Blessed are the rich, for we make them so.

I found an article I read this week titled ‘Private Gain to a Few Trumps Public Good for the Many’ quite interesting  and thought-provoking. It deals with the disparity between rich and poor and also highlights some of the journey and process as to how and why the rift was widened in such a way: ‘We’re losing public goods available to all, supported by the tax payments of all and especially the better-off. In its place we have private goods available to the very rich, supported by the rest of us.’ That is the conclusion Robert Reich reached at the end of his piece and it was very enlightening to see how he thought it all happened: Since the late 1970s, almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top. But as the upper-middle class and the rich began shifting to private institutions, they withdrew political support for public ones.  Education, for example, was less a personal investment than a public good — improving the entire community and ultimately the nation. But in a post-Cold War America distended by global capital, distorted by concentrated income and wealth, undermined by unlimited campaign donations, and rocked by a wave of new immigrants easily cast by demagogues as “them,” the notion of the public good has faded. The article is...

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The McBudget, and our distance from poverty

As you have quite well already heard, in response to the recent protests by their workers in favor of a higher wage McDonald’s released a “Practical Money Skills: Budget Journal” for use by their employees. The budget journal has the intended purpose of educating their employees on how to live within the means provided by a normal fast food worker’s wage, and no doubt was also intended to dampen support for the protests by showing that doing so was possible. Despite what side of the political spectrum commentators have been on regarding the protests, one reaction to the budget has been nearly unanimous: it is ridiculously unrealistic. As just some examples – the income side of the equation assumes two jobs that either a) earn significantly more than fast food workers make or b) requires a 70 hour work week, while the expenses side assumes a $20 a month health insurance plan and doesn’t even contain categories for food, clothing, childcare and others. Numerous groups and individuals have pointed out the problem with the budget, from Time magazine to Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, with the latter calling the sample budget “an insult to those living in poverty.” As I reflect on the issues of poverty, one thing that I am constantly reminded of is the distance...

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