I'm Right Again Dot Com

                             A new commentary every Wednesday — October 26, 2016

An Essay on Income and Wealth

    This discourse is based on a review of a book by British writer Gareth Stedman Jones, "Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion" and a recent article in the New Yorker Magazine by widely recognized American Critic Louis Menand,  who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "The Metaphysical Club," an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America.  He is also a recent recipient of the National Humanities Medal from the Endowment for the Humanities.

        As most of you know, Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher, journalist and revolutionary, who while abroad, set down his utopian political theory that advocated class war in order to achieve a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person is rewarded according to their abilities and their needs; a doctrine that aims to replace a profit-based capitalist economy with one based on directed means of production by a management team of experts—the Central Committee. 

     Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, AKA "Lenin," (Born in 1870, died in 1924, following a series of cerebral hemorrhages), founded the Communist Party in Russia and set this theory into practice  during World War I, after the Germans sneaked him into his home country knowing he would foment overthrow of the crown. He was successful, but we know how that turned out. In order to be good communists, the proletariat (we, the scufflers in the crowd) apparently have to give up all freedoms of choice in life to a Castro, Mao, or Stalin.

    Joseph Djugashvili, (1878-1953), who took for himself the nickname of Stalin (Steel),  made all decisions for the people pretty much by himself and ruled Mother Russia by terror and wholesale slaughter at times, for over 30 years.

    It is interesting to note that when Stalin was a youth in the Russian province of Georgia, he entered a seminary with the aim of becoming an Orthodox Priest. One component of this socialist order was doing away with any religious component in society. Marx viewed religion as a deliberate distraction by capitalists meant to divert the oppressed "proletariat," or workers' class, from seeking freedom from exploitation by the few capitalistic ruling elite.

     Human beings do not adapt well to socialism. It didn't succeed either in a hippie commune or domination in the recent government of the island of Cuba—nor in Russia, for that matter. It's hard to predict how it will devolve eventually in China, but change is a-blowing in the wind, even there.

    I did find some interesting parallels in Menand's article. He quotes Marx: "Worker's wages stagnate as income for the owners of capital rises."

    Menand noted that the buying power of the lowest wage earners in the United States peaked in 1969 when the hourly minimum wage was $1.60.  That is the equivalent of $10.49 an hour today, where the national minimum hourly wage is now $7.25 an hour  And, as wages for service-sector jobs decline in earning power, and prices continue on an upward trend, the hours in the work place must increase—because many people today are forced to work at more than one job in order to survive.

    Menand says that Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent since 1970, but the income for we scufflers in the crowd hasn't risen accordingly.

     I personally don't really care what the top one percent of Americans pile up as wealth. I once aspired to be in that class myself, possibly receiving 40 times that of we peons. More power to those who made it there. However, if the median income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, says Menand, the median annual wage for workers in America would be $92,000—nearly double the $51,000 that it actually is presently. Let's have a show of hands.  Is this equitable and fair? 

     So, what is the new President and Congress going to do about this situation other than making more promises? It's like the weather—as noted by Mark Twain. "Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it."

-Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken


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