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It used to be that hard work was revered; that it was something people cherished and bragged about.

Now we still have a day that recognizes labor’s value and our representatives in government give lip service to labor, but their actions are clearly against it.  Now what our representatives and policy makers honor is something called “passive income”.  That’s making money by not doing anything except being fortunate enough to have money.  It’s what Wall Street does, and even when they are abject failures, they are still rewarded for it.

The result of this shift in priorities and values is extraordinary economic inequity in this country that continues to rise.

In discussions about economy, you can really piss off a lot of people as soon as you mention the words “fairness” or “justice.”  So, let’s not talk about fairness and justice.  Let’s just be practical about this.

People get concerned when inequity is questioned because, they claim, it introduces that paternalistic government that they believe will just ruin everything.

But here’s the question that we need to ask:  What is the end goal of this anti-government philosophy?  Some will say it’s the end goal in itself:  personal liberty.  Others will say that it’s a means toward a better society.

The counter to that first response is easy.  Sure personal liberty is great, but it is one element that helps us toward something else:  progress, ie. the longevity and evolution of an entire society.  If personal liberty was the highest good, we wouldn’t have been around long enough to invent personal liberty.  The goal is to improve, to learn, to evolve, to enrich ourselves and make things better.  To goddamn well get it right.  But that’s all beside the point, because no one is threatening anyone’s personal liberty when they fight for shared prosperity in this country.  On the contrary, they are fighting to ensure that everyone has a voice and an opportunity to succeed—a chance at happiness.

Which brings us to the second argument—strict hands-off government in which economic inequity is allowed to flourish is for the longterm benefit of our society—well, counter to that one is easy too, but I’ll let Smokin’ Joe Stiglitz explain it:

“Growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible.”

The tragedy of the loss of respect for working people and the subsequent economic inequality we are suffering from is that it keeps us from being the best we as a society can be.  It allows the least productive among us to receive the greatest benefit, and diminishes the possibility of others becoming productive.

Not exactly a formula for success.

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