You probably also noticed that the economy isn’t doing so well, and it isn’t producing jobs. Instead of caring about the wage collapsing effects that are draining public funds, the people who were wrong about everything in the first place and missed the crisis coming, have busied themselves with slashing the social safety net for ordinary people.
This is the political climate in which we have to work to close the gender pay gap. There are uncanny similarities to when the New Deal coalition fell apart in the 1970s, as eerily highlighted by Jefferson Cowie; the early racial integration of the labor force had the bad fortune to coincide with a contraction that decreased opportunities for (almost) everyone.
And at this point, I tend to assume that since there are whole other countries that have done things differently for years and had it work out fine, that decreasing opportunities for (almost) everyone is sort of the point. It isn’t as though the way overwhelming concentrations of power follow overwhelming concentrations of money is some kind of secret to people with power.
It isn’t only that, as Dean Baker states so clearly, “Our income is a cost to the rich,” it’s that our income is a cost to the power of the rich. Because it would be better for the economy as a whole if there was less inequality, better for the all-important deficit, even.
It’s just that our economic arguments aren’t about economics. Or the suddenly remembered deficit. They’re about the ruthless preservation of power in the hands that already hold it. Everything else is a distraction.
What if Congress listened to mothers, maybe even single mothers, the way they listened to CEOs?
What if Congress cared about the futures of the working class?
What if Congress really believed that it was wrong for anyone to go hungry or be without medical care?
What if Congress thought that people who were women, or queer, or brown, or foreign, or young, or poor, were real and important people?
There are economic consequences to each of those scenarios that are a cost to the power of the rich, just as the economic consequences of the status quo are a boost to the power of the rich. That we even have political conversations where the supposed merits of concentrating private profits can outweigh the lives and health of human beings really says a lot, particularly because inequality is actually expensive.
Now that the din of Glenn Beck’s revolting appropriation of the civil rights movement has faded a bit, it’s worthwhile pointing out that Martin Luther King thought a lot about the intersection of money and power. Being him, he didn’t only think it was something worth talking about, but actually worth doing something about.
… We’ve come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operations of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. Today the poor are less often dismissed, I hope, from our consciences by being branded as inferior or incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands, it does not eliminate all poverty.
The problem indicates that our emphasis must be twofold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes.
… Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth. …”
Though as they say, the past isn’t dead, or even past. The waste of humanity’s resources on wars and obscene wealth, to the point of giving some people $79,000/month salaries, continues. The struggle to see that everyone gets a chance at a good life, whoever they are, continues. The struggle to expand our definition of ‘us’, until so many of us stand together for every kind of justice that we can’t be denied, continues.
And on that note, I’d like to sign off on what’s been a very enjoyable guest blogging gig. Thanks for having me, thanks for chatting in comments, and thanks for all the work you do to bring us closer to a time when equality means something more real than the absence of flagrant public insult. Until that day, I couldn’t ask for better company in dissatisfaction.
- Returning to the scene of the class war by Sarah August 16, 2011
- Blacks, Latinos, and the precariousness of “middle class” by Jack July 30, 2008
- The Jill Question: What is the Role of Privileged White Women in the Reproductive Justice Movement? by Aimee September 13, 2009
- IRS Targets Single Mother Because of Her Low Income by Cara December 11, 2009
- The High Cost of Poverty by Jill May 20, 2009