Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Opportunity is the Mother of Invention

Hey there anonymous reader, it's such a pleasure to have you not read my stuff again. Yes, it has been a long time. I was in Germany, and then I decided to become a hermit... things went downhill from there. But some people in robes decided to validate me with a piece of paper, so life is definitely looking up! And now I find once again that I have the motivation to slowly move from sitting in my chair to typing things again. Isn't it great?

I wanted to write about my take on a lot of internationally political things, especially because I'm constantly exposed to unhealthy amounts of political events at work, but I decided to go off on income inequality. Why, you ask? Because John Oliver did it, and I'll be damned if someone with a queen is going to lecture me on the stratification of society. 

John Oliver recently made waves by doing a hilarious segment on income inequality, which quickly made its rounds through the internet. As he pointed out, the gap between the have and the have-nots is at its highest in a century, and growing. Meanwhile, taxes on the rich have been cut, and even more cuts are being pushed in Congress. It seems that, despite being in the minority, the wealthy are able to dominate the democratic process and twist good, American values to their own selfish ends. Clearly, the 99% needs to rise up and demand that the rich be taxed more, so that we can provide more services to the poor.
One of the biggest problems with the discussion about income inequality is that it’s being discussed as inequality of income instead of what it really is: inequality of opportunity. Income inequality isn’t the problem; it’s the symptom. Yes, income inequality is a problem; yes, the rich use their influence to affect policy; yes, Americans are optimistic about their chances of making a fortune – but that’s not the real issue. The real issue is that a simpleton from a wealthy family will have opportunities that a genius from a working-class family will never have. That’s bad news for any society, and it’s terrible news for America.
 This is supposed to be the land of opportunity; the idea that someone can make it if they earn success is the glue that keeps American society together. We never had an established hierarchy or a common ethnicity; we are bound together by this idea, this core belief. That is why disparity in opportunity between the children of the rich and the poor is so fundamentally destructive to this country. Without the legitimate possibility of forging a career on merit, the American dream truly is dead.
This isn’t just about some national ideal either; this is the foundation of our economic system. Instead of the most qualified person getting a job, it’s often the most connected person. That is sub-optimal performance simply by virtue of the fact that someone’s family has influence. But it goes even further; often the disenfranchised in this country don’t even get the chance to acquire those skills in the first place. That’s a giant pool of American creative potential that is going tragically untapped.
And then it gets worse. Because, a rich man’s son who knows he doesn’t have to work as hard to stay rich, won’t. A poor man’s son who knows he won’t get anywhere by working hard won’t either. Inequality of opportunity takes the incentive to work and throws it out the window, ironically making the country more like a Soviet dystopia than the land of the free. Capitalism can function without private schools and country clubs; it cannot function without equality of opportunity.
The irony at the heart of this issue is that one of the richest and successful Americans ever to live, Andrew Carnegie, wholeheartedly detested handing down money generation to generation and establishing a permanent upper class. He knew that if the rich used their influence to maintain the status of their family after dying, the American dream would be fundamentally poisoned. And yet that is exactly what has happened.

The American people may by all means seek to tax the wealthy; however, that will not solve the problem. We need to promote policies that will essentially even the playing field for those less fortunate, especially for children with so much untapped potential. We need to have high-quality, affordable education options available to talented people from all strata of society. We need to turn this aristocracy into a meritocracy. And if we do not, then we will surely be bested by someone who has.

Please feel free to comment or message if anything I've written has offended you in any way or made you feel all fuzzy inside