Round and round it goes, the insistent tub-thumping chorus masses of folks now and then have been dancing to for decades– the claims of rising wealth inequality in the U.S.. Well, I find much that is said on this score persuasive, since I’m often feeling unequal in wealth, though also knowing I have no one to blame, really, but moi. This might be different — indeed, I suspect it is — for millions in a different, less malleable social and, therefore, economic situation. The Democratic Party’s sharp dance to the left has undeniably been fueled by this obsession. Hence, we have proposals for Medicare for All and various supposedly playing-field-leveling wealth taxes.
It’s a complex question. I admit that…
But prominent economist Thomas Piketty has, I’m told, been among those defining wealth as the value of all assets held by households minus their debt. He and others leave out future Social Security payments, which, according to what I’ve read, account for 58 per cent of wealth for the bottom 90 percent of wealth distribution. I live in that broad bottom, among the 90 per cent. I’m not doing great, but, having paid into the SS system over a lifetime, I’m afloat — and, of course, am free, thank God, to improve my lot and move farther away from the bottom. My prospects for doing that, as with everyone else, waxes and wanes. So it goes.
And now I read that a new paper — new to me, at least, and other sources I consult — from the University of Pennsylvania finds that when Social Security wealth is accounted for, inequality has remained constant over the past three decades.
So, could the sharps and flats of the music score for this whole “inequality dance” amount to a mere accounting error?
I personally think the drum majors for the inequality parade — excuse the mixing metaphors here — are marching to the tune the Marx and Engels band struck up a Century ago. No, no, no, I’m not saying the Democrats are Marxist. But they damn well have begun to look and sound like Socialists. I’ll not try to draw out the distinction here. It would seem tiresome, pedantic and, given my knowledge, might be inaccurate. If you’re reading this and feeling either pro OR con, kindly weigh in with your own distinctions.
I’d simply say that socialism is Marxism lite. It is, ultimately, an ideology whose tenets exist independent of mere numbers. It asserts a view of human nature and economics supportive of the notion that we can all be radically made equal in our aspirations and abilities — and bank accounts. It has always and everywhere produced dubious and, ironically, unequal results or, as in the case of China or the old USSR and the flash over murderous insanity of Pol Pot and Cambodia, a river of blood, not to mention gross — INequality.
But I’m sure the dance will go on. And on and on…especially this election year.