Poverty is not simply a “state of mind,” as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently asserted in his normal clueless fashion.
It is a matter of dollars and cents.
Specifically, having enough dollars and cents to provide for the three kinds of economic demands that British economist John Maynard Keynes said are contained in a household budget:
1) Transaction demands
Cash to meet day-to-day living expenses, like food, rent and gasoline.
2) Precautionary demands
Demands for cash to meet unforeseen contingencies and emergencies, such as hurricane evacuation expenses.
3) Asset demands
Demands for cash to pay for valuable items, like a house or car, and long term savings and investments, such as stocks.
The Republicans and their “New Democrat” and “Third Way” allies in Congress are working hard to move beyond economist David Ricardo’s “Iron Law of Wages” in their continuing war against the poor and the faltering middle class.
It maintains that regardless of whether the price of bread is cheap or expensive, the average working people will never earn more than is necessary to barely sustain themselves and create the next generation of average working stiffs.
However, these toxic elites would prefer to see us replaced by apps and robots. Or reduced to the status of cowering slaves.
In their eyes there are simply too many of us and a little survival of the fittest is needed. Just as disease and hunters are used to cull deer populations when they become too large.
Hence the current inflammatory rhetoric pitting different segments of the poor and middle class against one another.
How does this generation of lawmakers differ from those which preceded them?
They’re almost all millionaires drawn from the political aristocracy, who have never served in the military. These toxic elites live out their lives in private schools, country clubs and gated communities in wealthy enclaves like The Hamptons and Greenwich, Conn.
To them, the poor and middle class are the enemy. That’s why they view baiting the masses the same way they view their ever widening bank accounts – as a way to keep score.
Today’s members of Congress are richer than ever before, with a median net wealth of more than $1 million. Their household income dwarfs the median U.S. household income of $52,000.
Even in Charles Dickens’ England, the time and place where David Ricardo lived, the cruel and rapacious capitalists didn’t begrudge the “unwashed masses” their meager crust of bread. The exploited workers of early and mid-19th century England earned just barely enough to survive, but it was enough to allow them to survive and reproduce.
And enough to provide a ready supply of cannon fodder on hand for the manpower intensive wars of the past.
In the predatory, kleptocratic plutocracy of today’s predatory 1 Percent the masses are little more than surplus population, hired muscle and compliant sex partners. They expect future wars to be fought largely via automation, using drones, apps and algorithms.
That’s why they’re so unwilling to pay us enough wages to assure even a grim survival.
America’s average working people of today do not earn enough from a typical 40 hour a week, full time job (if they are lucky enough to find a full time position) to afford a two bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. That’s why our suicide rates rival those of the darkest days of The Great Depression.
Sadly, even working two, three, or four part time jobs will not guarantee survival in 21st century America. I think even David Ricardo would be appalled.
However, the Ben Carsons and Donald Trumps of the world are not. The country club set views the needless suffering and premature death of their fellow Americans with enthusiasm for the most part. With phlegmatic indifference at best.
Our demise is apparently a testament to their own inherent superiority in a world in which the Predatory 1 Percent now lead by entitlement rather than example.
What’s the moral of the story?
They’re not called the filthy rich for nothing.