Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vacationing With the 1%

Well, to be fair, it’s probably more like the 10%. The top 1% of income earners is truly lofty territory. There’s enough wealth here to make me uncomfortable though. “Here” is Marco Island, Florida.

This is not my style. I’m pretty certain everyone knows I hate Florida’s geographical “challenges” (flat and tropical) but I don’t like the exclusivity of this place either. A lot of people do. I mean a lot of people. (Yes, I know know “a lot” and “exclusive” are mutually exclusive but it makes my point.) My county has about 60 people per square mile. This place has over 1,400. And their median income is twice what my county’s is.

You can take numbers like these and draw some bad conclusions if you wanted to mislead people that didn’t know better. For instance, you could say population density leads to wealth. Or you could say a lack of diversity leads to wealth. Marco is over 98% white. My county (as “redneck” a county as you could hope to find in Georgia) is “only” 83% white. We all know that half the statistics we hear are lies and the other half -- the half we like to believe -- are damn lies.

Krugman is real comfortable with numbers -- and statistics. He has several good blogs about recent numbers but my favorite doesn’t really have any numbers.

The Defeatism of Depression

”...Then came the approach of World War II, which finally induced an adequate-sized fiscal stimulus — and suddenly there were enough jobs, and all those unneeded and useless workers turned out to be quite productive, thank you.

There is nothing — nothing — in what we see suggesting that this current depression is more than a problem of inadequate demand. This could be turned around in months with the right policies. Our problem isn’t, ultimately, economic; it’s political, brought on by an elite that would rather cling to its prejudices than turn the nation around.”

Our salvation is within our grasp. All we have to do is reach out for it. The way to do that in a democracy is to vote. If you cast your vote for a “conservative” (think “fiscal conservative”) you are casting your vote for a Depression. Yes, that is over-simplified. But -- at the same time -- it’s just that simple. Sorry, I cannot remove life’s contradictions for you.

Some of you may remember way, way back that I put up a “place holder” for a graphic that intrigues me (endlessly).

The question I chew on these days is; “What are the people on the left side going to do for a living?” The lower-left quadrant probably won’t ever be “productive” members of our society -- with “productive” currently defined as “money making”. But if we -- as a society -- consign the entire left side of that bell curve (those with an IQ of less than 100) to the unemployment line we are setting ourselves a very difficult task. These people aren’t going to run the “high-tech” economy. They aren’t going to earn advanced degrees in college. You hear so much about what the “economy of the future” is going to be like. Well, I want to know what it is going to be for them. Because I don’t hear anyone talking about it. Not even Krugman.

This isn’t Lake Wobegon. All our children won’t be above average. And they will need jobs. These are honest and decent people -- as deserving as you and I of a safe, secure and rewarding life. What’s the plan? I don’t think anyone has one.

Don Brown
December 28, 2011


Joe said...

Fortunately, intelligence isn't just one thing.

The guy who's rebuilding my house is probably well down from the peak: he doesn't read much, and his idea of humor is people falling off of things. But when he cuts a plank to shape, it fits where it's supposed to go on the first try. That doesn't happen when I try it.

So I figure, I'll do the physics, and John'll do the construction, and it all ought to work out OK.

Frank Van Haste said...

G'day, Don!

The question troubling you in the context of the normal distribution curve has been troubling me for, oh, about 40 years...since I read Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer. Back then the beginnings of an underclass of the marginally employable were just becoming perceptible. It's gotten a lot worse.

If you want to get really depressed, after reading Farmer's novella re-read Huxley's Brave New World. Maybe that's where we're headed?

Your new best friends at Marco Island are members of the Deciding Class, and they will act as they need to in order to perpetuate their status as such.

Unfortunately, those "on the left" (and I mean that in the Gaussian (i.e., bell-shaped curve) sense, not in the political sense) seem to be susceptible to manipulation by the clever. So the Marco Island crowd will employ techniques that will keep our Deltas and Gammas (the 50%) passive (in the spirit of the Purple Wage), our Betas (the next 49% - including, perhaps, you and I) - content with modest aspirations and gratification deferred (forever?) and Alphas of the 1% living in the style to which they feel justified in being accustomed.

Can it go on forever? Why not?

Have a healthy and rewarding 2012, Don.