Sunday, January 10, 2010

Irrational Institutional Inequity, Incompetence and Injustice by Anthony McCarthy

So here’s the bottom line for all those exceptional middle-class and lower-class high school seniors who will doubt their own worth when the near-inevitable rejection letters arrive: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in you. The fault lies in the system, and the system isn’t going to change, because it benefits the people it is designed to benefit - people who understand how much a real meritocracy would threaten their power.

Neal Gabler

The middle of last month there was a story that caught my attention, not least of which was due to the just below the surface outrage I detected in the usually unflappable BBC announcer. The report was about a study that had determined that hospital cleaners are more valuable to society than top bankers.

The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create 10 pounds of value for every 1 pound they are paid.
It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy. They reportedly destroy 7 pounds of value for every 1 pound they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress".

The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.

And it’s not just those at the top, but those who facilitate their destruction

Tax accountants are said to destroy 47 pound in value for every 1 pound generated.

Reading the article, considering the difference in what is produced by those in the lowest paying positions studied, hospital cleaning, child care, waste recycling and the highest paid, bankers, tax accountants, advertising executives, it’s not really that surprising that the people actually doing something productive are of more value to society than people who are involved in cheating, bilking and exploiting people.

As we are finding out with every revelation of the utterly corrupt financial system here and in Britain, the people who work there are, essentially, pirates who don’t produce anything.

As said, what got my attention wasn’t the obvious, if ironic findings of the New Economics Foundation, it was the attitude of the BBC news reader, who expressed his skepticism in a very good example of the Received Standard Accent common among educated Britains.

And here, in the land of alleged equality, it goes unremarked, largely, among the media and our elite that even as they lose gargantuan fortunes, driving the companies and banks they are hired to administer into the ground, we are told that the obscene salaries and bonus packages of crooks and idiots “MUST BE PAID TO RETAIN “THE BEST” PEOPLE”. This is clearly a self-serving lie of the elite, I can’t be the only person who would be willing to do their job of driving the entire system into collapse at a quarter of their compensation.

Almost as unremarked was that even as Barack Obama’s cracked financial team* was saying that they had to honor the contracted bonuses and salaries of the thieves and dolts who created the financial disaster, they showed no hesitation to screw contract workers in order to bail out the automobile companies, which had been driven into ruin by their own crew of executives.

The sheer idiocy of insisting on the system in place being anything but totally loony and a case of unarmed robbery in sheerest daylight can’t be anything but a learned response, as artificial as the accent of a BBC announcer. Where did they learn it?

Could it be in our elite universities from where so, so many of the crooks and pirates and idiots who have driven us into ruin received their credentials? Their license to steal? And I do mean Harvard and Yale, the Ivies, the elite universities and colleges of the English speaking world. How did these most august institutions manage to have such a prominent place in the education of our most corrupt and incompetent holders of wealth and power? Could it have something to do with the little remarked on fact that they practice a far higher level of affirmative action for the rich than they used to for purposes of ethnic and gender diversity?

Most of these assertions, however, are nonsense. Of course the odds are stacked against every applicant since the best schools admit only a fraction of them (less than 10 percent for most of the Ivies and just above 25 percent for selective schools like Northwestern and Emory), but as Daniel Golden demonstrated in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the Wall Street Journal and then in his book, “The Price of Admission”, the so-called best schools give heavy preferences to the wealthy; as many as one-third of admissions, he writes, are flagged for special treatment at the elite universities, one-half at the elite liberal arts colleges, and the number of open spaces for the non-privileged is reduced accordingly. As Golden puts it, the privileged take so many spots that the “admissions odds against middle-class and working-class students with outstanding records are even longer than the colleges acknowledge.”

I will probably revisit Neal Gablers’ fine column, a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy of some of our most respected universities. In the past I might have called them “institutions of higher learning”, but, looking at their product who are running our economy and who staff so much of the government, I doubt that’s true. It’s growing clearer that the primary purpose of our elite system is to maintain the elite and to train the banksters and those who lie on their behalf and maintain inequity.

* One of Barack Obama’s biggest tasks this year is to prove, conclusively that he didn’t pull a bait and switch on his strongest supporters . This is made necessary by his actions in the past year in three critical areas, the decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, the capitulation to the Pharma-corporate health industries in the health care bill and, of course, the corporate thugs he has appointed to key financial positions and their retention as they do what anyone could have predicted they would have done .

I’m not sorry that I worked for his election, given what the alternative was but I didn’t expect to get someone who would hire and retain Timothy Geithner as we learn more about his time running the New York office of the Federal Reserve and the scandalous relationship the executives of AIG has had with offices and departments that just happen to be under his leadership. The developing evidence that office might have instructed AIG to withhold relevant but inconvenient information from the SEC has been, up till now, met with the odd claim that Geithner shouldn’t be held responsible for it because "These decisions did not raise to his level at the Fed. These are e-mails and decisions made by officials at an independent regulatory agency." Contrast that with Barck Obama taking responsibility for the failure to stop the underwear bomber from the, apparently, less exigent position of President of the United States.

It makes no sense for the President to accept responsibility for that while exempting Geithner from responsibility for a major decision in the relatively tiny office that he was in charge of. He should force his resignation if his office tried to suppress information as it seems it did. If Geithner won't resign, he should fire him. Publicly.

Someone needs to tell Barack Obama that his loyalty isn't to the members of his administration, it is to The People. And most of all he has an obligation to keep faith with those of us who supported him, whose votes he asked for, whose donations and time he asked for and took. He told us he would do better than the Republicans. He shouldn't expect to get more of it if he doesn't change his policy in a fundamental way.