I saw “12 Years A Slave” yesterday. When it ended, no one moved for a long time. And all I could think as I watched is that millions of Americans at the time (1841-1853) believed slavery should be legal. That’s how wrong-headed and backward even bright, “God fearing” people can be.
Inequality has its place, to be sure. The old communist ideal, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” flies in the face of human nature — humans are hard-wired to be self-interested — and leads to tyranny and that oldest of Soviet jokes, “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”
But excessive inequality — never more grotesque than in slavery — has no place. As increasingly plutocratic as we have become these last few decades, today’s Republicans argue that the rich are overburdened; that the estate tax on billionheirs should be lowered from 45% to zero; that the minimum wage should not be raised. If the working poor want to live better, they should take on a third job to supplement the first two or — better — start a successful business (or inherit one as the Koch brothers and the Waltons and the Donald all did).
Excessive inequality, apart from whatever moral problems it may raise, stunts economic growth. The job creators are not the wealthy but, as Nick Hanauer demonstrates in that brief TED Talk, everyone else.
I went. Four thoughts:
☞ With luck, you, too, may one day attend your 45th. Whatever the world’s going to be like then, think how much different it would have been if Al Gore had been allowed to serve. Or John McCain had won. Or Nancy Pelosi still ran the House. THESE THINGS MATTER.
☞ Princeton beat us Saturday 51-48 in triple overtime – they had to flip on the lights, the game went so long. I didn’t know the stadium HAD lights. Gone are the days of easy wins. Especially until we can fix the gerrymandering problem, OUR ELECTIONS ARE LIKELY TO BE HARD FOUGHT. We can hold the Senate next November and – yes — win back the House; but nobody thinks it will be easy. As in 2012, it will all come down to the ground game: how many people can we register; how many voters can we turn out.
☞ Millions of people need to come together to make this happen, including you and me. One of my friends ended his 45th reunion book entry by quoting from Middlemarch (which, needless to say, I have never read): “…But the effect of her being was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts.” Your vote, alone, or mine . . . your contribution, alone, or mine . . . your or my persuading others to help – none of that is historic. But collectively? The “growing good of the world” depend on it.
☞ One of my classmates – impassioned by the impending rise of the sea – rolled up his suit pants and, before an audience of 400 including the university president, belted out a song he’d written about how Harvard WILL BE UNDER WATER if we don’t start thinking ahead. Another quoted “an extremely short poem” he said he had heard on the radio: “That was fast! (Life, I mean.)” A third, whose dad was a Boston cop, now owns a prominent Boston office complex housing 8,000 souls on an average day. A fourth, who went to my high school, now drives a limo.
There is something about reunions that gets you thinking. Which is not the worst thing to do when we can otherwise rush through life so focused on the immediate that we forget to look up.
Who runs the world really matters . . . it’s all about registration and turnout . . . we can DO this if we have the resources . . . the time to plant the seed corn is NOW . . . we’d be crazy NOT to . . . and it’s accretive: voters we register in 2014 STAY registered for 2016. Tech advances we make for 2014 become the platform for further advances in 2016. BE PART OF THIS. So much hangs in the balance.
[Sorry this particular link is geared toward high rollers; but there’s a box at the bottom to enter whatever more human-scale amount feels right. Our average contribution is something like $55, and we would be lost without them.]
Quote of the Day
Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.~Teddy Roosevelt, 1902
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