A “conservative solution to inequality,” or, what they really think

Last week's Newsweek magazine contained a truly amazing piece ("Rich America, Poor America," Niall Ferguson, 1/23/12).  Billed as a "conservative historian's solution" to the issue of growing inequality in our nation, this piece stands out not because of any true "solution" that is offered, but for the real peek at how the wealthy actually look at us and the world they live in.

The cause of inequality isn't seen by most of us as a great mystery  - most might point to the capitalist class structure of our nation and the ongoing class struggle.  There, according to Ferguson, is where you'd be wrong! He approvingly quotes the book "Coming Apart," by Charles Murray, declaring that the rising inequality has its source in the fact that the upper class has gotten rich because of the "financial returns on brainpower," and they "produce a disproportionate  number of the smartest children."

If that formulation just slapped you in the face with its open arrogance, Ferguson is just getting started.

Ferguson, in touting "Coming Apart," speaks of America as "two emblematic communities."  The first is "Belmont, where everyone has a degree" and the other "Fishtown, or Trashtown."  Give you just one guess where it is that you, I, and all our neighbors, friends and families live?  Righto! Trashtown, where according to Ferguson/Murray, "industriousness has plummeted." That is opposed to wonderful Belmont, his fictional ruling class community, where "industriousness has scarcely declined!" Not only this, but, of course, "crime is much worse in Fishtown," due, again of course, to the fact that "religiosity has declined much more steeply in Fishtown/Trashtown."

"Fishtown/Trashtown is a wretched dump", says Ferguson, "the kind of blighted place where gangs of feral teens hang around on the street corner trying to figure out what part of the local infrastructure they hadn't yet vandalized!"

According to Ferguson and Murray, in our American "Belmonts" these new "cognitive elites," (I suppose as oppose to the non-cognitive ones), live in "SuperZips" and are "markedly more liberal than the national average." Ferguson offers no more support for this absurd proposition than for any of his other equally ridiculous conclusions.

In Ferguson's  America, we "need to steer clear of Europe" and should "scrap the institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society," instead depending on the "traditional pillars of the American way of life: family, vocation, community and faith."

His "solution," of course, is none at all!  New Deal and Great Society are rich folks' code for Social Security and Medicare - the most successful national programs in our nation's history, which have pulled seniors out of poverty, never missed a payment and have provided much-needed health care to millions.  According to Ferguson, we should just take the leap and replace those pillars of  American retiree security and working class prosperity with "faith." Just try to buy groceries with that one!

This article is outrageous not due to any "solution" offered. There is nothing new here. It is truly amazing because of the outright open ruling class arrogance presented. Rarely, if ever, do we get a peek at the true life-view, the real and open arrogance, through which the wealthy view the world, the actual contempt in which the rest of us, those who do the work, are truly held by these wealthy parasites. For this, Ferguson is owed a real debt of gratitude for letting us look, if even just for a minute, behind the curtain of hypocrisy that normally covers their true feelings.

Ferguson closes by urging his guy, Mitt Romney, to read "Coming Apart" (before his campaign comes apart). I was going to say that Romney wrote that book, but the truth is he paid someone to write it, then fired them!

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  • Just wanted to answer the comment from 'Matt.'

    What I, everyone I worked with, everyone in my neighborhood, and everyone I know, is "Mad about" is that the system is fixed in favor of the obscenely wealthy & that they did NOT get their wealth from their "hard work, etc." Legislation and executive orders gave corporations, over the past three decades, the "right" to take worker's pensions, which we've worked our entire lives to earn, as well as the ability to violate labor laws with impunity. As well, accounting rules were changed allowing these wealthy thieves to steal billions that previously they'd been taxed on, had to report on investments, etc. As well, the minimal taxes on massive inheritence was eliminated.

    Clearly, given your comments, you are listening to GOP talking points. I've heard them, too. However, what we are angry about is NOT that we demand an "outcome," what we are furious about is that a very tiny group of extremely wealthy individuals have cheated outright, getting rules changed so that they can "legally" steal from those of us who work for a living, who retire with legal pensions, only to have them stolen. This, not anything at all about supposed "outcomes" is the source, not only for MY anger, but all the anger you will see outside your window, if you look. I'm quite sure that you, as well as I, are not billionaires. Please check how these thieves have changed the rules on us.

    The real "outcome" we are all concerned about is the fact that we are seeing the most massive redistribution of wealth, from working and poor Americans, to the super rich of our nation, in the history of the human race. Just 3 decades ago the ratio of income between worker & CEO was approximately 40/1. Today it has risen to a ridiculous 480/1, by far the widest in the industrialized world. (& it wasn't done "fairly)!

    Finally, I'd think, but I could be wrong, that the outrageous arrogance expressed in the article reviewed above would touch a nerve. It certainly did for me, and for most everyone I know. Possibly you, Matt, are not offended. If so, you're the only one I know!

    Posted by brucebostick@att.net, 02/03/2012 3:33pm (3 years ago)

  • @Matt: Reality check. Yes, *on average*, better behaviour leads to better outcomes. However, many people are held back by circumstances beyond their control. And even if you do all the "right" things, you still may not make it. The truth is that luck plays a major part in success.

    Posted by John Charles Wilson, 02/01/2012 4:16pm (3 years ago)

  • You're mad because Niall tells us the problem is behavior. Better behavior leads to a better outcome. Worse behavior leads to a worse outcome. You don't like that.

    Here is what you want to hear:

    1. All outcome can be no better or worse than any other.
    2. A better outcome means you cheated.
    3. A worse outcome means you are a victim.

    No wonder you arrive at opposite conclusions to Niall.

    Posted by Matt, 02/01/2012 5:46am (3 years ago)

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