For all my friends who suffer as a result of recent attacks on Social Security, Healthcare, Government pensions and any kind of state or government related income or welfare support issues.
The idea of a society that doesn’t need social safety nets to function, that “Charity Alone” will be sufficient, or the idea that people who want ‘Money From the Government’ should just get of their asses and stop being leeches is wrong. It’s a myth, propagated by conservatives, and the exact reason we moved away from that model is because it doesn’t work. The sad truth is charitable contributions alone, aren’t enough to keep societies afloat, fiscally or pragmatically.
The Conservatives in our government have been corrupted by a new wave of conservativism that is vehemently against Social Safety Nets, as if they are trying to create an Ayn Randian paradise. Ayn Rand, who originated in Soviet Union, under a different system has very unrealistically capitalist friendly views. So her writings and ideals radically diverged from the example of economics and government in Soviet Russia. And this is important to the validity of her arguments, because sadly, the example she had distorted her understanding in favor of this new, and growing conservative economic ideology movement.
It’s a nice idea, to think that charity is enough to save a society from downfall during economic hardships. The sad thing is… It doesn’t work, it harms people, and due to technology and automation, as well as disabilities and veterans issues, its not just bad politics. It’s morally reprehensible. In times of economic downturn, believe it or not, it’s actually more effective to financial recovery to just “Give People More Money”, than it is to cut social program spending.
I know that to some, this seems really counter intuitive. But the thing is, in a society, recessions are murder on economies without social safety nets, and here’s the kicker… It’s cheaper to give people money, than it is to cope with the economic and social consequences of increasing poverty, inequality, homelessness, hunger, and unemployment. It’s tried, and tested. So why are so many people so deeply in denial of this? Well, part of this is because of shoddy education about economics. They talk about simple ‘Old School Markets’, which simply do not exist anymore in a globalized economy. And this also exists in ignorance of the factors of globalization and automation to an industry and economy that, by necessity, makes a certain percentage of it’s population unemployable, which is growing every decade.
Now, obviously, social safety nets have trade offs. At a certain point, if taxes on those who are wealthy or well of, or on society in general don’t rise, social safety nets can bankrupt governments. I’ve written about this before, but have had a lot more time to think about it this go around, as well as a lot of information and research. And there is this perception in America that we are “close to such a tipping point”. But in fact, in a globalized economy, the only thing keeping it afloat when unemployment rates spike, is social safety nets. The return on investment doesn’t tip until much, much, much higher rates of network output. The idea that it’s not, and that we have to cut social program spending in order to recover the economy is a bold-faced lie.
In economies like ours, social safety nets are like “An insurance policy for the economy”, insuring that in times of drought, cataclysm, or economic hardship, that the system itself doesn’t collapse. This understanding emerges to some degree, from an understanding that poverty and crime are directly proportional to each other. The stability of a society, and it’s market, is hedged on how easy it is for the majority of people are able to provide for themselves and their family during hard times. The higher the rate of poverty, the more society is destabilized.
But here is the big clincher on this issue… Economic and Sociological effects related to poverty in globalized economies have massive feedback effects on crime, unrest, and social stability. And without sufficient means to acquire basic necessities in hard times, can lead to a run away effect of social destabilization, which in the long run has an ASTRONOMICALLY HIGH PRICE TAG. The damage to property from just 1 riot, can take such a toll on local and state governments that it can take decades to recover. Look at cities like Detroit, with one of the US’s highest crime rates.
Poverty and economic struggle, has transformed Detroit into a precursory warning about societal degradation when we don’t have sane and practical understanding of what makes societies like modern, globalized economic systems run. To some part, this comes from a very corrupting idea common in the Far-Right, and I call it “The Prosperity Gospel”. This ideology owes its origins, and structure to religious fundamentalism in the form of a new kind of American Dominionist and Evangelical movement, which started to kick up at the start of the Cold War.
The idea goes like this, “Those with the most favor of God, will be prosperous, and those who aren’t will not”. That in order to become wealthy, you have to invest in God, with your literal currency. And this market has unfathomably exploded beyond all reason or sense. And it’s EXTREMELY Predatory. Evangelicals have been using this new gospel to rob the elderly and impoverished for decades now, and have turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. If for those of you who are Christians find something wrong with this, there is a good reason…
Because this runs counter to a lot of quotes from biblical scholars, and even the professed beliefs of many prominent biblical figures, even Jesus. Mark 25:10 goes like this, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Jesus. There is many other mentions of wealth antagonism in the bible. Proverbs 28:22 states, “Those who do these things to get rich are in reality seeking death because they are breaking the spirit of the eighth commandment.” So how did this happen?
It is a product of the merger of fears brought about during the Cold War, and later by rhetoric of politicians of this new “Prosperity Gospel Conservative Take-over”. The USSR, for those who remember before it fell, was a communist nation and also one with state-wide-ban on religious practice. This doesn’t mean religion didn’t exist, just meant that there was no freedom of religion, as there is in the US. And this galvanized a lot of Judea-Christian movements in the US at the time.
As a counter to this, “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, with fears of Soviet Russia and it’s “State-Imposed Atheism”. But that is perceptual flaw, and an oversimplification, in that it wasn’t state-sanctioned Atheism, but a ban on religious freedom. Many debate this issue fervently, but God never appeared in the original Constitution, though the word “Creator” is mentioned several times in the founding documents, and beliefs of the founders. People try to ambiguously claim this was meant to “Invoke God”, but even that is not necessary.
This goes hand in hand with accusations by the Religious Right that this is a “Christian Nation”, to which it is decidedly not. This claim is based almost entirely on the claims, and statements of the drafters of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers themselves. Most of the founding Fathers were either deists, or atheists. Our Constitution is a foundationally “Secular Document”. It was realized, and rightly, by our founding fathers that the merging of state and religion fundamentally undermined the principle of democratic rule, as well as acting as a “Force of Tyranny”.
“For Jefferson, separation of church and state was a necessary reform of the religious tyranny whereby a religion received state endorsement, and those not of that religion were denied rights, and even punished.” – Wikipedia
The fact is that our founding fathers wanted a separation of Church and State, to prevent one religious belief from being used to deny all others rights, is not a small one. They fundamentally wanted to build a nation that protected all people, of all walks and life. Now, understandably, our founding fathers lived in a time of much greater inequality than we do now. But that doesn’t fundamentally incriminate the precept, as it stands quite well on its own. The current problem with this New American Conservativism, is that it departs wildly from both its religious origins and sinew, and from the supporting documents of our country. But it’s worse than just that.
It departs from reality. The reality that economic, social and governmental systems that don’t act cautiously with regards to an understanding of economies (which grow and change as eras and technology do ), are more fragile than we believe, and can be destroyed or greatly undermined by this shortcoming. Economic, social and governmental collapse is no laughing manner. And unless we are to flirt with fire, we should have sound social safety nets, social policy, as well as other systems to keep our society afloat in hard times. Moreover, we need to call out ideologies which are toxic, and dangerous to Democracy.
This new form of prosperity gospel driven, conservative, and dominionist fundamentalism, which is growing more rampant by the year in the Far-Right, is more than just a threat to our economy, to our pensions, and the well-being of the people… It’s a threat to democracy and freedom itself. Because it demonizes the poor, minorities, and groups who don’t hold political majority in the US, and because it seeks to undermine the very things which keep our country intact.
And it is ignorant to science, technology and progress, and has an infectious quality to scare people into submission. It would be no slight to claim that it seems almost fascist, because it’s driven by a rabid nationalist, and strict adherence to traditional religious values. It tends to demonize and attack minorities, immigrants and outsiders in favor of what it sees as “True Americans”, which also usually happens to be only white, heterosexual, cisgender, often wealthy or subservient, christian, conservative Americans. It encourages xenophobia, sexism, racism, classism, ableism and should be considered a serious threat to all American’s way of life.
Because the fact is, as is revealed by the progress of time, technology and world markets, that the only societies that prosper, are the ones who see equality as a central tenet of their success and mutual well-being. Equality means that people are treated accordingly to their unique capabilities and qualities. Equality isn’t the same treatment for all, as is argued by some conservative pundits. Even Thomas Jefferson understood this even in ignorance of the world and economy we currently find ourselves in. Equality means giving everyone equal opportunity to succeed, and societies that strive for it prosper as a result. They may not have the greatest piles of wealth, but they are just not stratified or capped by it.
The pure pursuit of only wealth and profit is the one most morally questionable of all human tendencies, as it naturally lends itself to more greed and avarice in it’s pursuit.
And the lesson is taught again and again, and again. History is filled with examples of this, and it is said “Those who forget the lessons of History, are doomed to repeat it”. We’d be wise to not forget this. And even recent discoveries of science, in the fields of psychology and neurology are providing examples of this which many of us already know. When given an unfair advantage, it distorts people’s perception, and facilitates further greed, as well as a sense of entitlement to wealth. Here is a link from PBS on this topic.
Time and time again, as we peel back more about human nature, we find that the way we structure society, hold people accountable, and promote social and economic policies is directly proportional to the kind of problems we see. When we deregulate banks, they naturally become predatory because the system ends up rewarding bad behavior, and giving a perception of privilege. The studies of behavioral psychologist in his book “Predictably Irrational”, Dan Ariely points out how our social systems and policies can distort our behavior, and shows means by which we can bring them back in line with what is favorable to the greater good.
The fact is, there is nothing socially equitable about a modern system (in light of modern automation, and globalization) without sufficient social safety nets. While human behavior clearly shows that while we can be charitable, it’s not something that is a given, or readily promoted or rewarded in society. As such, this is something that society should regulate, and account for. And the histories of just American Economics points this fact out repeatedly. The times of the lowest taxes on the wealthy, and least social safety nets, have been the times of least prosperity and greatest inequality.
The health of the economy is directly proportional to the spending power of the majority of it’s consumers. It doesn’t follow that the Prosperity Gospel line of conservative thinking leads to a more stable, happy, and equitable society. Further, it’s influence is destabilizing, not just to the US Economy, but to the globalized world economy. And that’s why we need to be particularly careful about how we talk about issues of not just wealth inequality, but the necessity of social programs and socialized systems.
And let’s face the facts here… Charity doesn’t work in the long term, or large scale. Social safety nets do, and that is reality. So how about we start having a legitimate discussion about investing back into our economy through investing in the people who make that economy… Every one of us. Wealth does not create jobs, demand does, which is why the little people are so important to our nation, and our economy…
And the reason why they are the last people we should be mistreating.