Saturday, February 5, 2011

What's wrong with the rich

No nation's economy does well when any important sector of that economy becomes decoupled from the fortunes of the rest of it. That's why all those third world countries with a tiny ruling elite squatting on top of legions of starving peasants find their economies getting driven into the ground.

Here we have two important sectors (and a third less important one) decoupled from the rest: our billionaires and our unionized public sector workers, followed distantly by our permanent welfare class (who the billionaires and the public sector workers would like us to obsess about and ignore them).

What's wrong with America's billionaires is that their fortunes are no longer tied to ours. They make their money multinationally, and often from economic manipulation rather than by producing goods and services.

Most of them don't live here--they have homes in a bunch of countries, and bop about from one to another for lengths of time dictated by their tax attorneys. They aren't inconvenienced by all that travel--many of them have never set foot on a commercial airliner. And their money--already vastly more than even they can spend, or their heirs--is hedged internationally. They care about the world economy, but one country's economy--even ours--couldn't matter less to them.

It wasn't always this way. Back when the rich only made twenty times what their company's entry level people made, and when they didn't have golden parachutes, they were like ship captains.

The captain of a ship is likely to take care of the ship and its crew--at least minimally--because if the ship sinks--he sinks. Even if he survives its sinking, there he is bobbing on the sea in a lifeboat or a life vest.

We need to have every American's fortunes tied to the fortunes of the economy and the rest of us. They need not to have this.

Thus far both the billionaires and the public sector workers have won. And we've lost. Hands down.

This should not be a Republican-Democrat Conservative-Liberal issue. Eisenhower certainly would have agreed with me about this, for example.

And note that the Republicans champion the cause of the billionaires while the Democrats champion that of the public sector workers. So both parties are aligned against the rest of us as regards this issue.

I propose that by making our cause "coupling" everyone to the economy, regardless of party or power base, we can make this a bipartisan issue.


One Salient Oversight said...

I see you've fallen for the old chestnut that Unions are as blameworthy as the rich in hurting ordinary people of America.

Check out this graph. Basically it shows that union membership has been declining markedly since 1980.

Since 1980 America has produced lots more billionaires, but less union members.

Don't believe right wing anti-union propaganda. And don't embrace it in an effort to be "balanced" either.

Ehkzu said...

I fall for no chestnuts, Newton notwithstanding. My comments were directed at public sector employee unions, not unions in general. And while the right overstate the disparity between public sector workers and those in the private sector, there is, nevertheless, a significant disparity overall.

But while the billionaire class has harmed society in general, the unions' most baleful effect has been at the state and local level, where unfunded yet unchangeable pension bargains are literally bankrupting local governments. There are also tricks like basing pensions on your earnings in your last year of work, then "arranging" for so much overtime work that you get the pension of a potentate.

Just because conservatives say unions are bad doesn't prove that they're good.

Ehkzu said...

...nor was giving both as examples the same as making them equivalent--only to say that there are examples of decoupling on both sides, making it a bipartisan issue. Even if it's a 5-95% split in terms of societal damage--and i suspect it is--including public employee unions in a campaign against deoupling makes sense.

Remember, right wingers invariably try to change the subject, since facts are not their friends (likewise for ideologues on the left, for that matter), while fear and anger are.

Sean said...

I agree that unaccountable billionaires are a danger to the long-term success of the US, however, of all the problems that we face in this country, this is perhaps the least obvious. Not only is it almost ignored by almost every news outlet (internet included), but the vast majority of US citizens have absolutely no clue why we're so affected by the actions of the uber-rich.

Until a middle-class family can comfortably be sustained by a single income for "normal" people, we'll continue to slide towards the society we're quickly becoming. However, I don't see this trend being reversed anytime soon. Most people are simply not aware of this problem.