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News Reform or Revolution?

  1. Jun 24, 2005 #1
    I had the opportunity the other day to watch a most enlightening program broadcast by UCTV. The one-hour program was called "How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?" presented by President Clinton's former labor secretary Robert Reich.

    "Inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity in America is wider now than it's been since the 1920s, and by some measures since the late 19th century. Yet the nation seems unable or unwilling to do much of anything to reverse these trends. What happens if we allow the trends to continue? Will they "naturally" reverse themselves? Or will we get to a point where disparities are so wide that we finally find the political will to take action? Alternatively, will the disparities themselves grow so wide as to discourage action, by fostering resignation among the losers and indifference among the winners? And if the latter, where will it all lead?" SOURCE: Goldman School of Public Policy UC, Berkley

    The presentation made excellent use of economic graphs to demonstrate how large of a gap has developed between the upper class and the middle class (not to mention the lower class) with regards to income, wealth, and opportunity in the United States between the years 1962 to the present. The trends are alarming to say the least. The speaker correctly points to birthright as the beginning of the disparity that allows for advantages in everything from diet and healthcare to education and connections. Being born into a middle-class family myself, I have truly benefited from my birthright in terms of these advantages right from the starting gate. Some people would argue that many a poor person has risen up by their "own boot straps" but I would argue that in today's society, most (not all) poor people can only rise up with a good pair of athletic shoes or a willingness to sell drugs. Otherwise they have to remain content with working in the service industry for comparatively lower wages than their upper-class counterparts. Mr. Reich further points out that one of the elements keeping our society glued together is the belief or perception by the lower class that opportunity in this country still exists and that if one is willing to work hard, they can be successful.

    The speaker talks of two potential outcomes for this growing disparity. He uses the metaphor of the rubber band to illustrate his point. Our society will either "snap back" with a series of reforms supported by all three classes and the government to regain a sense of fairness when it comes to income, wealth, and opportunity in the United States. This has occurred at least once before in the history of our country during a time referred to as the progressive movement. The other potential outcome is for our society to "snap break" whereby this country exists with two entirely different societies. The problem with the latter outcome is that it often leads to the arrival of a demagogue who plays upon the emotions of the middle and lower classes all for the hidden intention of personal gain. We have seen this all too often in history with the likes of Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin etcetera. Mr. Reich suggests somehow that the upper class are not a group with malicious intent but rather are nothing more than a naive self-indulgent class of people who don't know any better. Here I beg to differ. I believe the upper class is guilty of a careless disregard for their fellow countrymen. They have the arrogance to believe they are superior and deserving of extravagance regardless of how they attained it and regardless of how it affects the rest of society. Once again, history shows us what happened to those monarchs who behaved the same way. Do I think there will be a violent revolution in this country? I hope not. Do I prefer a new progressive movement over even a peaceful revolution? Absolutely. My fear however, is that we are already rapidly approaching the point of "critical mass" beyond which there is no turning back. The question today before the American people is what are YOU prepared to do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2005 #2

    what? no replies?
  4. Jul 6, 2005 #3
    I don't see the comparison. Just throws those names in with no connection? What's he saying, that the separation of wealth will lead to another hitler? What are his arguments for that?
    OooOOoh a college grad!
    Now you're just ranting. Tell us who IS responsible for this wealth division. If not the upper class: I'm assuming it's not the lower or middle class.
    Seriously, you need to make a solid connection between America and a monarchy for this to make any sense at all.
    Why change metaphors? "Elastic Limit"
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2005
  5. Jul 6, 2005 #4
    I stopped reading this here because this makes no sense. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You either have equality of oppertunity or equality or result, because one destroys the other. As such, this cannot be worth reading.
  6. Jul 6, 2005 #5
    Why? (10 characters)
  7. Jul 6, 2005 #6
    If you have equality of opportunity then there will be winners and losers in the end. If you want everyone to end up more or less equal then you have to change the playing field to give an advantage to people who will not do as well, but then you have destroyed equality of opportunity. You pick one and try to minimize the loss at the other but you cannot have both.

    For example, if you and I were applying for a job that has only one position, only one of us can get that job. If I were black and you were Asian ceteris paribus, I would get the job. That is to create an equality of result where you want everyone to end up more or less equal. On the other hand if you leave things alone you get winners losers and everyone in between but you will never achieve an equality of result.

    Last edited: Jul 6, 2005
  8. Jul 6, 2005 #7
    I think you misunderstood then (understandable, it's not very well written), He says that a gap is widening in both Opportunity, and Wealth.
  9. Jul 6, 2005 #8
    Or to put it another way smurf, equality of opportunity is like professional golf, there are no handicaps. On the other hand equality of result is like playing golf with a handicap because you are not as good as the next guy or gal or whatever...

    You cannot have an equal opportunity and give out handicaps because once you do that then its not equal opportunity. However if you don't give out handicaps then you will have the Tiger Woods of the world who will always win and then the people who are so so and then there will be those who couldn't hit a golf ball to save their lives.
  10. Jul 6, 2005 #9


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    A better example would be if you got a bunch of kids around a pinata (that thing at childrens birthday parties with candy inside). Equality of opportunity means that every kid stands 20 feet away when the pinata. Equality of results means an adult walks up, gathers all the candy, and gives it to the kids equally. There mutually exclusive because only if you happen upon the 1 in a million probability will the results be equality for all. The faster people and those who "want it more" will triumph and recieve more while the lazy and those who "dont really want it" will not recieve much. The 1 in a million probability will be equivalent to the guys who 'want it' to trip over or drop some or something like that while the lazy and people who dont really want it will have candy put into their hand by someone who trips and falls and has all the candy fly away.

    Bear in mind, any simple explanation like mine or anyone elses will not be able to stand up to real world externalities and such as they are just that, simple explanations.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2005
  11. Jul 6, 2005 #10
    oh, well I will read it through then, sorry for rambling there. :rofl:
  12. Jul 6, 2005 #11


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    Unfortunately, the society of the progressive age and the current age is vastly different. The rich were held up as near demi-gods and they were seen upon as great men and women and people were fond of them. They had enormous power and could snap their fingers and build an entire city if they wanted to. Today however, people have decided to blame the rich for everything and dispise everything they do no matter how little they know about them. They also demand all the burdon of society be placed on them. Surely no one can be blamed for everything then 'come together' and make the angry mob's life better. They also are not as capable of snapping their fingers and allowing some humungous event to happen because the government has become far larger then it was back then.

    Wow, i want to say the guy has no clue about history but the context of this presentation makes me think there must be some credibility for him to be allowed to speak. Unfortunately, the speaker has not explained where these names come out. The typical weapon a 'crackpot' has is to bring up various names that are universally hated and say "its like them" without explaining it. This is what makes me rather skeptical.

    This shows theres a clear misunderstanding of the rich's place in America. The rich in a consumer society only have power if the people give them power. Monarchs and dictators have power because they take power and have weapons to keep that power. Most of what you say however, is simple opinion. If you can somehow prove they are arrogant and think they are superior, you may be nearing a point. You also seem to show an anti-wealth bias by saying they should be ashamed of their wealth 'no matter how they achieved it'. This is a huge contradiction to your argument. Your saying people need equality of opportunity but then you say people should be chastised for becoming successful even if they did it after 30 years of hard work and sleepless nights.

    This looks more like a simple rant with a few advanced tactics used but as always, shows no real facts or ideas to back it up. It only shows opinion and a strong bias.
  13. Jul 6, 2005 #12
    JOEBIALEK, I basically agree with you, but I find some of your assumptions unfounded.

    It's my belief that reform is going to occur partly because of Bush. Bush has forced a lot of people to take take notice of political affairs, helping to nullify the trend of apathy the US has been experiencing. I believe that some day in the future a revolution will occur, but it's being delayed by compromises.

    Pengwuino, you forgot to mention the people who are slow not getting any candy. Lazy doesn't translate to slow necessarily.
  14. Jul 6, 2005 #13
    I think the problem with this is over how 'equal' opportunity in America is. He is coming from the viewpoint that most of the upper upper class didn't get there coming from equal opportunity as your average ghetto kid. You, in complete contrast, are assuming that the upper class had to have started from an equal opportunity in order to get there in America because there's no other way.
  15. Jul 6, 2005 #14


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    No i wasnt. I was simply saying that no matter how you became rich, your blamed for everything and told you are evil by people such as the OP. Its unfair to people who do actually come up from little or nothing.
  16. Jul 6, 2005 #15


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    Well like i said, simple example
  17. Jul 9, 2005 #16
    I don't think a revolution in the traditional sense is feasible any longer with today's technology.

    A peasant revolt these days won't stand up very well to the U.S. military.

    And I don't think the average Joe is going to become a suicide bomber (iraq occupation scenario)
  18. Jul 9, 2005 #17


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    Ultimately the party most in tune with the prevailing mood of the electorate gains office.
    And so I think the revolution will come within the political parties themselves as happened in Britain. After 18 years in opposition the Labour party was forced to go through a root and branch reform process to make itself appealling to the public. Since their successful relaunch they have won the last 3 general elections and so now the Conservative party are facing up to the fact that they too will have to go through the same process of reinventing themselves or face never winning an election.
  19. Jul 10, 2005 #18
    There we diverge into the concepts of image vs. reality.

    Do the conservatives have to reinvent themselves or just get a charismatic leader with better soundbytes?
  20. Jul 10, 2005 #19


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    I didn't read all the responses, but the flaw in the OP (Robert Reich's thesis) is that the disparity between rich and poor is largely an irrelevancy - or worse, the disparity is essential for economic prosperity. In other words, the only way to reduce poverty is to have a wide distribution of wealth because it's that "rubber band" (to use his term) that pulls the poor up.

    One of the reasons I so disliked Clinton was that he filled his cabinet with ideologues and not actual experts in their fields. So it is unsurprising, but inexcusable that he'd put a Marxist into a position to manage a capitalist economy.
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