Saturday, January 25, 2020

#25 / Why It Matters

I subscribe to a web-based news service called Axios. That means I get daily bulletins on a wide range of topics that reflect the current preoccupations of the public - or, the preoccupations of the public as the Axios editorial staff believes such preoccupations to exist. Usually, Axios is pretty good about identifying my own preoccupations!

On December 28, 2019, my "Axios AM" bulletin highlighted six items of interest. Item #1 was about the NBA. Item #2 was headlined, "Richest gained 25% this year." Here is a quote from the lead paragraph in Item #2: 

The world's 500 wealthiest people tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index added $1.2 trillion [in 2019], boosting their collective net worth 25% to $5.9 trillion...

The next paragraph in this Axios report started out with this phrase: "Why it matters." Well, why does it matter, as Axios sees it? Here's what Axios said: 

Why it matters: Such gains are sure to add fuel to the already heated debate about widening wealth and income inequality.

The fact that the net worth of the ultra-rich and "the billionaire class" increased by twenty-five percent last year will, I am certain, "add fuel to the ... debate about ... income inequality." Axios is certainly right about that. But is the fact that there will be increased debate about income inequality really what matters most about the fact that income inequality is escalating in such unprecedented ways?

There is, I would argue, a substantive reason to be concerned about what is happening here. The photo at the top of this blog post, coming from the Axios AM bulletin, depicts a scene from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, held last October. The picture below, from my hometown, Santa Cruz, California, depicts a scene from the so-called "Ross Camp," as more than a hundred homeless persons were dislodged from a camp they had set up behind the Ross Dress For Less store in Santa Cruz. 

On a number of occasions, I have written in this blog about the concept of the "Commonwealth," urging that we start understanding our politics and economics from a perspective that admits that the wealth that our society produces is a "common" achievement. In other words, we are all contributors to the creation of wealth. 

If that idea permeates, then the fact that the wealth being produced by our common efforts is being allocated, increasingly, to a very few individuals, should tell us that something is wrong. Moreover, the substantive impact of our current practices is to create a world that is less "clean," less "safe," and less "satisfying" for all of us than the world we could create if we used our commonly created wealth to benefit more of us, instead of fewer of us. 

Whether we focus on infrastructure, on health care, on child care, on environmental protection and global warming, on housing, on education, on the drug crisis, or on whatever we might care about, ALL of us benefit when we invest in ALL of us!

That's why the spiraling income inequality that Axios has reported actually "matters." Our world is falling apart presbecause our current economic and political arrangements have failed to direct our commonly created wealth to our common problems and to maximizing our common opportunities. 

In a country in which it is "possible," though not inevitable, that we can, collectively, determine what happens to us, the bulletin from Axios should "matter" because that bulletin tells us that changes need to be made. 

There is an election in California on March 3rd, and a couple of the presidential candidates on the ballot have made a commitment to try to reduce income inequality - and to use our commonly created wealth to benefit ALL of us, focusing on the issues identified above. If you vote absentee, you'll get your ballot in a very few days.

Do you need the names of the presidential candidates who are committed to doing something about income inequality? Let me know if you haven't already figured it out!

Image Credits:
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1 comment:

  1. "ALL of us benefit when we invest in ALL of us!" -- a great line. The one sticking point, however, is that (for some of us) who "all of us" is is sometimes a bit more narrowly defined. How can "them" (the homeless, for example) start to be "us"? How can those inundated by floods in India...or Houston...or ...Iowa become "us"? That is the first step: breaking down the barriers that insist that we are "us" primarily b/c we're not "them."


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