The Wealth Gap is a Growing Topic of Interest

The mariner has reviewed a number of books published recently that openly attack the wealth gap in the United States. One book by Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, addresses not only the inequities of wealth but also the inequities of social justice in the legal system. In an interview with Jon Stewart, he gives the true example of the young man caught smoking marijuana who spent 41 days in Rikers Prison while the banks stole millions of dollars from “old ladies” selling fake mortgages and walked away without one fine or one prosecution.

Michael Lewis has a popular book called “Flash Boys” that uncovers a stock exchange game where every stock buy by an individual is interrupted, bought by another broker then sold to the original buyer at a higher price. The scheme was hard to uncover because it took advantage of computer speed and shorter distance to the exchange  computer. In other words, in the milliseconds immediately after a trade was launched in, for example, Des Moines, the intercepting computer beat the transaction to the exchange, bought the stock and sold it back to the slower network – all in milliseconds! This trade interruption happens tens of thousands times a day and yields millions of dollars to the intercepting brokers.

The most interesting source is a lecture by Professor Alexander Stoner (Salisbury University, Maryland) at the University of Kansas called, “Social Thought and Research.”  Stoner says “economic growth is the new secular religion, meaning it is a cultural norm that many are afraid to challenge.”

His position is that economic growth is flawed for three reasons: it measures the progress of our society in dollars, not quality of life; it has not eliminated high unemployment and poverty in the U.S. and it threatens the habitability of the earth and the lives of all its inhabitants.

The direction the United States must take is to lessen the pursuit of highest profit. Rather, the economic policy should be one that pursues what is best for the United States as a country peopled by citizens who stabilize the economy. Right now, the economy is weak and corporations and business in general, are not trying to stabilize the national economy. The only game in town is profit for profit’s sake. The national government is a co-conspirator.

The corporate lock on government prevents intelligent analysis of the economy from a national perspective. Many politically significant corporations are international and are not contained by a nation’s economic interests. Further, corporations create a shadow diplomacy with other nations regardless of that nation’s relationship with the United States.

In the last twenty years, trade agreements have undermined nation-to-nation agreements, turning the process into corporate license to avoid regulations, laws and taxes. Trade agreements are not based on national benefit.

Finally, because profit and profit alone is the motivation of business, large and small, the nation’s environment is deteriorating. Recently, deep minor earthquakes, which occur frequently, are linked to the failure of fracking, allowing wastewater and even natural gas to leech to areas that are damaging to citizens and even the deep rock layers.

Septic and chemical abuse, performed only for convenience and cost saving measures, destroys wildlife and fish dependent on good water. In many cases, some of the life is human beings. But landfills for new homes in sensitive areas, unregulated commercial dumping, and ignoring the laws related to easement around streams and rivers rapidly reduces the quality of the nation’s ecological health.

At the bottom, the pressure to increase profits leads the citizenry to purchase products manufactured in harmful ways. Products, food and their processes are not monitored closely to assure that manufacturing is ecologically neutral. Even farming is subject to the secular religion of larger and larger profit, costing many small farmers and many small towns to disappear. More and more farms are owned by corporations as part of a vertical organization that controls cost from hoof to plate. Environmental responsibility is not a goal.

In the recent past, citizens were sensitive to taxation, infrastructure and jobs. These concerns affected their vote. This attitude must change today. True, those issues are still important but they can no longer be resolved in and of themselves. What is causing greater impact is less easily defined but will in the medium run, damage the traditional concern of citizens.

Carbon emissions are very important right now, but the individual citizen, especially in a weak economy, will not vote for environmental security if there is even the remotest threat to a job. The same is true of politicians. Because of manipulations in election processes, the Congress is chock full of older politicians insensitive to the needs of national quality, environmental stability and national identity among nations. The United States is not a corporation, it is a Federalist Republic run by citizens. The US needs a new breed of politicians. Maybe it needs a new breed of voters.

Ancient Mariner