There are many many subjects I know nothing about; nothing of real significance that is, other than vague generalities and oversimplifications. For instance, I’m clueless about architecture and how to read a blueprint. I’m clueless about farming and how or when to plant certain crops, how to keep up the soil, when to harvest, etc. I’m also clueless about rugby or cricket and their rules! I’m clueless on how best to perform medical operations; I’m not a board certified doctor! There are many subjects I just don’t know enough about to carry-on any type of extended intelligent conversation!
So here are my questions to the cyber-world:
Is it wise to speak overtly, to be long-winded about things one knows very little or nothing about?
Why is it every two & four years — the American political cycle — everyone knows EVERYTHING about the dynamics of governing 319-million diverse people, or in my state of Texas 27-million, and are suddenly experts on ALL factors that effect people’s needs and wants and their current and future well-being? How do they have all the solutions!? What’s their secret? I want to know!
And now for some comic relief with much “truthiness”… 😀
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
It is astonishing as well as alarming! Doha, Qatar, one of many “Emerald Cities” in the Persian Gulf springing up from hot sand into vast riches of oil and gas then spectacular skyscrapers is since the early 2000’s, mostly empty. That’s right, 90% empty! And the reasons are telling!
But before examining the reasons, let’s first review where we left off in El Dorado — Part I… since it has been almost two months and nine other posts since I published it.
* * * * * * * * * *
American workers between the age of 25-54 work an average 63 hours per week, 7 days a week, equating to almost 9-hours per day. Of all Western nations this work-rate is the highest among industrialized countries. This obsession to work looks like this: their 7-day work week earns them an average wage of $47,000 per year, or $14.35/hour and this wage often does not come with medical-health benefits from the employer — most American low-wage jobs don’t. Therefore, factor in that deduction from $14.35/hour and you only begin to see the real picture for much of the American workforce.
At the other end of the spectrum you have attorneys at-law, the highest wage-earners, making between $105,000 to $192,000 per year (in the 48 conjoined states) according to the American Bar Association 2011. This job-sector also has the nation’s highest rates of depression and suicide, along with American teachers, counselors, and executive assistants, respectively. What is more bewildering is that universities across the United States “report steady or increased enrollment into their law schools and medical schools, and not so surprising decreased enrollment into their schools of education and counseling.” The steady or increasing numbers to law schools and the declining numbers into teaching or counseling classrooms are directly related to their average salaries.
Fortunately, this subtle American tragic disunion has an upside… which I will get to momentarily.
Visions of World Grandeur
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – Emir of Qatar
Accounting history has shown over the last two decades that to host a FIFA World Cup is extremely stimulating for a country’s economy, employment, its leadership, and world image. The spectacle of the four-week tournament includes 32 different nations and their raving fans, unimaginable TV exposure and revenues, exceptionally high tourism revenue, fan sites and events at each game just outside of stadiums, all-encompassing millions upon billions of dollars. Glitz, glamour, and metaphorical-gold abound! Not surprising, the bidding war for the 2022 World Cup was fierce between the U.S., Japan, and Qatar, with Qatar coming out as the highly controversial winner. As mentioned, Doha, the capital of Qatar, will host several of the games. The Qatari ruling family (Emirs, Faisals or Kings), the house of Al-Thani, began in 2010-11 implementing very bold construction plans for a “New Qatar” as a whole, but in particular the FIFA game-venues throughout the eastern portion of the country as the chance to awe not only the sports world, but the entire modern world after the games. Qatar shipped in thousands of foreign workers and erected several “Emerald Cities” the world would envy!
Why then, as of October 2014, is the capital Doha 90% empty?
BQDoha.com (Business Qatar) explains three primary causes and symptoms to Doha’s emptiness. One — overcrowded cramped housing. The average person, mostly foreign construction workers, live with other families or individuals in “villas” — many semi-dilapidated buildings — partitioned into family-sections in order that landlords turnover a bigger profit. Two — a wait-and-watch holdout policy by landlords for the foreign corporate residents. Landlords can better gouge big corporations for higher rent and get the rent in one lump sum for a 3-year contract on average. And Three — a saturation of aggressive street peddlers disguised as “real estate brokers” but paid by landlords discreetly. Rents quoted by these illegal peddlers are high to pad their finder’s fee and compensation. From these three causes follow symptoms of a city and nation struggling with traditions, expatriates, and modernism heavily pushed by the Emir and extremely wealthy faisal families-business élite. A quick read of The New York Times Middle East beat-writer Anthony Shadid’s November 2011 article, shows how the capital city, its nation and upper-elite, versus its common people are sharply contrasted behind the imposing Emerald City façade. Visions of world notoriety and wealth come only from a tiny privileged percentage of Qataris.
The United States has its fair share of Emerald Cities too: Detroit, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio are two most notable emptying facades out of several.
Getting Behind the Glittering Veil
In Part I of El Dorado I touched on the highly clever, complex marketing schemes (Ponzi Schemes?) America’s upper 10% and corporate executives promote to consumers — extensive details of the schemes were found in five previous posts. But rather than hunting and gutting the schemers, I want to delve into the uneducated gullible consumer’s mind; why do they/we swallow El Dorado hook, line, and sinker? Why does one incessantly chase Emerald City citizenship with big eyes and panting breath? Probably five reasons:
Respect of Peers
Time and one’s concept of it
What do you value in life? What activities do you enjoy most? If you are unable to satisfy your value-systems, what goals or dreams do you have in order to work for and satisfy your values? Typically, we all value the respect of someone: our parents, spouse or intimate partner, coach or boss, a fan-base or maybe the approvals and recommendations of institutions or associations, like universities or writers guild. Everyone seeks some degree of respect from others. What skills or talents have you been taught? Are those skills considered excellent? Average? Evaluated by whom? Certainly everyone cannot be self-proclaimed tycoons, right? Therefore, respect and skills are irrevocably linked.
Perhaps the most significant reason one seeks El Dorado-Emerald City citizenship is their concept of time. In Western industrialized nations, the average lifespan is 78-years; for women 81-82 years. Depending on where you are born and to what parents may dictate how much time you have to obtain the coveted citizenship, march through the golden gates, and into worldly bliss. Then again, many believe existence does not end at 78 or 82 years. For them it might be eternal and as such feel much less pressure to pass through those gates — atheists and deists may not bother with citizenship-anxiety at all. Eat, drink, and be very merry might be all that matters to them — a lifestyle this Bohemian doesn’t scuff off but happily joins on several occasions!
These five above appetites that hungry consumers have are well-known and pandered to by the Kings and Queens of El Dorado and Emerald City. Their accompanying marketing departments probably know even better. Fortune 100 companies pay millions, maybe billions, to the élite Top marketing firms or internal departments to CREATE insatiable consumer appetites! For a population that doesn’t have easy access to alternative lifestyles’ skills or services (such as, living off-the-grid), or the matching business-marketing masters degrees or PhD’s, the consumer’s future is an increasing metaphorical obesity epidemic. The gourmet chefs of this buyer buffet — the Fortune 100 or 500 businesses and executives — won’t ever stop crowding your table and plates with “masterpieces” unless you break the trance and walk away by your own will-power!
The New Tiny Living Tiny House Movement
Click to enlarge – image courtesy of TheTinyLife.com
The Wall Street Crisis of 2007-08 and to an extent America’s metaphorical appetite for obesity, jump-started the Tiny Living Tiny House Nation and Movement as an alternative to high-debt living and mortgages which greatly limit owner’s freedoms and R&R in a hectic ultra-competitive free-market economy. From 1978 to 2007 the average size of new single-family American home grew from 1,780 sq. feet to almost 2,500 sq. feet. With that growth followed all accessory businesses such as landscaping and home-improvement. By the time President Ronald Reagan finished his last term in 1989 and put into law his Tax Reform Act of 1986, the make-it-bigger home market fly-wheel was at full-speed-ahead until it hit the granite wall in 2007.
Today, on top of the purchase-price, down payment, principle paid, interest after-tax, taxes and home insurance, maintenance, and major repairs and/or improvements, the final amount out-of-pocket for a typical single-family home reaches over $1-millionfor a 30-year term. If you are the 76% – 90% portion of the typical American family earning between $35k – $50k annually, where is the fiscal wisdom in living so far out of your means?
The fantastic people at TheTinyLife.com offer home-buyers interested in more freedom, more time, more environmentally conscious, more fiscally responsible, just more modesty and simplicity for hectic lives by liberating themselves from America’s bigger-is-betterGAUDINESS! It’s just smarter.
For most Americans 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; This translates to 15 years of working over your life time just to pay for it and because of it 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. — TheTinyLife.com
Please stop by their website to learn the brilliance in unburdening yourself from the modern home-building, home-improvement marketing schemes that imprison and overload many nose-diving Americans. Wise up!
Labor of Survival, Status, or of Love?
It is perhaps the most introspective questions we ask ourselves: Am I working to survive? Am I working to gain status? Am I not “working” because I love my job? In which group do you fall? In which one would you rather be?
Finding our bearings through these questions and possibly changing our heading in today’s labor and social environment can seem daunting. Marketing impulse-triggering wizards with million-dollar Ivy League business degrees wickedly cleverly pull at our heart-strings. But the consequences of not checking your bearings and heading could prove to be much worse on one’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health. It would be wise to ask yourself at least twice a year, What am I laboring for and will it be worth it come retirement? For many Americans “retirement in luxury” is a distant fantasy due to a lifetime of survival mode and seemingly never-ending self-sacrifice. If this is the case, maybe a second and third question should be asked… Where is the majority of my paycheck(s) going? Are those credits bearing valuable fruit or evaporating, or padding a total stranger’s pocketbook?
Laboring for status is perhaps the greatest American trickster scheme. It can at first be mistaken for love. There’s no better example of this than in the top four U.S. sports markets. Coaches, General Managers, Athletic Directors, and finally the players (with the exception of NCAA collegiate athletes) face the very real possibility that their employment or their role will be terminated or replaced by another every year, sometimes less than a year! In the NFL (National Football League), the #1 most popular sport in America, a head coach lasts an average of 38-months. NFL General Managers last a bit longer at 44-months. In the MLB (Major League Baseball), the #2 sport in America, a Manager/Coach lasts about 24-months. And unless players in both the NFL or MLB are tagged franchise-players, they stay only 24-months on average with one team. Athletic Directors with NCAA Division I universities enjoy more stability and longevity at 7.5 years on campus, but over the last decade this average has steadily dropped due to collegiate sports (and revenues) becoming more widely competitive. There has also been increased mobility or transfers by NCAA football and baseball players for improved exposure to NFL and MLB scouts, especially in baseball given its now global appeal. In the NBA (National Basketball Association), the #4 most popular sport (along with auto-racing), staff and player positions and vacancies have become a near non-stop marry-go-round with replacements, no check that, scapegoats… with an average stay of only 9-months; the NBA season is only 6-months long.
What does all this mean? In the American sports culture it means one thing: winning championships or very least, consistent playoff births. Status. Nothing else matters; truly a What-have-you-done-for-me-lately intolerance. Just how much does the American sports world permeate American occupational and economic culture? Answer: Factor in all games and events, merchandise, and other incidental sports activities, and the dollar figure goes easily into the upper billions! Yes, 60.9% of American sports fans, i.e. the men, fantasize and live vicariously through their favorite pro and collegiate athletes and spend royally to feel and look like them.
According to Forbes.com and NSGA.org (National Sporting Goods Association), every year Americans spend around $43-billion on retail sporting goods such as gear and equipment, logo’d-apparel of their team(s), not counting game or season tickets. Sports gambling, e.g. fantasy leagues, rake in $20-billion from American sports fans in a $400-billion dollar sports gambling industry. Parents of little American athletes spend $300-million a year for various league registrations, uniform fees, etc, then the figure leaps to $900-million per year for goods, incidentals, and travel for their athletic kids. Let’s not forget how much companies spend on TV advertising, and fans on Pay-per-View events; that figure is in excess of $10-billion per year.
Those dollar figures beg many serious questions, not the least of which is why do American taxpayers bitch and whine about taxes and tax-levels, the national deficit, poorly run government programs, and struggling public infrastructure when clearly the private sector, i.e. businesses and individuals, spend over $474-billion dollars PER YEAR on sporting entertainment alone? Should I remind us of what those same entities spend on real estate, homes, home-improvement, home accessories, and automobiles to park in the two-car garages? No? Then at least remember $474+ billion dollars annually just on entertainment.
A laboring of love is generally accepted, or should be, as the way to live. Though by the time I reached my 30’s or 40’s, with a marriage or two, and then children — you know, after all the trials and tribulations getting through my teens and twenties — the light-bulb didn’t come on…I was halfway finished with my life! Time to get serious and ask myself those hard questions. I won’t bog you readers down with another convincing argument (wink) of why a life of experience, experience with others, with the ones you care for deeply and go through thick-n-thin with to come out singing and dancing… is the way to go. No, I hope all of you can grasp and understand what Albert Einstein profoundly distinguished:
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein
For those who might need a hint, Dr. Albert distinguished two opposite concepts in just those twelve simple words. The first-hand experience to love and be loved is the best labor in life, not status or success. I would add to Einstein’s point that modesty and moderation will limit, even save one from the dangers and risks of metaphorical and yes, literal obesity.
Hidden city and legend of El Dorado
These are very difficult concepts to execute for many Americans because we are surrounded and bombarded by remade patriotic 19th and 20th century cheers of Seek in earnest El Dorado and you will find and sit on its throne. But the more feasible reality involves your immediate and intermediate circles of influence and experience. Beyond those lines, beyond those outlands are the experiences and lives meant for others, not just you. Everyone has a “sandbox” to build and play inside, but the walls enclosing your sandbox should never be inflexible nor perpetually expanding or worse, imperializing. Am I saying humanity as a whole should not collaborate for an improved more healthy sustainable self and planet? Not in the least, no. However, if every single human is supposed to build their own El Dorado, then it seems to me we will all manifest Aristotle’s fabled King Midas of Phyrgia turning everything, including ourselves, into unsustainable useless gold with 7.4 billion King Midas’s running around atop 7.4 billion useless thrones ruling an unsustainable golden rock-planet of 7.4 billion useless Phyrgia kingdoms! One fashion color and one fashion color only! One texture and one texture only! One food group and one food group only! Eeeeek…
Is that the life on El Planedo you want to live?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Gaily bedight, A gallant knight, In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old— This knight so bold— And o’er his heart a shadow— Fell as he found No spot of ground That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength Failed him at length, He met a pilgrim shadow— ‘Shadow,’ said he, ‘Where can it be— This land of Eldorado?’
‘Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride,’ The shade replied,— ‘If you seek for Eldorado!’
— Eldorado, by Edgar Allan Poe
My wonderful daughter is soon graduating from four years of university. I could not be more proud. I reflect back to the summer of her upcoming freshman year and the many questions and discussions we had about what major to pursue and study. It is perhaps one of many far-reaching decisions facing all undergraduates. For some, it is a time of the highest anxiety they must address in their budding lives. I know, I’ve been there. Many of us have been there, right?
In a modern economy and job-market that has increasingly become highly specialized the last three decades, a new graduate likely wants to make a decent high wage to at least have the ability to pay-down college debts. While examining today’s competitive labor market, it isn’t much of a stretch or mystery to conclude that once your vocation has been decided, the choice could very well set in concrete the next 10-20 years of your working life, years that cannot be refunded! Oh and by the way, the job-market is usually dictated by what finicky consumers want and how they spend their incomes. Mix into that career-path-anxiety healthy doses of follow-your-heart advice, which often does not translate to 6-digit paychecks, and a college graduate begins perspiring and shaking. Oh and by the way, since 1995 the U.S. median income for four-year college graduates has remained pretty constant at about $47k per year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Unless a new graduate with 3 or 4-years of tuition-debt lands a minimum annual income of around $70k to $80k quickly, they will not be able to keep up with inflation, cost-of-living with rent or a mortgage, likely loan interest, let alone raising toddlers, they will NOT be able to get ahead on $47k per year. If they are financially frugal and wise, they must put those dreams on hold until that high-wage career is landed, if it is landed. Enter more stress.
A career-path is indeed a huge ordeal and can possibly make or break a person. It is not to be taken lightly. But what are the driving forces behind the decision? What sort of life will those driving forces actually create? (line break)
* * * * * * * * * *
We now live in a part of the world, the Western Hemisphere, where wide choices of labor are unparalleled in the history of civilizations. At first glance, one would think this is a good thing. On many levels the advancements in medicine or technology, to name two, are indeed far and beyond other progressive ages of the past. They are two of many explanations for the planet having close to 7.3 billion humans to date; a number close to the tipping-point of what Earth can sustain. Why?
Two major factors have been the social evolutions of increased democracy and wide-spread education. These two alone have contributed greatly to the end of feudalism and eventually ushered in the Industrial Revolution leading workers out of the fields and into mass urbanization. Families went from hard subsistent living to higher social mobility and liberation in the span of one century! But with so much labor and social change come newer problems; some with hints and roots of old problems.
In the West where much of these advancements have taken place, workers are the unhappiest since the end of World War II. In two of the continents of labor-liberation, over two-thirds of Europeans — primarily in central and southern Europe — are dissatisfied with their jobs according to OPP Unlocking Potential in Oxford, U.K. In America 52.3% are unhappy — all of those workers being in the middle and lower incomes of the nation — and the happiness-scale has been falling since 2011 according to the New York-based non-profit research group The Conference Board.
Modern Kings and Queens
The foundation of the Industrial Revolution was laid by ideals and theories published in the late 1700’s. Economists David Hume and Adam Smith, along with botanist Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau, combined to create the earliest stages of manufacturing by the Division of Labour. Essentially this philosophy means turning a product or service from start to finish by one person/family, instead into many phases done by multitudes — highly specialized worker ants/bees, if you will — for the sake of Queen and country…and job-security. Today, those Queens, Kings, and countries are business corporations.
Balsa Muisca (Muisca raft) figure, Bogotá, Columbia; the symbol & origin of the El Dorado legend
Since the 1950’s and certainly after the Great Recession of 2008, as the previous stats indicated, Hume’s, Smith’s, and Monceau’s economic philosophy no longer satisfies the common-worker in the West. Very soon the same will be said, if not already, in the Middle and Far East. Indeed, the basic material needs of modern Western civilizations have been met post-WW2, or at least made more easily available to the less-privileged. However, with more freedom, more liberties, more competition, comes more and more shrewd marketing schemes and modern funding into Special Interest groups pressurizing all levels of legislation by those who stand to lose much more. In million and billion-dollar economics, ethical integrity by the major players becomes a risk they cannot or will not take and the winds of change apply only to an upward swerve of their bottom-line.
Yes, incomes and wages in Europe and North America over the last two centuries have been rising. They have reached their highest points in history for more than just the nobility and the wealthy few. Yet, it stops there. Along with clever complex psychological marketing, the average life-satisfaction surveys, or well-being stats, are surprisingly still flat; especially the last thirty-years! What has happened?
“I came to get gold, not to till the soil like a peasant.” — Hernán Cortés
In 1504 the collapse of the Aztec Empire of central Mexico marked the beginning of Imperial Spain’s Golden Age, literally. Cortés and his Conquistadors made off with wagon-loads of gold and silver catapulting he and his men — who back home had little to lose — into a new socio-economic class otherwise unobtainable. With that new status came not only heightened respect and popularity, but their native Empire’s greatest glory and colonial land expansion. What followed in the 1600’s changed the world forever: the Age of Exploration. For the peasants and servants of 17th century Europe, the hope of an entirely new life with riches either in land or wealth, or both, was too great to pass up. They came to The New World by the never-ending boat-loads.
Many immigrants were unaware of the great risks blinded by the glitter of the legendary stories. Disease, hunger, and angry natives protecting their homelands put the new settlers in harms way and the expeditions literally as do-or-die endeavors. In the modern era, the similar reckless obsession, perhaps disguised as the dream, is the amount of time American workers spend on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in 2013 that the average U.S. employee between age 25 and 54 works almost 9-hours a day, 7-days a week, for a total work-week of 63 hours; the most out of all industrialized nations.
The highest-earning occupation in the U.S., attorneys-at-law, have the highest rate of depression and suicide as reported by magazine Psychology Today and a 1990 John Hopkins University study of 100 occupations. Perhaps shocking or not so shocking, lawyers are followed next by teachers and counselors, then secretaries according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 1990. Yet, still today universities across the U.S. report steady or increased enrollment into their law schools and medical schools, and not so surprising decreased enrollment into their schools of education (NTP 2013 Title II Reports) and counseling (BLS 2014 Occupational Employment). Care to guess why?
The dream of El Dorado has been the most commonly propogated and sought-after-dream sold to the masses by the Queens and Kings of the world. My 4-part blog-series Oversimplification 2012, as well as The Land of Opportunity? post, both address this modern El Dorado scheme in-depth. Fortunately, a new growing trend for more purpose in life beyond simply wealth and success is emerging. In my next post, El Dorado – Part II, I will explore further how and why the trend is growing, and warn against the biggest counterfeits of “a better El Dorado life.“
Have you discovered an empty “El Dorado” recently? How did you uncover the mythical town?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
Over half of America’s population does not sufficiently or safely understand their own government, their own laws, and most likely the campaign premises and rhetoric of political candidates running for offices that they will uphold, abide by, and then enact their civilian government and laws! Why not? Simple: growing inequality over four decades.
The average years of education in the United States is 12 years; a high school diploma. This average is barring various levels of sub-par or quality education. In 2011 only 30.44% of the U.S. adult population received a Bachelor’s Degree. Less than 8% of the American population attained a Master’s Degree or higher. These bleak figures are a result of one primary cause: the almost exorbitant cost of post-secondary education, again barring various levels of education quality. As we Americans approach another presidential and congressional election year, all the candidates, their campaign managers, and campaign-workers, all have Bachelor Degrees or higher. In other words, they make up a mere 8% or 30% of the American public, and speak to and campaign for votes to the other 92% or 70% of the population respectively.
This stark contrast of social imbalance is the quintessential definition of disparity; disparity of a subtle and complex kind.
On at least one occasion[Abraham]Lincoln gave some good advice to a young lawyer. “Billy,” he said, “don’t shoot too high – aim lower, and the common people will understand you. They are the ones you want to reach – at least, they are the ones you ought to reach. The educated and refined people will understand you anyway. If you aim too high, your idea will go over the heads of the masses and hit only those who need no hitting.”
Clearly Mr. Lincoln understood ordinary people. But more so, he not only understood, he related; he identified with ordinary ‘high school educated’ people, if you will.
Let’s Shoot Between the Eyes
There is one life-lesson that always holds true: actions speak louder (and truer) than eloquent words. What does that mean to you? What have you lived? What have you not only lived, but what have you lost, or almost lost? How miserably have you failed, and therefore learned a life-long lesson from? In other words, how well can you REALLY identify with the 92% of America? Did your expensive undergraduate and/or graduate education teach you how to live, even survive in poverty? Does your expensive degree indicate how perfectly you can relate to and lead 92% of the U.S. population? How and where have you spent the majority of your life, your job or career, and with your family both immediate and extended family? Does it represent anything close to the 70% — 92% of Americans?
Perhaps more importantly a question we should be asking our political candidates and leaders is this: “How well do you precisely understand the needs of some 50-100 various diverse ethnic, economic, social, educational, historical, and religious classes in America?” The purpose of this post/article is to show the dangerous trap of oversimplification to a high-school-educated population by the highly educated 8% of the population.
By the way, for the sake of disclosure I am from a lower-middle class family, raised in a lower-middle class neighborhood in south Dallas, Texas. I have a bachelor’s degree (Humanities) from a tiny private liberal arts college, and four semesters of graduate studies toward an incomplete master’s degree. I had a successful collegiate and semi-pro soccer career with a short stint in pro-soccer, all of which took me to five different continents around the world. I am what you might say in the middle of the road within this article; mixing with several different American and foreign socio-economic classes.
Reject the Politics of Polarization
Oversimplification is often radical extremism. Most intelligent people would agree that knee-jerk reactions are rarely productive, even destructive. The same applies in complex issues in a diverse complex nation such as the United States. This applies more so to increasingly globalized economies between nation-states.
The adage Knowledge is Power applies here. I would personally add to the adage, Knowledge = Power = More Wealth/More Resources/More Opportunities. Anyone who disagrees with my modified adage, kindly tell me. I would enjoy discussing it, or more accurately point out your folly (wink). For others, I am stating the obvious.
Anatole Kaletsky is an economic journalist and Chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking founded after the 2008 economic crisis. He is a graduate of King’s College at the University of Cambridge, U.K. in mathematics, and master’s degree graduate in economics from Harvard University. Kaletsky has much to say about inequality, polarization, and the upcoming fall elections in Europe and the United States:
…do these [political-economic] decisions really need to be so radical? Is it fashionable to proclaim that the future is a matter of black and white: bigger government or freer markets, national independence or a European super-state. But these extreme dichotomies do not make sense.
…New mechanisms of checks and balances between politics and economics are required. Economic problems ignore national borders; therefore, more complex mechanisms for international cooperation are needed in a globalized economy.
Kaletsky’s words ring true. The role of government in economic stability and social opportunity is paramount. Exactly HOW its role is defined cannot be oversimplified nor polarized. “The fashion for oversimplified radicalism” he states “has taken hold in both economic and political thinking – a tragic irony when global[and domestic]problems are clearly more complex than ever before.” It is simply unfair to America’s three-quarters majority to understand fully what the one-quarter minority is oversimplifying. The fact remains: for the last five decades America’s economic, social, and educational inequalities have widened and reached critical stages.
Another translation for polarization is discrimination. In other words, polarization divides as much as discrimination divides; the motive and end-result determines whether the discrimination is beneficial or harmful for the whole. Once again, whether the polarization is beneficial or detrimental to the whole cannot be determined by oversimplified descriptions or solutions. Therefore, let’s do our homework! Let’s study and analyze political philosophies beginning with the roots of our American political parties, and then conclude which philosophies and their corresponding political party’s best serve the greater good for the greatest number of Americans, or whether any of the parties serve it best.
America’s Political Parties
Since the late 1790’s the United States has had primarily a two-party political system: summarized (but not comprehensive), either liberal or conservative economic-social platforms. Throughout the past 5-political eras, these two parties formed innovative campaign techniques based on what was expressed by the current public opinion. As a result, there were often some blurring or crossover campaign techniques in between the liberal-left and conservative-right. These positions became various forms of “moderate” politics and have formed various third-party groups throughout the five political eras.
Briefly, our two-party then multi-party systems began with two members of George Washington’s cabinet: Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. This period is often called the First Party System. Washington was never in favor of a dividing party-system. He was of the opinion that as the cliché goes, “a house divided against itself, will not stand.” Perhaps Washington was not spot-on, but a dividedhouse certainly does not function as efficiently. Over two centuries later, we still have a dominate two-party system with at least 3-4 minor parties. For a more in-depth review, click Political Parties in the United States.
The Second Party System (1829-1854) saw a redefining of the two previous parties: the Democratic-Republicans (Andrew Jackson supporters) and National-Republicans (John Quincy Adams supporters). Their primary issue was over centralized governing, a strong national bank and single currency, as opposed to state independence and local governing, and hence less federal involvement.
During the Third Party System (1855 – c.1897) the issue of slavery, or the spread of slavery could no longer take backstage. From this political era came our two modern major parties. The Republicans (descendants of Adams supporters) still promoting policies of a strong central government, one army and navy, and unified foreign trade-tariff policies, versus Democrats (descendants of Jackson-Van Buren supporters); promoting antebellum, agricultural, state freedoms and allowing continued slave-trade. This is in name only, however, because obviously the policy platforms have morphed in every presidential and congressional campaign since 1897.
Our Fourth Party System (1896-1932) saw the most critical times of our nation’s history since the Civil War and Reconstruction. This era began in an economic depression, then World War I and followed by the stock-market crash and Great Depression. Within one generation of America, there were no less than 15 major issues vehemently debated! It is here that at least one trend emerges inside party policies: business interests for Republicans; domestic-social interests for Democrats. For a more in-depth analysis, click Fourth Party System.
The Fifth Party System(1933 – c.1964) emerged from the Great Depression – caused by unregulated business-trade practices – and into World War II. From 1933 to 1945 Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt united labor unions, immigrants, minority and low-income voters, Southerners, Catholics, Jews, urbanites, and intellectuals; unprecedented in U.S. political history. From Roosevelt’s New Deal Coalition the Democrats dominated U.S. government policies and public support until Richard Nixon in 1969.
From America’s five political eras, and perhaps more precisely since the 1970’s, at least one theme can be gleaned from our five transitions: Because the presidential office and the two branches of Congress have swapped back-and-forth over 40 years now, 70% – 92% of Americans want their politicians to stay toward the middle of the political spectrum, not to the radical extremes. According to Stanford, Harvard, and Berkley PhD and Masters students of political sciences, “American political life continues to be dominated by a broad ideological consensus; the electorate continues to hover near the center of the political spectrum, and the parties, in order to remain competitive, generally move toward the center in order to attract voters.”
2012 Party Platforms
Before listing the five major party’s political platforms taken up by their respective candidates, I want to first summarize their party’s basic tenets. These tenets can be viewed on Political Parties in the United States: Party Comparisons, but I will give a quick rundown here starting with the oldest party (Democrat) to the newest (Constitution):
Current 2012 Presidential Candidate Platforms
There is a wonderful organization in Santa Monica, CA that lists a side-by-side comparison of the five major political party’s candidates on all the nation’s major issues called ProCon.org. Please click on their link for a more extensive list. They also have a convenient Find Your Match quiz-questionnaire of the presidential candidates that best match-up to your personal views of the major issues. Below-right is my summary of the historically controversial issues over the last three decades:
The policy issues presented in the table are not all the hot topics the candidates and their parties have debated. I strongly urge that you go to ProCon.org’s website and take a long look over all the issues and become familiar with each candidate’s perspective. Remember too, this table represents the federal issues; as an American citizen you also have similar policy-issues on your state and local levels too. Find them, thoroughly review them, and vote! If you are not yet registered to vote in your county, you have until Oct. 9th to get registered. Make your voice count!
Given the growing disparity in American education and economic opportunity for the impoverished and middle-class, the highly educated, the resourceful orators have learned the gift of eloquent rhetoric – who can sell a luxurious palace in the Arctic Circle – and so have oversimplified or distorted the comprehensive solutions to America’s crisis. How can the lower-class and middle-class (the 70% – 92%) lift themselves and their families out of inequality if they do not have access to quality educational opportunities that will not push them further into debt or to the end of their parent’s income? How can the lower and middle-classes afford the “Get out of Poverty” ticket if states continue to cut back support for good high schools, grade schools, and kindergartens, and the critically important teachers and staff required to uphold quality standards on campuses? In other words, 70% or more of Americans cannot pay for private primary or secondary schools that usually send their graduates to good colleges. And guess where most of these primary and secondary schools are located? They are in the wealthy suburbs that the 70+% cannot afford to live. Hence, a gradual disparity follows.
A micro and macro-analysis sheds light on this phenomenon: In the past, in order for the lower and middle-class to have hope of progression, the poor lived near the job opportunities, near the wealthy in the wealthy suburbs that provide quality education. Consequently, public schools possessed a student body with several various social and economic families. That was the microcosm. Because the United States has been the beacon of liberty (as shown by Lady Liberty in New York City) and opportunity to the world, what do you think our levels of foreign immigration have reached the last three decades? Since 1965 the influx of foreign immigrants has risen every year by about 1 million according to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. It should be noted that these were the legally allowed immigrants. Many of these immigrants are entering the U.S. from under the same circumstances that I am describing domestically: inequality. This is the macrocosm. But inside America this has changed. Nobel Prize winner in economics, Joseph Stiglitz:
“As a recent study by Kendra Bischoff and Sean Reardon of Stanford University shows,[the socio-economic neighborhood] is changing: fewer poor are living in proximity to the rich, and fewer rich are living in proximity to the poor.”
What Stiglitz is pointing out is that what has happened past and present throughout the world’s unstable socio-economic regions is now happening inside America. This should come as no surprise when human nature is closely examined and placed in historical perspective. The wealthier get wealthier because they have more opportunities through more resources at their disposal. As their wealth increases, their perception of risk grows so they increase their “safety-nets” to protect against their perceived risk. What the 1% – 10% of America fails to recognize or accept (or in some cases deny and distort in related public policies) is that their phobia only becomes reality if socio-economic inequality rises and approach critical stages. As a result, their risk-prevention-phobia – or ignorance, or distortion – has the reverse affect. Stiglitz summarizes this vicious “phobic” cycle in a more realistic historical light:
“It’s certainly what one sees around the world: the more egalitarian societies work harder to preserve their social cohesion; in the more unequal societies, government policies and other institutions tend to foster the persistence of inequality. This pattern has been well documented.”
Throughout world history unequal societies, such as Rome, Victorian England, and Manifest Destiny America to name just three, record how inequality was justified. Today it is the same only with different titles, rhetoric, and derivatives. Today it is the explanation of, or in certain cases the distortion of, abstract market forces domestically and abroad. These modern explanations and distortions challenge even the most intelligent college graduate! Yet, gratefully Mr. Stiglitz rips away these fancy justifications and lays bare their true creations despite the concerted efforts of America’s 1 – 10%:
“The view I take is somewhat different. I begin with the observation made in chapters 1 and 2: other advanced industrial countries with similar technology and per capita income differ greatly from the United States in inequality of pretax income (before transfers), in inequality of after tax and transfer income, in inequality of wealth, and in economic mobility[rags-to-riches movement]. These countries also differ greatly from the United States in the trends in these four variables over time. If markets were the principal driving force, why do seemingly similar advanced industrial countries differ so much? [See my article:The Land of Opportunity?]
Our hypothesis is that market forces are real, but that they are shaped by political processes. Markets are shaped by laws, regulations, and institutions. Every law, every regulation, every institutional arrangement has distributive consequences – and the way we have been shaping America’s market economy works to the advantage of those at the top and to the disadvantage of the rest.
[But]there is another factor determining societal inequality… Government, as we have seen, shapes market forces. But so do societal norms and social institutions. Indeed, politics, to a large extent, reflects and amplifies societal norms. In many societies, those at the bottom consist disproportionately of groups that suffer, in one way or another, from discrimination. The extent of such discrimination[or polarization] is a matter of societal norms… These social norms and institutions, like markets, don’t exist in a vacuum: they too are shaped, in part, by the[resourceful] 1 percent.”
Despite that I have so far shown that growing inequality leads to growing volatility and social instability, which in severe cases leads eventually to civil revolt by the masses as seen in recent Middle-eastern countries, American government policies – influenced by America’s 1 – 10% individuals and their corporate institutional networks – still in 2012 continue to justify socio-economic inequality as a necessary ingredient to “free markets” and sound foundations of successful capitalism. On the contrary, I would like to show otherwise. For the sake of clarity, let’s follow this ideology through to its now 8-10 year result since 2008.
What Motivates Productive Citizenship?
Is inequality necessary to provide people with incentive?
I will continue this examination in the next article/blog: Productive Inequality. Check back often for its completion. The importance of truly understanding America’s political party’s (and their candidates) continued oversimplification to the 70-92% of Americans, that lead to social and economic ruin, cannot be overstated.