spending of all kinds but especially public spending on the elderly or the poor.  And the Republicans seem to be trying to get rid of the forty-hour work-week, the states are slashing public jobs, the teachers are under attack for their exorbitant benefits, the unions are demons barely in disguise.

Are these two trends related?  Of course they are, but the question is in what ways.  Perhaps the rich are now so powerful that they can dictate what the government does and the first thing they wish is to get rid of all programs that they don't personally need?  On the other hand,  one study suggests that the non-rich want the same things from the government.  That suggests that people are suicidal, which may well be the case, or utterly uninformed which may also be the case, or just uninvolved, alienated and untrained in how to get the relevant information.

Other links between the two can also be observed.  The right-wing populism makes the government into the enemy, together with immigrants, blacks and uppity women.  That "look-over-there" strategy has worked extremely well.  You combine it with conservative evangelism and you get a country which won't budge when the safety nets are finally whipped off.  Well, it will budge, in the sense of collapsing into a banana republic.

But the point is that far too many voters are looking-over-there.  Worrying about the competition from other poor people and not worrying about the fact that the Waltons of Walmart fame own humongous chunks of this country and are the largest private employer while paying their workers so little that many of them qualify for government help for the poor.

And no, I'm not a communist.  Goddesses seldom are anything but hierarchical.  But market economies do not work without a proper framework, proper safety nets, proper societal institutions and good education.  All of those are under assault in this country.