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The Waldorf Astoria and the Bronx: 2 sides of the same coin

October 19, 2012

I’m pretty certain I wasn’t the only one feeling disgust at the sight of our tuxedo clad lords dining so nobly under the magnificent chandeliers of the Waldorf Astoria last night.  Like two sides of the same coin, we find such regal splendor co-existing in a city where one in five live in poverty.  “The affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many” per Adam Smith, and a world of a few Waldorfs therefore requires many Bronxes.

When, I wonder, did our president last visit the slums in Harlem or the Bronx?  Or Newark, Camden, Reading, North or West Philadelphia, or any of the other holes of desperation outside the glitter of Park Avenue?

I think the most revealing line of the debate the other night was in Obama’s closing remarks when he assured this same well heeled set of his deep reverence for orthodoxy:

I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That’s not what I believe.  I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy is grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.

Well, of course it’s painfully obvious Obama doesn’t believe the government creates jobs – just look at the number lost during his reign.  And his praise for the “free enterprise system” is music to the ears of the ruling aristocracy who fund his campaign.  But the truth is that any sober evaluation of this system would condemn it for its utter failure to promote widely shared prosperity.  Why is it this mighty engine has so consistently socked it to the average worker over the past 40 years?  Why is it secure health care and retirements are unaffordable?  Why is it 80% of the population has just 7% of financial wealth?  Why is it so much of the country is un/under employed?  Why is it millions are on the street in Europe in angry rebellion against this engine?  And why is it so many everywhere in the world live in poverty and / or insecurity?

One can’t avoid the sorry conclusion we’re in fact being pulled by a horribly antiquated engine; one that seems to have been designed not at all for prosperity but rather for human deprivation.  Deprivation is a most appropriate word here as it’s actually the meaning of the latin root for that most important term in our “free enterprise system”, “private”: privare = to deprive.  We have the productive forces to easily create widespread prosperity but it doesn’t remotely exist in actuality.  What, Mr. Obama, is accountable for this sad state if not the “free enterprise system”?

Obama’s elitist world view offers those outside the Waldorf Astoria nothing.  What can it possibly mean to have a policy defined as “everybody should have a fair shot” or “everyone should play by the same rules”?  That everyone in the Bronx and in Reading should have an equal shot at being in the top 1% so they too can dine at the Waldorf while their former neighbors continue living in poverty?  Obama doesn’t object to the unequal hierarchy inherent in a 1/99 divide or to the system of deprivation that sustains it.  Exactly the opposite, he’s its figurehead.  The nobility to him is a-OK; what we need is just a somewhat more meritorious path of entering it, and perhaps a slightly higher tax rate.

Such are the sorry days of a decayed society.

From → Wealth & Poverty

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