Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Inequality

I don’t need a law to remind me of my inequality

I do not need the Jewish Nation-State Law to remind me that I am not equal to my Jewish friends. And yet, I was born here, I grew up here, this is my homeland. I have no intention of going anywhere.

(Enough of colonial transfer plans for us Palestinians: we have been ethnically cleansed since 1948 and transferred many times to different regions inside and outside Israel borders, which are Not yet delimited by their Constitution)

By Yasmeen Abu Fraiha. July 24, 2018

Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday of Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 12, 2013. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday of Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 12, 2013. (photo: Activestills.org)

Write it down, I am an “Arab” woman
Born to this land
I am Palestinian
My parents are Palestinians
And my ancestors are Palestinians

My mother and her family were expelled from their home in 1967, when she was only eight, so that the army could use it as a military outpost.

My grandmother was beaten by IDF soldiers when she returned one night to ask for blankets to protect and warm her 7 children, who were forced to sleep outside, in the cold.

My father grew up in dire poverty, with no access to water or electricity, while new, affluent Jewish towns were sprouting up around him on his ancestors’ land. This history is part of me, and no law will change that.

I do not need the Jewish Nation-State Law to remind me that I am not equal to my Jewish friends.

I am reminded of this on every drive to Ben Gurion Airport, during which I undergo rigorous security checks because of my last name.

I am reminded of it by every landlord who hears my father’s accent and suddenly decides that the apartment is no longer relevant.

I am reminded of it every time my brother tells me that he was asked to show his ID at the entrance to his university campus, even though his friends are never asked to do the same.

I am reminded every time I am asked “You’re Arab? Wow, you don’t look Arab! No worries, we are all human,” and every time I receive stares when I speak in Arabic (meaning Palestinian slang and Not classical Arabic).

I do not need the Jewish Nation-State Law to remind me that Arabic is No longer the official language of the State of Israel.

I am reminded every time I see poor translations published by government ministries and authorities. Every time I enter a bookstore and cannot find books in Arabic.

I am reminded of it every time I discover that yet another important medical document was not translated into Arabic, or when there are no Arabic subtitles on television.

Palestinian citizens take part in a general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, in the northern town of Sakhnin, on October 13, 2015. (photo: Omar Sameer)

Palestinian citizens take part in a general strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, in the northern town of Sakhnin, on October 13, 2015. (photo: Omar Sameer)

Racism and inequality is not a political issue, it is personal.

When my mother cannot be buried in the place she lived most of her life, it is personal.

When Israelis protest and threaten a Palestinian who bought a home in an all-Jewish city, forcing him to give up, it is personal.

When a poet is convicted in court for writing poetry about oppression and discrimination, it is personal.

When the authorities try to whitewash the killing of an educator who was shot dead during his own eviction, it is personal.

When wine is deemed sullied because it was touched by the wrong person, it is personal.

When one is told they are not good enough to be a parent, it is personal.

Racism means using the identity someone was born with against her. It means telling him that he is inferior because of how he was born. It is as personal as it gets.

The right to national self-determination is a personal and collective right.

I do not ask anyone for permission to choose my own identity, or which groups I choose to belong to. Write it down — I was born here, I grew up here, this is my country and my homeland. I have no intention of going anywhere, and my children, too, will be raised here.

I will speak whichever language I choose, and I will live wherever I want. If this gets me thrown in jail, so be it. I will not go quietly.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in the Knesset plenum ahead of the vote on the Jewish Nation-State Law, July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen in the Knesset plenum ahead of the vote on the Jewish Nation-State Law, July 18, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Jewish Nation-State Law, and all of the government’s recent activities these past few weeks, are worse for Jews than for Palestinians: The legitimacy it grants Israel’s discriminatory policies places Israel alongside other dark regimes.

No longer can it claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Israel has placed itself squarely on the axis of evil and has chosen the wrong side of history.

And yet, I have always been optimistic.

My parents, despite what they have gone through, always believed in a shared life. History proves that the good guys win out, and that the oppressed do not stay oppressed forever.

This is true of the apartheid regime in South Africa, of slavery in the United States, of the French Revolution, and even the Jewish people after the  WWII.

I am encouraged from the knowledge that lies and injustices are not sustainable for long. Perhaps this really is the time to go to the polls in droves, as our prime minister said. (Which PM? Netanyahu or Mahmoud Abbas?)

Maybe it is time to build an “alliance of the oppressed” with other groups that face discrimination. It is time to wake up and shake this evil sickness from the ground up.

So that those up on the top will know — beware of our hunger, beware of our rage.

Dr. Yasmeen Abu Fraiha is a doctor specializing in internal medicine and a social activist. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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An unrepentant capitalist: Wake up fellow plutocrats

Nick Hanauer is a rich guy, an unrepentant capitalist — and he has something to say

Growing inequality is about to push our societies into conditions resembling pre-revolutionary France. Why a dramatic increase in minimum wage could grow the middle class, deliver economic prosperity … and prevent a revolution.

Nick Hanauer. Venture capitalist, author. A voice in the raging debate on inequality — and his provocative argument is aimed at his fellow plutocrats. Full bio
Speech filmed on Feb. 2014

I am one of those .01 percenters that you hear about and read about, and I am by any reasonable definition a plutocrat.

And tonight, what I would like to do is speak directly to other plutocrats, to my people, because it feels like it’s time for us all to have a chat.

Like most plutocrats, I too am a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, cofounded or funded over 30 companies across a range of industries. I was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com.

I cofounded a company called aQuantive that we sold to Microsoft for 6.4 billion dollars. My friends and I, we own a bank.

1:03 I tell you this to show that my life is like most plutocrats. I have a broad perspective on capitalism and business, and I have been rewarded obscenely for that with a life that most of you all can’t even imagine: multiple homes, a yacht, my own plane, etc.

But let’s be honest: I am not the smartest person you’ve ever met. I am certainly not the hardest working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all. I can’t write a word of code.

Truly, my success is the consequence of spectacular luck, of birth, of circumstance and of timing.

But I am actually pretty good at a couple of things.

One, I have an unusually high tolerance for risk, and

Two,  I have a good sense, a good intuition about what will happen in the future, and I think that that intuition about the future is the essence of good entrepreneurship.

what do I see in our future today, you ask? I see pitchforks, as in angry mobs with pitchforks, because while people like us plutocrats are living beyond the dreams of avarice, the other 99 percent of our fellow citizens are falling farther and farther behind.

In 1980, the top one percent of Americans shared about eight percent of national [income], while the bottom 50 percent of Americans shared 18 percent.

Thirty years later, today, the top one percent shares over 20 percent of national [income], while the bottom 50 percent of Americans share 12 or 13.

If the trend continues, the top one percent will share over 30 percent of national [income] in another 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent of Americans will share just 6.

the problem isn’t that we have some inequality.

Some inequality is necessary for a high-functioning capitalist democracy.

The problem is that inequality is at historic highs today and it’s getting worse every day. And if wealth, power, and income continue to concentrate at the very tippy top, our society will change from a capitalist democracy to a neo-feudalist rentier society like 18th-century France.

That was France before the revolution and the mobs with the pitchforks.

I have a message for my fellow plutocrats and zillionaires and for anyone who lives in a gated bubble world: Wake up. Wake up. It cannot last.

Because if we do not do something to fix the glaring economic inequities in our society, the pitchforks will come for us, for no free and open society can long sustain this kind of rising economic inequality.

It has never happened. There are no examples. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state or an uprising. The pitchforks will come for us if we do not address this. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.

And it will be terrible when they come for everyone, but particularly for people like us plutocrats.

I must sound like some liberal do-gooder. I’m not. I’m not making a moral argument that economic inequality is wrong. What I am arguing is that rising economic inequality is stupid and ultimately self-defeating.

Rising inequality doesn’t just increase our risks from pitchforks, but it’s also terrible for business too.

the model for us rich guys should be Henry Ford. When Ford famously introduced the $5 day, which was twice the prevailing wage at the time, he didn’t just increase the productivity of his factories, he converted exploited autoworkers who were poor into a thriving middle class who could now afford to buy the products that they made.

Ford intuited what we now know is true, that an economy is best understood as an ecosystem and characterized by the same kinds of feedback loops you find in a natural ecosystem, a feedback loop between customers and businesses.

Raising wages increases demand, which increases hiring, which in turn increases wages and demand and profits, and that virtuous cycle of increasing prosperity is precisely what is missing from today’s economic recovery.

this is why we need to put behind us the trickle-down policies that so dominate both political parties and embrace something I call middle-out economics.

Middle-out economics rejects the neoclassical economic idea that economies are efficient, linear, mechanistic, that they tend towards equilibrium and fairness, and instead embraces the 21st-century idea that economies are complex, adaptive, ecosystemic, that they tend away from equilibrium and toward inequality, that they’re not efficient at all but are effective if well managed.

This 21st-century perspective allows you to clearly see that capitalism does not work by [efficiently] allocating existing resources. It works by [efficiently] creating new solutions to human problems.

The genius of capitalism is that it is an evolutionary solution-finding system. It rewards people for solving other people’s problems. The difference between a poor society and a rich society, obviously, is the degree to which that society has generated solutions in the form of products for its citizens.

The sum of the solutions that we have in our society really is our prosperity, and this explains why companies like Google and Amazon and Microsoft and Apple and the entrepreneurs who created those companies have contributed so much to our nation’s prosperity.

This 21st-century perspective also makes clear that what we think of as economic growth is best understood as the rate at which we solve problems.

But that rate is totally dependent upon how many problem solvers — diverse, able problem solvers — we have, and thus how many of our fellow citizens actively participate, both as entrepreneurs who can offer solutions, and as customers who consume them.

this maximizing participation thing doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t happen by itself. It requires effort and investment, which is why all highly prosperous capitalist democracies are characterized by massive investments in the middle class and the infrastructure that they depend on.

We plutocrats need to get this trickle-down economics thing behind us, this idea that the better we do, the better everyone else will do. It’s not true. How could it be? I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff, do I?

I actually bought two pairs of these pants, what my partner Mike calls my manager pants. I could have bought 2,000 pairs, but what would I do with them? (Laughter) How many haircuts can I get? How often can I go out to dinner?

No matter how wealthy a few plutocrats get, we can never drive a great national economy. Only a thriving middle class can do that.

There’s nothing to be done, my plutocrat friends might say. Henry Ford was in a different time. Maybe we can’t do some things.

June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage.” The good people at Forbes magazine, among my biggest admirers, called it “Nick Hanauer’s near-insane proposal.”

And yet, just 350 days after that article was published, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray signed into law an ordinance raising the minimum wage in Seattle to 15 dollars an hour, more than double what the prevailing federal $7.25 rate is.

How did this happen, reasonable people might ask. It happened because a group of us reminded the middle class that they are the source of growth and prosperity in capitalist economies.

We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers, and need more employees. We reminded them that when businesses pay workers a living wage, taxpayers are relieved of the burden of funding the poverty programs like food stamps and medical assistance and rent assistance that those workers need.

We reminded them that low-wage workers make terrible taxpayers, and that when you raise the minimum wage for all businesses, all businesses benefit yet all can compete.

the orthodox reaction, of course, is raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Right? Your politician’s always echoing that trickle-down idea by saying things like, “Well, if you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.”  Are you sure?

Because there’s some contravening evidence.

Since 1980, the wages of CEOs in our country have gone from about 30 times the median wage to 500 times. That’s raising the price of employment. And yet, to my knowledge, I have never seen a company outsource its CEO’s job, automate their job, export the job to China.

In fact, we appear to be employing more CEOs and senior managers than ever before. So too for technology workers and financial services workers, who earn multiples of the median wage and yet we employ more and more of them, so clearly you can raise the price of employment and get more of it.

I know that most people think that the $15 minimum wage is this insane, risky economic experiment. We disagree. We believe that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is actually the continuation of a logical economic policy.

It is allowing our city to kick your city’s ass. Because, you see, Washington state already has the highest minimum wage of any state in the nation. We pay all workers $9.32, which is almost 30 percent more than the federal minimum of 7.25, but crucially, 427 percent more than the federal tipped minimum of 2.13.

If trickle-down thinkers were right, then Washington state should have massive unemployment. Seattle should be sliding into the ocean. And yet, Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in the country. Washington state is generating small business jobs at a higher rate than any other major state in the nation.

The restaurant business in Seattle? Booming. Why? Because the fundamental law of capitalism is, when workers have more money, businesses have more customers and need more workers. When restaurants pay restaurant workers enough so that even they can afford to eat in restaurants, that’s not bad for the restaurant business. That’s good for it, despite what some restaurateurs may tell you.

Is it more complicated than I’m making out? Of course it is. There are a lot of dynamics at play. But can we please stop insisting that if low-wage workers earn a little bit more, unemployment will skyrocket and the economy will collapse? There is no evidence for it.

The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics is not the claim that if the rich get richer, everyone is better off. It is the claim made by those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage that if the poor get richer, that will be bad for the economy. This is nonsense.

So can we please dispense with this rhetoric that says that rich guys like me and my plutocrat friends made our country? We plutocrats know, even if we don’t like to admit it in public, that if we had been born somewhere else, not here in the United States, we might very well be just some dude standing barefoot by the side of a dirt road selling fruit.

It’s not that they don’t have good entrepreneurs in other places, even very, very poor places. It’s just that that’s all that those entrepreneurs’ customers can afford.

here’s an idea for a new kind of economics, a new kind of politics that I call new capitalism. Let’s acknowledge that capitalism beats the alternatives, but also that the more people we include, both as entrepreneurs and as customers, the better it works.

Let’s by all means shrink the size of government, but not by slashing the poverty programs, but by ensuring that workers are paid enough so that they actually don’t need those programs.

Let’s invest enough in the middle class to make our economy fairer and more inclusive, and by fairer, more truly competitive, and by more truly competitive, more able to generate the solutions to human problems that are the true drivers of growth and prosperity.

Capitalism is the greatest social technology ever invented for creating prosperity in human societies, if it is well managed, but capitalism, because of the fundamental multiplicative dynamics of complex systems, tends towards, inexorably, inequality, concentration and collapse.

The work of democracies is to maximize the inclusion of the many in order to create prosperity, not to enable the few to accumulate money. Government does create prosperity and growth, by creating the conditions that allow both entrepreneurs and their customers to thrive.

Balancing the power of capitalists like me and workers isn’t bad for capitalism. It’s essential to it. Programs like a reasonable minimum wage, affordable healthcare, paid sick leave, and the progressive taxation necessary to pay for the important infrastructure necessary for the middle class like education, R and D, these are indispensable tools shrewd capitalists should embrace to drive growth, because no one benefits from it like us.

Many economists would have you believe that their field is an objective science. I disagree, and I think that it is equally a tool that humans use to enforce and encode our social and moral preferences and prejudices about status and power, which is why plutocrats like me have always needed to find persuasive stories to tell everyone else about why our relative positions are morally righteous and good for everyone: like, we are indispensable, the job creators, and you are not; like, tax cuts for us create growth, but investments in you will balloon our debt and bankrupt our great country; that we matter; that you don’t.

For thousands of years, these stories were called divine right. Today, we have trickle-down economics. How obviously, transparently self-serving all of this is.

We plutocrats need to see that the United States of America made us, not the other way around; that a thriving middle class is the source of prosperity in capitalist economies, not a consequence of it. And we should never forget that even the best of us in the worst of circumstances are barefoot by the side of a dirt road selling fruit.

Fellow plutocrats, I think it may be time for us to recommit to our country, to commit to a new kind of capitalism which is both more inclusive and more effective, a capitalism that will ensure that America’s economy remains the most dynamic and prosperous in the world.

Let’s secure the future for ourselves, our children and their children. Or alternatively, we could do nothing, hide in our gated communities and private schools, enjoy our planes and yachts — they’re fun — and wait for the pitchforks.

 

How Technology Could Help Fight Income Inequality

Technologies didn’t reduce the working time of people and indeed increased the physical aches and pain and created and spread many kinds of mental troubles and anxiety.

Rising income inequality has set off fierce political and economic debates, but one important angle hasn’t been explored adequately. We need to ask whether market forces themselves might limit or reverse the trend.

(Market forces? They are behind mankind calamities for inequalities)

Technology has contributed to the rise in inequality, but there are also some significant ways in which technology could reduce it.

For example, while computers have improved our lives in many ways, they haven’t yet done much to make health care and education cheaper. Over the next few decades, however, that may well change: We can easily imagine medical diagnosis by online artificial intelligence, greater use of online competitive procurement for health care services, more transparency in pricing and thus more competition, and much cheaper online education for many students, to cite just a few possibilities.

In such a world, many wage gains would come from new and cheaper services, rather than from being able to cut a better deal with the boss at work.

It is a bit harder to see how information technology can lower housing costs, but perhaps the sharing economy can make it easier to live in much smaller spaces and rent needed items, rather than store them in a house or apartment. That would enable lower-income people to live closer to higher-paying urban jobs and at lower cost.

Another set of future gains, especially for lesser-skilled workers, may come as computers become easier to handle for people with rudimentary skill. Not everyone can work fruitfully with computers now.

There is a generation gap when it comes to manipulating electronic devices, and many relevant tasks require knowledge of programming or, more ambitiously, the entrepreneurial skill of creating a start-up. That, in a nutshell, is how our dynamic sector has concentrated its gains among a relatively small number of employees, thus leading to more income inequality.

This particular type of inequality may very well change. As the previous generation retires from the work force, many more people will have grown up with intimate knowledge of computers. And over time, it may become easier to work with computers just by talking to them. As computer-human interfaces become simpler and easier to manage, that may raise the relative return to less-skilled labor.

The future may also extend a growing category of employment, namely workers who team up with smart robots that require human assistance. Perhaps a smart robot will perform some of the current functions of a factory worker, while the human companion will do what the robot cannot, such as deal with a system breakdown or call a supervisor.

Such jobs would require versatility and flexible reasoning, a bit like some of the old manufacturing jobs, but not necessarily a lot of high-powered technical training, again because of the greater ease of the human-computer interface. That too could raise the returns to many relatively unskilled workers.

A more universal expertise with information technology also might reverse some of the income inequalities that stem from finance. For instance, the returns from high-frequency trading were higher a few years ago, in part because few firms used it; now many firms can trade at very high speeds.

It remains to be seen whether similar developments will lower hedge fund returns, but again it is possible to imagine a future in which many of the best investment and trading techniques are very widely copied and thus cease to be especially profitable.

A final set of forces to reverse growing inequality stem from the emerging economies, most of all China. Perhaps we are living in a temporary intermediate period when America and many other developed nations bear a lot of the costs of Chinese economic development without yet getting many of the potential benefits.

For instance, China and other emerging nations are already rich enough to bid up commodity prices and large enough to drive down the wages of a lot of American middle-class workers, especially in manufacturing. Yet while these emerging economies are keeping down the costs of manufactured goods for American consumers, they are not yet innovative enough to send us many fantastic new products, the way that the United States sends a stream of new products to British or French consumers, to their benefit.

That state of affairs will probably end. Over the next few decades, we can expect China, India and other emerging nations to supply more innovations to the global economy, including to the United States. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. It will lead to many good things.

Since the emerging economies are relatively poor, many of these innovations may benefit relatively low-income Americans.

India has already pioneered techniques for cheap, high-quality heart surgery and other medical procedures, and over time such techniques may achieve a foothold in the United States. Imagine a future China producing cheaper and safer cars, a cure for some kinds of cancer, and workable battery storage for solar energy. Ordinary Americans could be much better off, and without having to work for those gains.

To be clear, these are speculations and should not be taken as reasons to avoid improving our economy right now; furthermore, other trends may push in less positive directions. Still, these possibilities reframe the inequality problem.

In the popular model developed by the economist Thomas Piketty, inequality is fundamentally about capital versus labor. In his view, capital has opened up an ever-widening lead because of the relatively high rates of return on savings and investment. The natural response to reverse this trend, according to Mr. Piketty, would be a direct attack on the return to capital, such as through a global wealth tax.

In the scenarios outlined here, though, growing inequality is highly contingent on particular technologies and the global conditions of the moment. Movements toward greater inequality often set countervailing forces in motion, even if those forces take a long time to come to fruition.

From this perspective, rather than seeking to beat down capital, our attention should be directed to leaving open the future possibilities for innovation, change and dynamism. Even if income inequality continues to increase in the short run, as I believe is likely, there exists a plausible and more distant future in which we are mostly much better off and more equal.

The history of technology suggests that new opportunities for better living and higher wages are being created, just not as quickly as we might like.

“The heavy cost of Inequality” and Joseph E. Stiglitz

Can mankind still hope for a world less divided in cost of lifestyle?

Common themes of the cataclysmic events:

1. Economic and political systems have failed in bringing equitable rights and were fundamentally unjust to the disadvantaged classes of people

2. The feeling of injustice transformed into feeling of treason as the universal values of equitability in treatment are sacrificed for a tiny class of the wealthy and politically powerful “of the 1%, for the 1%, by the 1%

The 3 big ideas are not functioning:

1. The market is not functioning as it was supposed to, since it is neither stable nor effective

2. The political systems are not correcting the market failures

3. The political and financial systems are fundamentally unjust

There are huge stocks of unused resources such as plenty of available workforce, plenty of idle machines, and plenty of untapped financial resources

Inefficiencies in market economics  are the major cause of inequality in people’s economic and political status.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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