About Me

My photo
Policy provokes me to think and write. I currently work in ivory towers inspiring people to engage in their world. I am a student of the human condition and my classroom is the world. I don't need credentials to have an opinion but I've got paper to prove I know a few things about public health, social welfare and economics. I'm coming out of the tower and taking the words to the people and hope you will send some words back at me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Who are the 1%?

Why the 1% and Who are They?

Why are we fixated on the 1%? Why not the 5%? And are these people all the same? Should we be angry at a man who has worked hard for years and now his business finally makes him some serious money? Or are we only upset at CEOs of major corporations? What about the person whose grandmother left them a fortune? Or do we think that bankers are the root of all evil? (Even though we couldn't live without them if we tried). And is it all bankers??? Or just certain types?

Placing Blame for our Economic Woes

What about the 'sit-on-my-hands-and-do-nothing' group of politicians in Washington, DC. Running for office so often so justifiably spend much of their time making sure they have enough money and leverage to get reelected? What about the non-decision-making that messed up our credit rating and frequently pushes us to the brink and cuts the social safety net and protects the military budget? What about them? Are they not to blame for any of this?

Are we going to be as angry at politicos the way we are at Wall Street when Wall Street's rules are made in Washington DC? Why were people sitting in cities beating up on bankers, joined in chorus by politicians (who if you're Obama you hire them right off the Street and then berate them), of whom so many are the 1% who benefit from insider information (there is no law against them doing that) and leave Congress much richer than when they showed up?

Targeting the Rich

Targeting 'the rich' is silly social action because they are no more moral/social monolith than the poor. Targeting people is never a good idea and does not create social change. Targeting behavior or laws is much more productive. And getting mad at someone for maximizing the utility of tax loopholes is pointing a finger in the wrong direction. Most of us would do same. Perhaps closing the loophole is the answer and just perhaps its Washington where that must happen. Yes... putting money in foundations is often a nice way to deal with excess wealth but it's also plugged a lot of holes left by our somewhat fishnetty social welfare system.

Where individuals are the problem then charge them with a crime and get on with it. Where rules are the problem then change them to rein in problematic behavior.

What About Us?

What we should not do is fully participate in our own demise (i.e. spend up credit cards and buy lavish homes we can't afford) and then blame someone else for our misfortune. Did Lehman Brothers, Countrywide and AIG mess up?!! Hell yeah!! And there's not a banker would say otherwise. So we clean up the mess and figure out what we have to do to make a different kind of mess next time (there will always be messes in life, humans being who we are). And the people to hold accountable for cleaning up the mess is the government.

The Cost of Blaming

In the meantime, I suppose I take it personal when people attack bankers because some of the most wonderful people in my life and the lives of so many happen to have that professional title. But that's not the source of my rant..... blaming groups of people for the bad things that happen in our society has never had a good outcome in human history. So maybe its time we stop.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree that blaming individuals and groups of people is very risky and that the conversation should be focused on moving forward. But I think that you are forgetting one important piece of the political process. When people, oftentimes in Wall Street, accumulate a bunch of money and want to keep it, some of them lobby Congress Members with lots of that money to put those loopholes into the tax code and help in other ways legislatively. I am not at all proud of our elected representatives in D.C. right now but I do not think they are alone. The ones who get elected are often propelled to the top by money from those who want to keep the money to themselves. That is something that is blameworthy. Its not like bankers and others who take advantage of tax loopholes and other systemic "helpers" had nothing to do with their creation. They didn't just stumble along and go "hot damn, my lucky day!"