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3/12/13 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Monday, March 18, 2013 3:49 AM

3/12/13 questions and discussion

1-why do creative people so often suffer from mental illness?3
2-how should we address America's wealth inequality?9
3-what would happen if we amended the US Constitution to require honesty of us all?2
4-is there/should there be a constitutional right to drive an automobile in America?4
5-is Christianity incompatible with Capitalism?8
6-how do we fix health care?8
7-should one have to be a naturally born citizen in order to be US president?4


how should we address America's wealth inequality?

Julene: it's much worse now than, say, in the 50s. I come to this opinion based on data. I read a book in the 90s (When Corporations Rule the World) and a currently viewable Youtube video called Wealth Inequality in America. The video makes it look like the wealth in America is very skewed towards the top. Historically that doesn't seem to have always been true.

John: the video makes the point that inequality is much larger than most Americans believe when polled.

Vivian: is it because few of us really know how much the rich earn?

Steve: we need to define wealth

Julene: the video was in part about income and also wealth.

Jim: my problem: looking at wealth/inequality we ought go to income inequality. What are the reasons? Why are investment bankers making out and street sweepers so little? The problem is that no one asks how to enable more people to earn more money. Taxation won't do it. It's a polemic instead of a sincere effort to address a problem.

Julene: do you mean something like raising the minimum wage?

Jim: raising minimum wage would exclude some jobs from being done at all. Some jobs aren't worth the money. The real issue is enabling wealth for all.

Andrew: it's true that some jobs aren't worth the $. Outsourcing if eliminated, can make all jobs worth a minimum.

Jim: I don't agree. 

Steve: raising wages for McDonalds raises prices for its food. Question: is it increasing? Is it a problem?

Jim: yes and yes. But it's a leading question, begging a question. Then the assumption is the government has to solve it via taxes. The solution needs to be extra-governmental.

Julene: or equalize wages. How do we do that? 

Jim: focus on getting middle class jobs back.

Vivian: who thinks the 1% deserves 400 times the income of the lowest paid workers?

Jim: I don't want to deal here with the ethical. What makes football players worth so much? I really think there's a moral obligation to pay that much for some.

Andrew: talking of football players is a bad example. There is nothing more socialist than the NFL. It's a monopoly with central planning. Using the example of the McDonalds worker, when one is paid a living wage for working at McDonalds in Canada one then gets is a doctor who isn't overpaid and one's health care then is less expensive. It's true that taxation is no cure. If we don't invest in infrastructure it becomes more difficult to get out of this kind of downward spiral. It's unique to America. If those who feel disenfranchised got off their back sides they could improve their lot via political effort, but instead they're all made content somehow [or instead of content, perhaps enfeebled or fatalistic] because they're not willing to change it. It's the result of poor education most certainly.

Jim: it's also a result of the wealth here. Our national wealth encourages laziness on a cultural level. Apathy reigns.

Vivian: dumbing down of America? Reality TV?

Andrew: absolutely. It comes down to a twist on Christianity where wealth accumulation (and visa versa) is the result of god's will.

John: personally, I would prefer a more equal distribution of wealth in America. But that it is is of little concern to me as well. The better measure is the distribution of consumption. Wealth distribution fluctuates a lot. Communist China living standards/ personal wealth have increased dramatically. the question is: is anybody worse off now than before? I think not. Financial markets are a related topic worth considering in relation to this issue.

Andrew: in 2013 isn't the idea of owning a share of Apple stock more foreign now to most Americans than in the 80s, or 70s.

John: stock ownership is more broad now than ever. I'm not even sure we're worse off because of Walmart. Not all the measures of wealth are good. Pension funds aren't often included when we consider personal wealth, nor are Social Security or Medicare/caid. We have a productive economy. 

Jeff: inequality is less the issue than how well off are the poor or middle classes. A more useful question is what is the standard of living. 

Julene: does our disparity make all of us wealthier? Big wealth on top helps us all?

Jeff: if we focus too much just on the US we'll get lost. In a global economy it's about skills. Education. Making sure high skills are there. we try to have government do too many things. Could we learn from other countries? I have read that the cost of health care has kept wages down. 

Andrew: but health care here is a shakedown!

Steve: 1) somehow we should define different types of productivity. Paying people for things no one else understands -- Wall St. -- isn't our best kind of American productivity.  2) I'm worried about education support.

Vivian: capitalism depends on consumption. How do we get more opportunities to consume?

Steve: as long as wealth is re-invested. But if they invest offshore, that's another thing.

Andrew: is it not true that American charity is scandalously focused on Bill Gates' billions instead of societal charity as a whole?

Steve: it's how money's spent and its efficacy.

Andrew: shouldn't all of us be made to be more charitable?

Steve: Gates isn't doing infrastructure. He focuses on supporting new ideas that he thinks will work and existing good ideas that are under-supported.

Jim: Gates is saying we're spending too much on education and getting little done so his investments are based on fixing mistakes. Vested interests fight him. His work represents a kind of revolution from the outside.

Meg: my concern here: is it worth while to go get an overpriced college education? I'm bothered by the ways that both our wealthy and our poor spend their money. People don't seem to think they need to save because their government is gonna take care of them.

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