Saturday, June 30, 2018

Boomers to Blame

Many baby boomers need assistance, too.
Lawyer/journalist/publisher Steven Brill asks the painful question:
How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government?
Hint: the answer is in the title of his Time essay: How Baby Boomers Broke America.

Mr. Brill doesn't attribute America's current state to evil people but to the unintended consequences of a meritocratic system:
The story of America’s tailspin is not about villains, though there are some. It is not about a conspiracy to bring the country down, nor did it spring from one single source....

The Meritocracy’s ascent was about more than personal may be understandable for those on the losing side of this triumph of the achievers to condemn the winners as gluttons. That explanation, however, is too simple. Many of the protected class are people who have lived the kind of lives that all Americans celebrate. They worked hard. They innovated. They tried things that others wouldn’t attempt. They believed, often correctly, that they were writing new chapters in the long story of American progress.
Sure, the boomers who made it to the top were smart and worked hard, but now they are using the advantages of wealth, education, and social connections to create a new aristocracy. Elites
can spend what they need to in order to send their children to the best schools, provide tutors for standardized testing and otherwise ensure that their kids can outcompete their peers to secure the same spots at the top that their parents achieved.
Mr. Brill calls for bigger government to help the majority of Americans in the "unprotected" class. [bold added]
On the other side are the unprotected many. They may be independent and hardworking, but they look to their government to preserve their way of life and maybe even improve it. The unprotected need the government to provide good public schools so that their children have a chance to advance. They need a level competitive playing field for their small businesses, a fair shake in consumer disputes and a realistic shot at justice in the courts. They need the government to provide a safety net to ensure that their families have access to good health care, that no one goes hungry when shifts in the economy or temporary setbacks take away their jobs and that they get help to rebuild after a hurricane or other disaster. They need the government to ensure a safe workplace and a living minimum wage . They need mass-transit systems that work and call centers at Social Security offices that don’t produce busy signals. They need the government to keep the political system fair and protect it from domination by those who can give politicians the most money. They need the government to provide fair labor laws and to promote an economy and a tax code that tempers the extremes of income inequality and makes economic opportunity more than an empty clichĂ©.
Your humble blogger has always been of the opinion ("belief" is too strong a word) that massive government redistribution efforts create more problems than solutions. I still hold out hope that eliminating suffering and providing a decent life for the majority who can't make it is possible through a combination of technological advancement and the voluntary actions of the rich, but it just may be that the problems are too vast to overcome without bigger government. I'm not in Mr. Brill's corner....yet.

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