What the hell is wrong with us?

Jenny - posted on 01/06/2011 ( 136 moms have responded )

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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/opinio...



Equality, a True Soul Food

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Published: January 1, 2011



That insight, now confirmed by epidemiological studies, is worth bearing in mind at a time of such polarizing inequality that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans possess a greater collective net worth than the bottom 90 percent.



There’s growing evidence that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.



That’s the argument of an important book by two distinguished British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. They argue that gross inequality tears at the human psyche, creating anxiety, distrust and an array of mental and physical ailments — and they cite mountains of data to support their argument.



“If you fail to avoid high inequality, you will need more prisons and more police,” they assert. “You will have to deal with higher rates of mental illness, drug abuse and every other kind of problem.” They explore these issues in their book, “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.”



The heart of their argument is that humans are social animals and that in highly unequal societies those at the bottom suffer from a range of pathologies. For example, a long-term study of British civil servants found that messengers, doormen and others with low status were much more likely to die of heart disease, suicide and some cancers and had substantially worse overall health.



There’s similar evidence from other primates. For example, macaque monkeys are also highly social animals, and scientists put them in cages and taught them how to push a lever so that they could get cocaine. Those at the bottom of the monkey hierarchy took much more cocaine than high-status monkeys.



Other experiments found that low-status monkeys suffered physical problems, including atherosclerosis in their arteries and an increase in abdominal fat. And as with monkeys, so with humans. Researchers have found that when people become unemployed or suffer economic setbacks, they gain weight. One 12-year study of American men found that when their income slipped, they gained an average of 5.5 pounds.



The correlation is strong around the world between countries with greater inequality and greater drug use. Paradoxically, countries with more relaxed narcotics laws, like the Netherlands, have relatively low domestic drug use — perhaps because they are more egalitarian.



Professors Wilkinson and Pickett crunch the numbers and show that the same relationship holds true for a range of social problems. Among rich countries, those that are more unequal appear to have more mental illness, infant mortality, obesity, high school dropouts, teenage births, homicides, and so on.



They find the same thing is true among the 50 American states. More unequal states, like Mississippi and Louisiana, do poorly by these social measures. More equal states, like New Hampshire and Minnesota, do far better.



So why is inequality so harmful? “The Spirit Level” suggests that inequality undermines social trust and community life, corroding societies as a whole. It also suggests that humans, as social beings, become stressed when they find themselves at the bottom of a hierarchy.



That stress leads to biological changes, such as the release of the hormone cortisol, and to the accumulation of abdominal fat (perhaps an evolutionary adaptation in preparation for starvation ahead?). The result is physical ailments like heart disease, and social ailments like violent crime, mutual distrust, self-destructive behaviors and persistent poverty. Another result is the establishment of alternative systems in which one can win respect and acquire self-esteem, such as gangs.



Granted, humans are not all equal in ability: There will always be some who are more wealthy — and others who constitute the bottom. But inequality does not have to be as harsh, oppressive and polarized as it is in America today. Germany and Japan have attained modern, efficient economies with far less inequality than we have — and far fewer social problems. Likewise, the gap between rich and poor fell during the Clinton administration, according to data cited in “The Spirit Level,” even though that was a period of economic vigor.



“Inequality is divisive, and even small differences seem to make an important difference,” Professors Wilkinson and Pickett note. They suggest that it is not just the poor who benefit from the social cohesion that comes with equality, but the entire society.



So as we debate national policy in 2011 — from the estate tax to unemployment insurance to early childhood education — let’s push to reduce the stunning levels of inequality in America today. These inequities seem profoundly unhealthy, for us and for our nation’s soul.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Rosie - posted on 01/06/2011

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kelly- a few of my answers would be to spend more money fighting poverty than fighting drugs.

universal healthcare is another huge thing i think would help. people who are healthy can work, people who can't afford to take care of themselves get sick and can't work.

i also think there needs to be a different way to handle drugs. in countries where there are less strict drugs laws, there is less drug abuse- which in this country is a HUGE factor in poverty, it seems they go hand in hand most of the time.

those are just a few. telling people sorry, suck it up and pull yourself up by your bootstraps doesn't work when the resources aren't there for everyone.

Jo - posted on 01/06/2011

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If you're lazy as shit and born with rich parents, you're still going to be rich. If you're lazy as shit and born into poverty, you're chances of getting out of poverty is slim. To say that people who live in poverty are lazy and to imply that they choose to live that way because they don't want to get off their ass is ignorant at best.

It's a blanket statement that really only indicates that you're just as uneducated as the people you're dismissing as not wanting to educate themselves.

Johnny - posted on 01/07/2011

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I think that there is a general misunderstanding here of the source of great wealth. It actually does not come from "hard work" in this day and age. I am speaking from experience. I come from a privileged background on my mother's side, while certainly not uber-rich by any means, they are extremely well off. None of them work. Not one has a real job. It's called investing and it means that those who come from money can make more money without actually working. My mother has 5 siblings who all live in large lovely homes, drive luxury vehicles and vacation frequently in Europe and Asia. My eldest uncle is an artist, the last time he worked at an actual job was in 1984 as a part-time catalogue photographer because my grandfather did expect his children to work. After his passing, no one did. My mother and her sisters are both stay-at-home moms. Her middle brother is an investment counselor which means which really means he just manages the family money and watches the markets in the morning. He hasn't worked since they dissolved my grandfather's company in 1986. My youngest uncle is a part-time yoga teacher who travels extensively in India and the US every year. He's never been employed, although for about 4 years we ran a yoga studio together. I did the work, and he occasionally taught, although we did have to hire other teachers. I grew up around many far wealthier families and went to school with their kids. The aura of "hard working" is a front and often a lie. Great wealth does not often come from hard work and perseverance, it generally comes from either good luck, being in the right place at the right time, or having been able to successfully grow an inheritance.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that people should lie around doing nothing and expect the government to pay them for it. I'm just trying to burst this silly bubble about the idea that wealth comes from labor. It does not and there is also little statistical evidence, besides my silly family story, that it does.

I think we should all be working hard and working together. It really bothers me that our current capitalist system gives the greatest rewards to those who produce the least and work less. And conversely, quite often, those who work the hardest, dirtiest jobs do so for a pittance. That is what inequality is really about.

Johnny - posted on 01/06/2011

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Are you for real Kelly?

Just so you know, when I'm talking an $800 apartment I'm talking of a place with one room, a kitchen with just a bar fridge and hotplate, and a bathroom.

But I suppose everyone needs to suffer like you to deserve a nice life? Spare me. I can just imagine all the frozen corpses we'd be chipping out of cars in Prince George every winter. LOL.

And as Jo said, I'm not sure how that's an option when you have kids? The Children's ministry here would most likely apprehend them until you find reasonable accommodation. That is the policy.

Isobel - posted on 01/06/2011

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Being raised in a home with nobody to help you do your homework will certainly affect whether or not you qualify to go to University, so does having to get a minimum wage job at 15 to help put food on the table.



Yes you can get student loans to help pay for it IF you qualify...but it's almost impossible to qualify if you come from a low income household.



My changes would be to revamp the school system (I'm liking the new charter schools that are working...the whole public system should work like that)



I would also create a mentoring program for low income children so they can learn HOW to succeed and what programs there are to help them (and therefore stop them from feeling hopeless...as you do when the only people around you with money are thugs).



Affordable daycare for all, affordable health care for all.

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[deleted account]

You're right Jenn, you didn't say that all people on welfare are the same. I apologise. I guess I inferred it from the fairly general language you used in your post. Mea culpa.
And yes, indeed you referred to the many available resources, and statistics. I must admit though, that I really don't think statistics would be relevant here - raw data cannot convey people's reasoning and emotions and backgrounds.

However, I think we're talking about the wrong thing here. I guess one of the aspects of our community (and yes, I'm going to generalise here!) is that we're not very kind to one another. We don't respect our fellow human beings. I have seen people treated with contempt because they look different or act differently to the "norm." I know people who are in too much of a rush to even say "good morning" to someone! As for stopping and chatting to an elderly person on a bus or in the street, that doesn't happen much! Why not? Have we lost our joy at being a part of a community, where everyone has something to offer and everyone is worthy of our attention?

We seem to be becoming less of a society and more of an economy .I have seen people looked down upon because they could not afford something. I have seen people embarassed to ask for help. I know people who are ashamed of being poor because they feel judged by society. Newpapers run stories telling us how much this or that will cost the taxpayer - not the benefits, just how much it will cost.
Just fundamental changes in our collective attitude would be a great start!

Jenn - posted on 01/09/2011

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@Dana - yes, as Laura had said in her previous post - she had kids and received lots of assistance from OSAP (and I think there's a bursary to pay for child care also), so you wouldn't need to work as well. No I did not have kids when I went to college - that was 15 years ago.

I see what you're saying about the "American Dream" being a myth - but perhaps people need to stop dreaming of such unrealistic goals and be happier with less. Stop trying to "keep up with the Jonses". KWIM?

[deleted account]

The American dream is NOT a lie. The American dream is not to be super rich, it is to be self sufficient--to have a house and enough money to support a family. I'm sorry, but ANYONE willing to take the steps they need to to achieve that much, can. No, they may never be multimillionaires, but I know quite a few people born into poverty who can say they own their home and have at least 1 million dollars in the bank long before they retire.
Why do people think they need to be super rich? You remind me of the women who said my ring was too small.

And about the kids, no one forces people to have kids before they finish their education. If you do that, that is your choice (general you) to do, and that is fine, but don't say you are "confined" to poverty because you cannot complete school while providing for your children because the children were your choice.

Isobel - posted on 01/09/2011

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ahhh...it doesn't matter anyways, OSAP takes care of parents quite well :) I haven't needed to work (although paying it off is going to be interesting)

[deleted account]

I'm not saying it's not possible, but unless you have help it's pretty damn hard to manage all 3 successfully.

[deleted account]

Sorry, my question was in response to what Jenn said....

"So what's wrong with having to work while attending school? I did because I had a mortgage to pay - full time school and full time work."

.....and I asked, "AND children"? I am just curious if she had children at the time when she was working full time and going to school full time.

Isobel - posted on 01/09/2011

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nothing's wrong with working IF you are capable of doing both. Our point is that the American dream is a lie.

People born into poverty CANNOT EVER become rich (unless they are an athlete or actor), and it is almost impossible for a person born into wealth to lose it.

We aren't saying that people on welfare should get more money...we are saying that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way our society works so that the majority of people are not working their asses off for minimum was while a tiny percentage of the population does nothing and needs to do nothing in order to maintain the fact that they are blessed with good fortune and just hoard all the money for themselves.

Jenn - posted on 01/09/2011

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OK - thanks for clarifying. :)

So what's wrong with having to work while attending school? I did because I had a mortgage to pay - full time school and full time work.

Isobel - posted on 01/09/2011

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As a student over the last few years I have talked with some of my classmate and was told that OSAP gave $8000 per school year to a non-parental student...you can't live off that AND pay tuition ($3500 at a small college).

I am a mother of two so my OSAP was amazing...but it's only good for parents. Young students MUST work in order to stay a student unless their parents help them.

and no...my "you" was a general you, since the majority tends to be American.

Jenn - posted on 01/09/2011

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@Carol - you said "Imagine a single mom trying to do that while also paying for childcare while she works all those hours. My daycare charges $800 a month for one kid and $600 for kids on subsidy. That would leave a single mom with $200/month to feed, clothe and provide for any of her children's other needs."

Well, she would also be receiving HST cheques, and Canada Child Tax Benefit, Nation Child Benefit, Universal Child Care Benefit, plus whatever other benefits are offered from BC - so that would give her an extra $400 for one child or let's say she has 3 kids it would be an extra $1150 a month. Her HST would equal $115 every 3 months if she had 1 child or $230 if she had 3 kids. I'm not sure what other money/rebates there are in BC - but this would be the minimum that she would also receive.

As for obtaining money for college - I know in Ontario we have OSAP - so if you came from a poor family, you would get more money (it is a loan from the government). Here's a thought too - in Canada if you have Native status, you can receive a completely FREE college or university education - yet so many do not take advantage - why? Life choices people.

I'm still sort of missing what you all would like to see different. I guess it doesn't help that I live in Ontario where we seem to have MUCH more available as far as resources go - for example if you are low income and working there are more supplements you would get from the gov't, plus you would qualify for subsidized daycare (if your income is low enough you pay nothing).

Jenn - posted on 01/09/2011

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@Laura Golightly - not sure if you were speaking to me or not, but it's not my country as I'm not American.

@Kathy Sutherland - I didn't think I generalized and said that all people on welfare were like that, did I? And if you had read what I posted, I talked about all of the resources that are there to help, plus I'm sure there are lots more. How do I know that people choose to not use them? Well, I know people who work at the Ontario Works office and they can tell you the stats of what resources get utilized and what ones generally do not. I can also tell when I see the same people/families in our small community who still do nothing to better themselves.

Anyway, I guess I'm totally missing the point of this post. Maybe I need to go back and reread it all (I admit I didn't read all of the pages), then I'll come back to comment further.

Johnny - posted on 01/08/2011

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It sounds like you're working hard to make that happen!

Sorry that I misunderstood, it was just the way it was worded. I'd love it if we had a $15 minimum wage here too, that would about double things. I would just be happy if our housing prices went down 10%, although I'm sure any local homeowners would strongly disagree with me on that, lol. Of course, I see that Mississippi doesn't even have a minimum wage law, so at least we've got that. I find that to be terribly sad.

Lacye - posted on 01/08/2011

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Carol I live in Mississippi, one of the lowest paying states in the United states. When I said I wanted to move to Australia, I was talking about when some one said the minimum wage there was $15 an hour. I should have been more clear about that. sorry. The houses are so cheaper where I live is because the jobs here pay a lot less than other states. The one bedroom apartment that my hubby to be and I live in, it's $350 a month. A 2 bedroom is $400. I would love to live in a nicer bigger house. We just can't afford it. :( But hopefully, with a lot of work on his and my parts, we will get to where we can live in a better home and maybe one day buy our own house. :)

Johnny - posted on 01/08/2011

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Lacye, that posting about the apartments was me. It's not in Australia, it is the westcoast of Canada (a few hours southwest of Jenny). It was not for a one BEDroom apartment. It's a one ROOM apartment. What we call a studio or bachelor suite. In the worst part of my city, single room occupancy suites in decrepit old hotels with the bathroom down the hall go for about $500 a month.

It's not an appealing situation or something you would want to move to experience. We don't make higher wages here, in fact our basic wage is the lowest in the nation and lower than our southern neighbor state. Average people here aren't rich, they are really struggling. The reason for the outlandish prices is that it is considered a desirable place to live for people around the world and across the country. So those with the money to buy either move here, or purchase investment properties. Leaving average working families paying in some cases up to 70% of their gross income on housing. If my partner's job was transferable we would most likely move somewhere we could afford to buy that 4 bedroom house you speak of. It's certainly not in the cards for us here, even though we both have graduate university degrees.

Jenny - posted on 01/08/2011

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Layce, my entry level house is worth 350K in my market. That's for 2 bedrooms and 920 sq. ft (sweet area though). It is very difficult for an average family to have financial stability with the current cost of living.

Lacye - posted on 01/08/2011

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Nope, I will go out and find one. I will probably (well more than likely) have to move from the town I live in to a bigger one but that is ok. It's something I want and something I am striving for. I don't want to be on food stamps forever. I want my little girl to have all the best things that I can't really give her right now. But I will do it.

Lacye - posted on 01/08/2011

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I'm coming in here late with this but first I want to say that I just realized how poor the state I live in really is by listening to you ladies talk about where you live. I saw some one talk about an $800 apartment that was only 1 bedroom. Here $800 would get you a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom house for rent! a very nice house at that! And all of a sudden I want to move and be an Aussie! LOL

But I do think that if a person has the drive, they can improve themselves. Right now I'm going to college to get a degree in accounting, no help from parents, I have a small child that I do take care of, we are right now on food stamps and live in a 1 bedroom apartment for the moment until we can find something better. I do get a pell grant and after this semester I'm going to try to get a scholarship through the community college I go to. It's hard as hell, but it can be done.

[deleted account]

The inequality is sad. I'm not sure what the solution is though. There are very few opportunities left in America these days and I'm pretty sure the rest of the western world is the same. It's all well and good creating scholarships for people, but there are not many jobs for them at the end of their schooling. I also don't think that increasing welfare is going to help because it has already created a dependancy culture where people are trapped in deprived areas. Promoting equality in the workplace has helped to a certain extent, but most employers opt to employ a token number of women and minorities rather than being genuinely equal.

I hate to leave such a depressing post, but I'm not sure what the answer is. Employers should not discriminate, but they do. Even if they didn't, there are still more people than there are jobs these days.

Trish - posted on 01/08/2011

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Colored people are more likely to experience inequality than Caucasians. More so if you're a colored female. This is a white man's world and we're just living in it. If you look at Australia and the Aborigines, the plight these people have been through. You see some have lost their cultural identity and the pride that comes with it. When you don't know who you are, where you come from...you don't know where you're headed. Aborigines have the worst rates of abuse, unemployment, health...all those things stated above. It's easy for a person to say "lazy". Everyone has a story. Some people know nothing else and have never experienced anything different...so how are they to know, what's out there, when that's your life. It's a bleak existence. How can you strive for something better when you've never seen it.



A person must have a hell of a fighting spirit to get out of that life. Yeah the government can give you money...but it's not enough. It's just enough to survive but not live. I do believe education and knowledge is extremely vital and it's sad that people don't find education important...that existing is more important. Inequality will always exist. One can better their life, but somewhere else in the world another life is being born into poverty. This is life and life is unfair.

[deleted account]

Jenn, it's not a matter of people refusing to use resources, it's a matter of some people being UNABLE to use resources, as I pointed out in my earlier post. Yes, there are definitely those who would rather be on welfare than try to better themselves, but it's silly to generalize that all people are like this.
There are also wealthy businesspeople who receive huge salaries and do precious little, but I wouldn't generalize from that.
What are the resources out there that you keep talking about? And how do you know that people choose not to use them?

Isobel - posted on 01/08/2011

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This is not a thread about welfare...this is about the fact that 1% of your country is hoarding 90% of the resources...

I like Jenny's idea...making 10 times what the lowest worker makes sounds fair to me.

Katherine - posted on 01/08/2011

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I disagree if you do more to educate yourself and get college degrees then you can get a better job. Sit on your ass because you are lazy and live off the gov't then you get what you deserve. Sorry but in America you can always better yourself if you so choose don't and of course you are going to live in poverty. Sorry I really don't have sympathy for those who choose to be poor and do nothing about it.


What a crap thing to say. People ARE poor right now. Jobs ARE down, especially in MI. It is getting a little better, but it's not about being lazy.

Rosie - posted on 01/08/2011

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sherri i want to clarify because i think you may have misunderstood my point. i wasn't saying you weren't doing anything and being a leech, and sucking up all of our hard earned tax payer money. that's not what i'm saying at all. i know you work, i know your hubby got laid off. my intention wasn't to say you suck, and i'm sorry if it came off that way. my point was that there are MANY people out there in the world that think people like you and me are leeches, living off of handouts. everytime i go to a conservative board, or see a conservative write their opinion on an article in the newpaper all i see is that we're ALL leeches, sitting around waiting for more handouts. each person has their own story, each family has their own situations, and people simply cannot lump every single person who is on assistance of somekind into one catagory and say GET OFF of it already, you no good lousy leech!!!!!! nobody knows anybody's situation at all, and it seems hypocritical to me that someone who should KNOW that every family has their own story doesn't support others.

did that make more sense?? :)

Jenn - posted on 01/08/2011

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Why? There are so many resources out there for people yet they choose to not use them. There ARE job placements available. Then you get the attitude of "I'm too good to take that job at McDonald's" Oh I see, it's better to not work at all and be on welfare. Pfft. Sounds like my ex.

Jenn - posted on 01/08/2011

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I guess I feel like some people choose to stay where they are. Sure there are those, who for whatever reason, can't seem to get a break in life. But I know far too many people who choose to not work. Who choose to be a lifer on welfare. When opportunity knocks on their door, they don't answer. Ontario Works (welfare) offers payment of educational courses, job placements, job training, job search assistance, resume assistance, life coaching, financial assistance to attain work clothing, etc. With all of this (and I'm sure there's more available), to say that people can't get out of poverty, simply isn't true. It's usually their choice to stay that way. Sadly many times it has to do with the family history - Mom was on welfare, Grandma was on welfare, and now sadly little Johnny is on welfare. But if little Johnny were to decide he actually wanted to be a contributing member of society, he could quite easily.

Johnny - posted on 01/07/2011

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Jenn, it isn't about making every single person equal. That would be completely and totally impossible and society could not function as such. It is about lowering the HUGE disparity in society. Western society has is struggling under a level of inequality not seen since the dark ages.

Jenny - posted on 01/07/2011

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"I am not actually a big proponent of raising the minimum wage in general. "



Me neither. It doesn't matter what minimum wage is, the higher labour costs will be written right back in the the profit levels. It will not affect this issue one bit. That's not to say I don't support a minmum standard of living, this is just not the way to acheive it.



I'd rather see some sort of labour law stating the highest paid work can not make more than 10X (for example) what the lowest earner in the company earns or something to that effect. So there would still be no limit to how much the CEO can make but they will be taking all of the people in the production lines and cafeteria with them.

Jenny - posted on 01/07/2011

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"Welfare issues have but a tiny impact on equality issues. Its sort of like arguing about who is more equal, the person with one penny or the person with two pennies when there is someone with a thousand dollar bill. "



Hell yes. I'd rather welfare not be a part of this discussion at all because it's not really relevant to the topic. Let's focus on the higher scale here and the hoarding of resources.

Jenny - posted on 01/07/2011

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Jenn, you are confusing equality with differences. We can all contribute to society in our own ways from the doctor to the garbage man. It doesn't make one person better than another. We all have our place. Just beside each other, not above.



Or what about ugly people? Ugly people do not get the same breaks in life as people who are easier to look at. Sure some make it to success but attractive people have a MUCH easier time at it.

Jenny - posted on 01/07/2011

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Sherri, do you think how we live now is it? Do you think we can do better? I try to look at things from the largest perspective possible. We have had civilized society for a tiny fraction of how long the Earth has been around. We're a bunch of selfish, hairless apes who learned how to talk and build weapons. And that brings us to the present time.



Is this it? Where do we go from here? Do we spend the rest of eternity bickering over trading paper for goods and services? Or do we evolve into a more symbiotic people with our environment? Can we finally work together, reduce senseless consumption for cash and just feed, house and educate the damn people already. Please?

[deleted account]

Jenn, in my opinion, the issue is not so much equality per se, it's equality of opportunity. That's what's NOT happening in today's society. I can only speak from an Australian perspective, as I'm not familiar with the US situation. There are plenty of people here who are third-generation unemployed - that's a whole sub-stratum of society.

Simplistic comments (and I'm not suggesting you've said this) like "if you work hard enough you can get out of poverty" are cop outs -

Maybe you can get an education - but there's no guarantee you're going to get a job out of it.

Maybe you can get a job, but there's no guarantee you're going to be able to keep it, with workers having very little power compared to the employers.

So many variables that mean that equality of opportunity is definitely lacking, for example:

- a heritage of poverty, low education standards and a poor attitude. (attitudes can be passed on through generations)

- drug & alcohol issues in the family.

-problems with educational systems

- and on and on and on...



another question - why the hell should it be so hard to pull oneself from poverty? In a democratic society, with equal opportunity for all, it shouldn't be a struggle to get a decent opportunity to better oneself. If health and sociel services were up to a standard they should be, many of the social problems could be eased, and we could truly have a fair go for everybody. (Aussie speak there!)

Jenn - posted on 01/07/2011

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I don't want to live in a world where we are all equal. Our inequalities are what make us work. If everyone was a super-genius brain surgeon, who would pick up the garbage? Who would sweep the grounds at Disney World? Who would install new sewers? Who would serve you your McDonald's? The world works best with a mix of differing levels of intellect and financial status'.

Sherri - posted on 01/07/2011

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Kati I don't know what Title 19 is??? My kids have state medical insurance is that what you are calling Title 19?? We don't call it that here so I have never heard of it referred to it as that. The state calls it Healthy Kids??

Okay I am saying IF you are working and doing all you can I have no gripes with you. If you sit on your ass and live off the gov't and do nothing ever to better yourself or even try to hold a job then damn straight I have issues with you.

I have a college degree I have already put myself through college Kati. My husband and I both work full time. I had left my better paying job 11yrs ago to stay home and raise our children. However, have every intention once all my children are in school to go back to what my degree is in. My husband is going for more endorsements for his CDL to open more doors to him. So we are bettering ourselves and our situation we are not sitting here saying woe is me. Our situation is very temporary because we are educated and more doors will be open to us in the future.

All I am saying is more times than not I find more people willing to make excuses and be woe is me, rather then get out there and hit the pavement find something better and/or try and get an education so you can do better for yourself and your family.

Johnny - posted on 01/07/2011

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I am not actually a big proponent of raising the minimum wage in general. Although in the specific instance of the province I live in, I believe it should be raised to be at least at the same level as other provinces and even with Washington State to the south of us. Given that the prices of products are generally fairly similar across Canada, with the exception of housing and gasoline which are higher here, our minimum wage workers, and so on up the line, have significantly lower buying power than elsewhere across the country. Our poverty rate is higher and our child poverty rate has been the highest in the country by quite some margin for the last 10 years. Raising the minimum wage to bring us up to average would effect everyone's wages, and would mean that I might have the chance to make the same wage as someone else doing the same job elsewhere in the country. Especially important when we are both paying the same price to buy our vegetables and I am paying in some cases up to 40% more for housing.

Our local economy has come to rely on off-shore and black market/illegal activity wealth to keep it functioning because the average citizen is struggling under this weight. We are currently experiencing a tax revolt because the government is attempting to download the tax burden even more from business to individuals despite the fact that we have by far the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. Those low corporate taxes, they haven't created the jobs that right-wing economists theorize that they do. It has not improved our unemployment rate at all.

Of course the wealthy people you know don't consider themselves lucky. It doesn't fit into the self-image and the little stories people like to tell themselves about how they got their fortune. What they fail to realize, is that most people will make the best of opportunities when they present themselves. Most people will even try very hard to make their own opportunities. Unfortunately, not everyone succeeds and it isn't generally a reflection of how hard they worked or how smart they are. But people who did succeed like to feel like it somehow demonstrates their own superiority, that allows them to justify their wealth to themselves and others.

[deleted account]

Carol, I agree with most of what you say, but I just don't think that raising the minimum wage is the only option for closing the gap, and I certainly don't think it is the best option.

I am not saying we shouldn't tax the rich more, but we should look at the way we are spending those tax dollars before asking for more. The current system is ineffective; it helps people maintain an acceptable standard of living while they are in poverty, but it does little to help them maintain that standard of living on their own, without aid. When people can do more for themselves, the gap will begin to close.

I guess I just feel like we make our own luck and just have to agree to disagree there. Yes, some people are very lucky, but most of the middle class to wealthy people I know would not consider themselves "lucky" they just make the best of opportunities when they present themselves. And I stand by the idea that you do not have to be wealthy to be happy.

Johnny - posted on 01/07/2011

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And as for my grandfather, yes, of course he had to work hard and be smart to succeed in his job. But if he hadn't made the right connection, he could have worked hard and been smart and never have gotten rich. Marrying "up" helped too of course, lol. I would never suggest that pure luck will get you anywhere in the long run. One of my neighbors friends won the lottery, 4 million, 10 years ago, and now has not a penny left and is 10 years out of the job market. The guy is in trouble. He didn't bother to capitalize on the opportunity. Luck will get you no where if you don't take advantage of it properly. In my grandfather's case, it did require hard work. I think though, if you really look at the situation of most people who have done quite well, you will find that it's a combination of hard work and good luck. Far too often, very hard work gets you pretty much no where.

Johnny - posted on 01/07/2011

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Welfare issues have but a tiny impact on equality issues. Its sort of like arguing about who is more equal, the person with one penny or the person with two pennies when there is someone with a thousand dollar bill. The system is fundamentally flawed, the way it is designed, to require a constantly increasing rate of growth and to reward short-term methods of making a quick buck rather than steady production and job creation means that even if welfare is extremely generous, the minimum wage is raised and the upper income bracket tax rates go up, inequality will still continue to grow. When the top 1% of the population holds more than the bottom 75% you have created an unstable system. Our current economic problems and recession are as a result of this, it is impossible to stimulate the economy when no one has money and no one has credit available. If there are not significant changes to the laws governing banking, futures trading, derivatives, and tariffs, along with a change in attitude about what really goes on with the wealthy, we will just see the jobless rate grow, the economy continue to stagnate and the hard working middle class disappear.

[deleted account]

Well crud...I am so Sorry!! I could have sworn I read Carol...
My apologies, Laura, I meant to say I agree with everything YOU said there, and I'll change the name in my post.

[deleted account]

I agree with everything you said, Laura. I hate the idea of taxing imported good because of the impact it has on the global market, but I listed it because it is one of the few ideas out there to keep manufacturing jobs here. I never thought about making it illegal to import goods manufactured in ways that are illegal in the US. That is a very good idea. The prices are going to go up either way, but people should be making more by working those jobs so it balances out.



Kati, I would never suggest doing away with welfare completely, there will always be people who need it, I just feel it is being mismanaged and doing more to keep people in poverty than get them out of it, the way it is set up now. I was hoping to talk about ways to improve/ reorganize the current welfare system to help people get out of poverty rather than keep them in it.

Isobel - posted on 01/07/2011

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now the economic shoe is on the other foot...high tariffs (taxes) on imported goods are a barrier to trade (which is a HUGE no-no in today's global market).



One country starts using protectionist policies (and many do) and then others do...all of a sudden we can't get the stuff we need and other people won't buy the shit we have too much of.



I've said it before but nobody ever listens...IF you want manufacturing jobs in America (which I'm not sure your higher ups do) then you have to make it illegal to sell anything IN America that was built in a way that would be illegal IN America.



Which means you stop shipments at the dock that were built by child labour (see ya Nike), and in sweatshops (so long GAP)...by workers forced to work 32 hours in a row who then commit suicide (We'll miss you Apple).



You cannot have both the low prices of Walmart AND manufacturing jobs in America...sorry...just can't be done.

Rosie - posted on 01/07/2011

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and i actually agree with almost all of your last post. except getting rid of welfare all together of course. if a had free childcare i would most likely not be on state help for medical. if someone could pay me to go to school right now so i could quit my job, i would-but isn't that welfare anyway?

Rosie - posted on 01/07/2011

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if you can afford 6 houses in ANY market, you're rich. if you can afford 2 houses, you're rich. 6 houses....

Isobel - posted on 01/07/2011

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Perhaps the problem with the 6 houses thing is perspective...where I live it would cost 3 million MINIMUM to buy 6 houses (and they would be fixer-upper semis) in my books that would make you rich...perhaps the market is different where you live

[deleted account]

You know, at this point, it doesn't even matter. We are no longer looking for solutions to close the gap between rich and poor here anymore, we are just arguing about whether or not anyone can get rich in America without some stroke of good luck...that doesn't matter.

You don't need to be rich to be self sufficient, you just need to earn enough money to pay your bills, which is not much for people if they would not insist on having huge houses and fancy cars. Ideally, anyone should be able to achieve that much whether it is possible to become super rich or not, and if that is not possible in our society we need programs to make it possible.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot see how giving people more money for welfare would help close that gap. You provide free childcare for people willing to work full-time, you provide a wealth of opportunities for parents to work and earn a living for themselves.

You put a higher tax on imported goods created in other countries by American owned companies, you can ensure manufacturing jobs stay in the US. These jobs pay on average twice minimum wage. (That is taxing the rich, right?)

You allow amnesty to illegal aliens who work in the US and tax their income, you drive up the pay for farm labor and personal service jobs.

You cut out luxuries in public housing and use that money to provide tuition assistance to those who want to go to school, you provide education to many who would not be able to afford it and avoid the instability that comes with a population overburdened by too many loans.

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