Dublin Saab

Cars, politics, sports and what not from my view. (Closed Sundays and Holidays)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

You better not be succeeding over there!

As I think of the wide open upcoming election, the first wide one since LBJ refused another term in ’68, I wander what tropes will be pulled out. One that I know I will be hearing, one that I’ve heard all my life, is that of the lamenting over the Widening Income Gap. You know, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poor, the tired old influence of Marxist class warfare into American politics. But what does it mean?

If I race a Ferrari the gap between it and Heidi (1986 Saab Turbo) will be “widening” but not as a result of me slowing down.

Let me make a relevant example. Say you make $1,000,000 as a CEO and I make $45,000 as an assistant designer, then 3 years later you are making $1,250,000 and I, after promotions, am making $90,000. My income has doubled, cause for celebration perhaps but not to the class warmongers who are busy pointing out that while your income only increased 25% to my 100% the “gap” still widened.

So what is all this gap talk. We hear it, on TV shows, during speeches, at the local watering hold but does it really mean anything? And further, just what it the point of the gap talk? Is it to get angry at rich folks? How is that supposed to help anything?

But expect to hear it.

Expect to hear how utterly horrible the economy is and how thanks to Bush Americans just can’t afford the costs of living anymore. And expect to see people who lived beyond their means and are now paying the price paraded out for the cameras as proof of the collapse of our nation. And expect the solution to be more government.


At July 30, 2006 7:48 PM, Blogger Nightcrawler said...

Very well put! Solid explanation of the "gap" that we are so destined to hear about. Sorry it's been a while since I stopped by.

At August 17, 2006 2:58 AM, Blogger The Evil Jeremy. said...

Your reasoning would be all well and good, were your statistical assumptions correct. Since they aren't, however, your point is rather moot. Yes, a widening absolute income gap is inevitable, and not really something worth crying over. The mere fact of inflation means absolute gaps between the highest and lowest incomes will always widen, assuming that they increase (a big assumption, to be sure) at the same rate.

However, that's simply not the case. Both the absolute and the relative incomes of the rich continue to outstrip everyone else. To use your example: if you are a CEO and make a cool one mil a year, and I am an attorney making 100k, you make ten times my income. Assuming that our salaries both double (or whatever equivalent factor you choose, as, mathematically, it makes no difference), you will still, and always, make ten times as much as me. And that's fine, and I don't really have a problem with that. But that isn't the factual reality of the situation. The ratio of a CEO of a major American corporation's salary to that of the median employee was 10:1 in 1980. It's 430:1 today. Or, perhaps more instructively, you might look at the pay ratio of a U.S. Congressman to the minimum wage-earner (both of which, of course, are set by legislative fiat and not market forces) and find the same result. The growing income gap is real in both an absolute sense (which we should expect it to be) and in the relative sense, which is morally unacceptable (to me, anyway).

Now, like a good, laissez-faire conservative, you argue that we should dismiss class warfare arguments and let the market do its thing without the hindrance of government. Perhaps that would be fair, or at least philosophically consistent, if you favored private sector means by which the lower and middle classes might work to level the playing field. But, also like most conservatives, you rail against the evil and greed of unions as if they're bankrupting companies right and left (a complete myth by the way, and I'll be happy to disprove your GM argument anytime you like). So you don't like government solutions, and you don't like private sector solutions either. So those without substantial wealth should just bend over and take it, and no one should court their vote?

Incidentally, however, the only time modern conservatives dislike the "more government" boogeyman you dredge up, is in issues of promoting general welfare. Given the current Republican bent on abortion, immigration, the Middle East, the NSA, gay marriage, flag burning and federal fiscal expenditure, there has never been a party, administrative or congressional, that believes in more government (at least in the U.S., anyway; you've still got some Maoist shitholes around the world making us look staunchly libertarian).

So if a widening relative income gap isn't a legitimate campaign issue, then what exactly is? Flag burning? Gay marriage? Other nonsensical periphery of no real priority to a legislature? If campaigning on behalf of the working poor, who, shockingly, are facing off against a Congress that's dragging its feet on minimum wage in an election year is warmed-over, discredited Marxism (and we'll leave aside, for a moment, the assertion that class warfare is either discredited or dead as a theoretical construct), then what should Democrats campaign on? Reviving Biblical creationism in the classroom? Running a national fiscal policy straight out of the playbook of Bob Taft? There's already a party behind those issues, and co-opting them isn't likely to get Hillary (or whomever) too many votes.


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