Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Redistributing Wealth

Have you ever noticed that those who object most strenuously to the notion of redistribution of wealth are those who benefit from the status quo? Their hostility is espoused mostly from the pedestal of White Privilege, from offices on Wall Street, and it echoes through the halls of private mansions and country clubs. The ultimate source of their anger is, of course, guilt. They know they got where they are because of the toil of others. They are reaping their profits from uneducated consumers who fall for marketing campaigns. Their expenses are for lobbyists in Congress, if they have not paid outright for a Senator or Representative. Ironically, they have engineered a redistribution of wealth to themselves, so the idea of the reverse is repugnant.

We have had a redistribution of wealth for centuries. Slavery. The gender wage gap. Mass incarceration of minorities. Minimum wage. Credit that leads to bankruptcy. Failure to provide affordable healthcare and housing. Food deserts. Gerrymandering. Voter suppression. Government subsidies to corporations. Industry bailouts. Offshore banking. Tax breaks on investments. You don't think any of this has had an impact on who becomes wealthy? Really?

For our part as laborers and consumers, we yearn for financial freedom, still clinging to the belief that a bright future is all up to us as individuals, still pursuing the white picket fence and two-car garage. Society, we are told, gives you the freedom to do whatever it takes to get wherever you want to go. Yes, there are still some ways to attain wealth from the ground up, if you choose the "right" career, take advantage of existing financial structures for which it helps to be already wealthy....Where is the freedom in that?

If you do not believe we need measures in place to level the financial playing field, then you are either a diehard capitalist who cares not one whit about anybody but themselves, or you have bought into the fictitious idea that if you merely work hard you can still amass great wealth by climbing the ladder of success. Hogwash. We no longer have a Middle Class. We have not had that for quite some time. What we have is a Debt Class masquerading as the Middle Class. It is an illusion based on credit and other forms of borrowing. Our "portfolio" is a job, check cashing establishments, and the lottery. Ok, maybe two jobs or even three.

The ultimate question, of course, is why are we aspiring to personal material wealth in the first place. Who does that benefit except you, your family if you have one, and your heirs if you have children? Do you really want that small a sphere of influence? Dream bigger. Dream beyond money. Cultivate the currency of generosity instead of selfishness.

The solution to our enormous prosperity gap must come from both ends. Yes, to obliterate poverty the very wealthy must give up a substantial portion of their wealth. The remainder of the financial spectrum must cease to pursue the amassing personal material wealth as a goal. The new American Dream needs to be one of inclusion, with goals beyond ourselves such as renewable energy, preservation of biodiversity, acceptance (not mere tolerance) of alternative lifestyles, the abolishment of hate speech, enactment of affordable healthcare and housing, a return to small scale agriculture, and other communal and social endeavors. These are the things we need to commit to, not to our financial planner's idea of personal financial security, as if there is such a thing. Self-reliance is just a fancy synonym for pride, and putting pride as a priority has never ended well.

You want something to aspire to? How about this. How about we aspire to be like people who have lost everything material. People who have been through tornadoes, or hurricanes, or earthquakes, or fires, or even stock market crashes, who come back even stronger after the devastation because they know what really matters is not status or wealth but character and love and all those things you cannot measure in economic terms. Let us be like those who have been wronged, been cheated on, been scammed, been victims of violent crime, who come out of that trauma and still manage to trust other human beings. Let's be like that: all heart, soul, and empathy.

No comments:

Post a Comment