Intersectional Issues

Reading The Same Page

Pie graph of wealth distribution in the US as of 2007

Distribution of Wealth in the United States, 2007

Last week when I introduced myself, I used the word poverty. In the future, I’m going to be using the word inequality. In fact, I’m going to be using quite a few terms that refer to wages, productivity, work hours, compensation, access, and fairness. To ensure that we’re all on the same page as to what it is I’m talking about, I’m going to use this post to define what I mean. Not definitions as such, but the frame of reference you’ll need to understand how I phrase my arguments. Especially because we all make a very common, and fundamental, mistake when discussing these problems.

This has nothing to do with you. Whether you are poor or rich, whether you are a person of color or white, whether you are disabled or able-bodied, it doesn’t matter. When we’re discussing these kinds of problems it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with any single individual because the problems we’re talking about are not the problems that individuals suffer. These are the problems that entire communities suffer, so that while you might nod along about how you have seen or felt these things, how you have personal experience with it, it still has nothing to do with you. This goes doubly for those of you who think you know better, who have experienced different things, who have friends who don’t suffer from these problems. This has nothing to do with you either, or your those minority friends you totally have. Everything I will be saying has to do with us, all of us, and not just you.

Whenever I refer to poverty I will be referring first and foremost to the reality of poverty in the US and other developed nations. Poverty is the bottom of the inequality spectrum, the homeless and hungry, and I use it to refer to anyone who cannot meet basic needs and participate in their national economy in a meaningful way. I am not talking about the mythical poverty that everyone imagines; the dust bowl, the starving children of Africa, the dilapidated villages of the Eastern Bloc. Poverty does not exist only in other countries.

Pyramid at Giza in Egypt

Pyramid at Giza, Egypt

Whenever we’re confronted with poverty, even in its most vindictive forms, we still see a problem. We do not see a problem, however, in inequality. Despite the overwhelming, and growing, evidence that inequality is the fertile soil in which all other social problems can grow. Inequality creates violence, starvation, medical calamities, and broken economies. Inequality, when I use it, is the relative distance between those on top and those on the bottom
. The strongest economies are those that are wide and rich at the bottom, full of options and reliability even for the poorest in the system – where inequality is low and the bottom is strong enough to support the top, like Egyptian pyramids.. The US, and most other developed nations, are much more like Nubian pyramids – desperately pointed, dramatic, and economically unstable. The more wealth that is concentrated at the top, the greater the distance between the foundation of an economy and its highest points, the more trouble the economy is in.

Pyramids in Nubia

Pyramids in Nubia

What makes economies work is spending. The more people who are buying, the more people will be selling, the more jobs there will be and, eventually, the more money there will be to spend. So the worst thing that can happen to an economy is for there to be no money to be spent. So, for us, the greatest problems are poverty and inequality. We need to be getting money into people’s hands so they can feed the economy and, by spending, feed and employ the rest of us.

Next time, I’ll explain what this has to do with disability and the economics of being a person with a disability.

Previous post

The Blind Technologist

Next post

Thanks! {and why am I here?}

Daniel Samuelson

Daniel Samuelson

A southern California white, pansexual, cisgendered dude who's an LGBT ally and a horrible parasite suckling from the public something or other.

Currently trying to become an author and and a business owner. He blogs fiction at http://thewritingengine.com and class and disability related nonfiction here.

3 Comments

  1. June 5, 2014 at 5:42 am —

    Do you have any current or historical examples of economies that you’d consider to be closer to the Giza pyramids? I’m curious about the baseline you’re using.

    • June 5, 2014 at 6:12 am —

      The best example in the modern day is Finland, which consistently ranks in the strongest world economies. Right beside it are the other Scandinavian states, Germany, and Switzerland, who all take active steps toward combating inequality and increasing worker participation.

      Historically, these economies have included post-war United States (with its much lower inequality, high marginal tax rate, and booming services industry) and Japan (with its national focus on strong incomes and reliable economic structures to promote traditional family life…or at least this was true until the early 1990s when deregulation by the LDP kind of ruined the Japanese economy).

      There are other examples in small ways all over the world of more equal systems creating stronger economies. Some of the best data in the US comes out of San Francisco’s city economy as they’ve raised the minimum wage for the city itself faster than most places in the US and have seen relatively strong business responses to it. We’ll see more of that, hopefully, in Washington now that their minimum wage is much higher than the national average and closer to what’s required to break into the lower middle class even with a “low paying” position.

      Generally, the more economic data you look at on inequality, the more it’s clear that raw income inequality drives many of the large scale economic problems any nation can face. The lower the income inequality, the stronger the middle class, the stronger the overall economy is. So far, this trend has held true in every capitalistic or pseudo-capitalistic system (like China), and only breaks down in Feudal or similar oligarchical/tyrannical systems (most forms of modern Communism being the prime examples, such as Stalin’s Communist state and North Korea’s Communist state).

  2. June 7, 2014 at 1:28 am —

    Ok, makes sense. I don’t know how much this stuff is seen in the US but you might be interested in keeping an eye on Australia where I live — basically we’re in the process of having many of the Gizan elements dismantled by a neocon ideology very close to the kind that’s prevalent in the US. Up to and including a recent rumour about the introduction of drug testing for welfare recipients. So unfortunately unless we as a country can get together and kick the current neocon government out we might be another sad confirmation of your analysis above…

Leave a reply