Monday, April 25, 2016

The rich are different

Excellent article in the Guardian today shows how a sense of social responsibility amongst the rich has gone.  We saw a sense of honor in which economic elites served in the military during the World Wars.  Now, the military is disproportionately people of lower income strata.  We got universities and libraries from the Rockefellers and the Carnegies.   Now, we get self-serving academic "institutes" from the Brothers Koch that are intended to reinforce their political views.
The military is only one example of how disconnected wealthy Americans are from their country. The extraordinarily low rate of charitable giving among the rich offers more evidence. Even though we live in a time of entrenched income inequality, poor Americans actually give a higher percentage of their income to charity than the rich do. .... 
The selfish worldview of America’s upper classes is underscored by their demand for ever greater financial rewards. In the last 50 years, CEO compensation rateshave soared. For example, in 1965 the typical CEO made about 20 times as much as average workers. By 2013, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio grew to nearly 300 to 1. 
Despite their soaring share of the nation’s wealth, the rich go to enormous lengths to avoid paying taxes. A recent study found that wealthy Americans have moved $36bn into offshore tax havens. 
The rich have also poured money into the campaigns of candidates who cut the government programs that most benefit middle-class and working-class Americans, such as public schools and healthcare. And the wealthy increasingly cluster in neighborhoods that isolate them from other social classes. 
History shows it does not have to be this way.
How do we re-connect the wealthy with the rest of us?  Well, if people are making that much money, they are living in a cocoon.  For example, I was walking along the waterfront a few weeks ago and totally awed by the Super-yachts, one with the helicopter on the back.  They were docked apart from the other pleasure boats, sea going vessels that looked lean and mean and fast, and anonymous, like the big black limos that snake around big cities.

Us vs them indeed.


Marshall Scott said...

I do indeed miss the days of noblesse oblige. It got expressed in ways that weren't necessarily healthy. I grew up in the segregated South (not to ignore that other parts of the country weren't equally segregated; but where I was it was explicit, and I didn't grow up in any of those other places), and I remember how often I heard, "We don't need outsiders telling us how to care for our [neighbors, employees, sharecroppers - the Latin term clientes would be broadest]. We take care of our own." Sadly, there were big disparities on how "our own" were taken care of, and big blocks to social mobility. On the other hand, there was a cultural expectation that each person, from economic top to bottom, was part of a larger society, and that "of those to whom much has been given, much is expected."

I still preach that there is one nation, one economy, one society within which we are all participants and all accountable; and I know most other clergy do as well (notwithstanding that I periodically ask, "How big is your tribe?"). But two generations of political preaching of individualism, of measuring our public "heroes" by how much their cash income and/or accumulated wealth is, has taken its toll.

IT said...

Well, i think my argument is really that to those to whom much is given, much should be expected.