mellowtigger: (people not profits)
[personal profile] mellowtigger
The good news is that economic equality improves many societal problems. The bad news is that America is not on any path to recovery.

Richard Wilkinson gave a great lecture at TED last year. He showed some amazing correlations that he found between income inequality and a wide range of measures for societal health: lifespan, mental illness, homicide, literacy, trust, social mobility, and more. The same trends held true across nations of different backgrounds and also across the states within the USA. This 17-minute video is well worth your time.

"So what we're looking at is general social dysfunction related to inequality. It's not just one or two things that go wrong; it's most things. ... Sweden has huge differences in earnings, and it narrows the gap through taxation, general welfare state, generous benefits, and so on. Japan is rather different, though. It starts off with much smaller differences in earnings before tax. It has lower taxes; it has a smaller welfare state. In our analysis of the American states, we find rather the same contrast. There are some states that do well through wealth redistribution, and some states that do well because they have smaller income differences before tax. So we conclude that it doesn't much matter how you get your greater equality, as long as you get there somehow. I'm not talking about perfect equality, I'm talking about what exists in rich, developed, market democracies."

murdered catOur politicians will not take the steps necessary to improve wealth equality in America. Everything "liberal" has become so thoroughly demonized that it's impossible to have bipartisan discussions on real issues any more. For example, somebody murdered a political leader's cat and scrawled "Liberal" on its corpse. That's the level of discourse that we have nowadays because evidence-based reasoning is ridiculed.

Meanwhile, the economic hard times continue. Daily life is not getting better, regardless of what the pundits are claiming about the economy. I go to the gas station convenience store, and I see an old man digging in the trash can for food. I talk to college students (and recent graduates) who are barely holding things together. I talk to people my age who cancel annual vacation plans because they can't afford it. I know my former boss is still unemployed after job hunting for an entire year, and I know others who are also unemployed.

Outsiders are finally beginning to see past the published lies and the political rhetoric. This recent BBC presentation documented the kind of America that I'm seeing.

adult: Leslie is 6. She was more withdrawn than the others.
child: My mom eat rats.
adult: Eating rats? Is that something that you eat a lot, or it just happened once?
child: Once.
adult: It just happened once? Was that because she ran out of food?
child: *nod*
adult: Yeah? How did that make you feel?
child: Sad.

One woman in that documentary tells her husband who needs surgery, "What are they going to do if we can't pay the bill? They can't come eat us. They can't kill us and eat us." And that's how far America has fallen. The rich seem to know it too, since they arm themselves in case the peasants finally decide to eat the rich. The politicians seem to know it, since they have already assembled the obvious data. Instead of addressing the issues, however, they divert us with the reliable distractions of birth control, union organizers, gay marriage, military deployments, and oil development.

Go back to that TED video, and tell me what evidence-based reasoning would suggest that we follow as a useful legislative agenda for solving our social problems? If we can't do those things, then we'll continue killing cats and eating rats.


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