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Yes, We Have No Banana Republic – Yet

Posted on Saturday, 20th August 2011 @ 03:21 AM by Text Size A | A | A


This, in a graphic, is the narrative I am not hearing from the administration. What we hear, instead, is the mythology of centrism and compromise. It goes something like this: Red State or Blue State, we all basically want the same things. We want an America where everyone makes enough money working to provide for themselves and their loved ones, to buy health insurance, to save for retirement. We all want an America where we can start a business, pursue our dreams, achieve excellence in our passion. We supposedly all agree on the outline of the ideal society, we just disagree on the best way to get there. So, the narrative goes, if everyone is just reasonable and gives a little, we can find this magic way down the middle, to the land of high growth, low taxes, and a lean but efficient government paying down the national debt instead of adding to it.

How nice we all agree on something, but we really don’t. Because the America the Republicans are fighting for has a huge catch. They insist the right of the minority to be rewarded by the “market” for their hard work and entrepreneurial risk-taking has to be the central pillar of any economic system. If this means that 10% of the population get’s 75% of the wealth, well, that’s what liberty is all about. In their worldview the right of the exceptional individual to be free to accumulate always trumps the right of the unexceptional masses to be free from want.

The economic system the left believes in acknowledges the reality that we live in a capitalist society and wealth will not be evenly distributed. People work harder because they want to be successful, and success is defined by making money. No one is suggesting we put it all in a big pot and distribute it evenly. But there is a huge difference between 90% of the population dividing up 3/4 of the wealth or 1/4 of the wealth. One allows for large middle class, the other doesn’t. One requires poverty, the other doesn’t. One is moral, the other isn’t.

Rick Perry is going to trumpet all the jobs created in Texas during his tenure. According to common economic wisdom, all those jobs should mean state coffers are full–all those extra taxes going into the treasury and all. Funny thing though, Texas is groaning under gargantuan deficits. How’d that happen?

All growth is not alike. When most of the new jobs are low-paying or minimum wage, the expansion of the tax base is minimal. We can only grow our way out of a recession if most of the jobs created pay decently, and this is mathematically impossible when hundreds of billions of dollars are unavailable for this purpose because they are parked with the super rich.

An economic expansion that doesn’t address income inequality will not bring back the America we supposedly all want, it will turn the entire county into the Banana Republic of Texas. It means a lot of poorly paid employed people afraid to get sick, watching their children get a crappy education, buffeted by a deteriorating infrastructure the government has no money to fix. It wouldn’t be the first time most Americans have had to live paycheck to paycheck–the vast majority of us have at one time or another. But we’ve always had a fairly realistic sense that things would get better over time. Downward mobility was a fear; never an expectation.

Americans need to be asked a very simple question: Do you think a minority should have a majority of wealth; or a majority should have the majority of wealth? I know what most Americans would answer. But they need to be asked.

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