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Archive for 21. December 2010

Class Matters

If you want a quick primer on how contemporary social discourse is tilted in matters of class and inequality just look at the recent Tax Cuts debate. The debate can be described graphically below highlights the issue perfectly. At stake was extending ruinous tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the wealthy at the expense of the deficit and extending unemployment benefits to those destroyed by the rich at a significantly lower expense of the deficit.

For the wealthy, the difference was mostly symbolic. Yeah, if you make $250,000 a year, losing about $7000 might be hard to swallow, but it’s certainly not ruinous. If you are an unemployed, working class person, however, a loss of unemployment income is the difference between poverty and destitution, maybe providing a roof over your family’s heads or living under a bridge.

Missing from this debate was a productive discussion on the responsibility of the haves for those who have become have nots, mostly due to the policies of the haves. Missing from this debate was a serious discussion on providing meaningful work for those who need, want and deserve it.

So the accounting went from about $3-4 Trillion over ten years, depending on whose deplorable plan you were counting, to just under $1 Trillion over two years with a brief extension of unemployment benefits provided as a so called “compromise!” Um…I’m no math genius, so correct me if I’m wrong. We started out with a cost of $300 billion to $400 billion a year. But because we were concerned about the deficit we settled for a compromise that costs about $500 billion a year! There must be a math class that politicians take that the rest of us are just not privy to.

Regardless, what might have been a better way to spend $500 billion? After all, we are obviously willing to spend that money anyway regardless of the deficit. How about 16,000,000 jobs paying $30,000 a year? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 15.1 million unemployed Americans. So if that money was spent on direct hiring rather than tax cuts and unemployment we could eliminate the official unemployment rate! (Not really. The real unemployment rate is much higher. These folks would be inclined to look for work and, would thus be recorded as unemployed) These would be people who are able to catch up on their bills and make purchases that they have been putting off. This would help small business more than any tax cut. The improvements to infrastructure, the green technology, increased teachers in the classroom etc, would save us billions on top of what was being added to the economy.

Yet the above plan never became part of the discourse. And we cannot use the excuse that we can’t afford such program, because what we can afford is obviously not at issue. The underlying issue is the blind acceptance of a de facto two tier society that has embedded itself into our discourse and, thus, into our mentalities.