Inequality, Slavery, and Declining Quality of Life

I have never found it hard to believe that as inequality in wealth grows, the general quality of life for everyone, rich and poor inversely declines.  Today I was reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and read a comparison between North and South, during slavery.  This part of the book was about William Henry Seward,  who was in Lincoln’s cabinet.  I should mention that Seward had no ill feelings for the South before his trip, and was actually looking forward to traveling, only to cut his trip short:

At the time of their journey,  three decades of immigration,  commercial enterprise, and industrial production had invigorated Northern society,  creating thriving cities and towns.  The historian Kenneth Stampp well describes how the North of this period “teemed with bustling, restless men and women who believed passionately in ‘progress’ and equated it with growth and change;  the air was filled with excitement of intellectual ferment and with the schemes of entrepreneurs;  and the land was honeycombed with societies aiming at nothing less than the total reform of mankind. “

Yet, crossing into Virginia, the Sewards entered a world virtually unchanged since 1800.  “We no longer passed frequent farm-houses,  taverns, and shops,” Henry wrote as the family carriage wound its way through Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, “but our rough road conducted us…[past] low log-huts, the habitations of slaves.”  They rarely encountered other travelers, finding instead “a waste, broken tract of land, with here and there and old decaying habitation.”  Seward lamented:  “How deeply the curse of slavery is set upon this venerated and storied region of the old dominion.  Of all the countries I have seen France only whose energies have for forty years been expended in war and whose population has been more decimated by the sword is as much decayed as Virginia.”

I wanted to use this as an example as slavery is as unequal an economic system as one can have.  However, at this point in our history the inequality between rich and poor is growing.  Despite this, rich people,  as well as poor obviously, are very uneasy.  Our country is becoming less of a harmonious community. 

Meanwhile, being in Australia, which certainly has its own problems, one notices how at least in the city, where more people make a living wage and are taken care of by a larger social safety net than in the US, that the quality of life is quite high.  Despite walking for about five hours through various parts of the city yesterday, I saw not one homeless person. 

This is obviously a personal observation, but history and data seem to back it up.  The country does best overall economically when there is a thriving middle class that can purchase goods.  Why so many can’t seem to grasp this I don’t understand.  

Jobs Swallowed by Technology

I don’t mean to bum you out on such a day as Tuesday.  Tuesday is, in my mind, the worst day of the week. You at least get some Mondays off, there is Monday night football, etc.  Wednesday you are already at hump day.  Tuesday, even when I was drinking heavily, was a night I normally don’t go out.  My brother and I always joke about making a horror film called, “Night of a Thousand Tuesdays.”

Anyway, earlier this week, I downloaded an app turning my phone into a flashlight.  It works incredibly well, better than the last real flashlight I bought.  My current Kindle doesn’t have a light on it and I needed something to see my book when I go on tour.  But then I thought to myself, “What is going to happen to all the people that make flashlights?”  I have a guitar tuner on my phone as well.  What is going to happen to all the people that made and sold guitar tuners?  And I was thinking about how my phone does a thousand things that I used to need a thousand things to do.  On one hand, for someone that travels, this is great.  On the other, how many jobs is this technology putting out of business?  (How many people that worked for companies associated with books were put out of business by the Kindle and other reading tablets?)

I’m not claiming these are new thoughts.  These kind of thoughts have troubled people all along during our technological revolution.  What they make me think is that now, more than ever, we need a safety net for people whose work disappears as these tech giants kill jobs.  When the Republicans in power twist and twitch to dismantle every safety net they can, we need to think about how this is even worse than in the past.  We also need smarter consumers, that make decisions not only on what is based upon their needs, but the good of the community.  I’ll admit, I’m as lazy as anyone.  And to some degree the genie is out of the lamp.  But I think it is at least good to start thinking about these things.

This is just a hunch, but I feel like the places that stick together as communities are going to live lives worth living, and the places that let inequality be the law of the land are going to become more and more hellish.  Call me crazy.

Protecting Children and Bartertown

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Often when someone is outraged about some kind of cultural issue, whether it be some kind of art that someone finds offensive, or gay marriage, or whatever, they often fall back on protecting the children.  If things keep going the way they are, I wonder what these people are protecting kids for.

Are they protecting them to live in a country that is constantly at war?  Are they protecting them so that they can grow up and live on a planet thats environment has been seriously degraded?  Are they protecting them so they can grow up and work constantly and never get ahead?

It seems like the people that often talk about protecting children are not protecting them from the very things that they should be worried about.  I call bullshit.

Let’s just say hypothetically, and I don’t believe this at all, that gay people were going to corrupt children.  Would it even matter much if these kids grew up to be adults that were economically oppressed in an environment that was toxic?  It seems like some people’s priorities, even if you look at things from their standpoint, are a little backwards.  Don’t hang an obscene painting on the wall, but it is okay if at some point they have to look out the window at skies that resemble Beijing.

But hey, it is there kids.  If they want to allow their kids to grow up and live in Bartertown, then I guess that is on them.

The Immorality of Our Israeli Position

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-m-walt/aipac-americas-israel-policy_b_5607883.html

The above article is about the suffering going on in Gaza, about Israel’s morally bankrupt policy there, and about how AiPAC has used its influence in America to paralyze us and prevent us from doing anything.  We give Israel $3 Billion dollars in direct foreign aid every year and another $12-17 billion in indirect aid.  If you remember I also posted a link to a blog sometime back, from Andrew Sullivan, which talked about how 23 Palestinians die for every one Israeli.  There is outrageous injustice going on in that part of the world and we are helping to fund it.