Some random thoughts late at night, prompted by One Single Impression March 22 prompt "Equals."
All men are equals
they say with sincerity
--except for the lazy.
Who are the lazy?
That's easy, they say, just look,
they're poorer than us.
Sunday March 22, 2009
A central concept in sociology is inequality and social stratification. It's an important topic in every sociology course I teach, and I even teach an entire course entitled "Inequality." Teaching it right now as a matter of fact. My students are hugely ambivalent on the topic of inequality and equality. They insist adamantly, that everyone is equal, that no one is better than anyone else. Or at least, they insist, that is how it ought to be. But....when it comes to income, then inequality is right and good. It would be terrible they think if everyone made the same amount of money. Got to have inequality they say, it's necessary to motivate people.
Of course, they believe that despite the poverty of their youth, and the financial obstacles they currently face, that they will be among the winners. Any one can make it they tell me, any one can get a college education, there's no excuse they say for not getting a college education, anyone can if they really want it. Then later of course, when the contradiction escapes them, they will give me all kinds of excuses (my car broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it, my computer broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it, my Mam-maw was in the hospital and someone had to stay with her, I don't have any one to take care of my children, my employer changed my work hours, the creek rose and we got flooded out, they cut off my electricity, I had go to court...) for why they can't turn their paper in on time, why they need an extension, why they have to drop out. Like the Red Queen (speaking to Alice), my students believe six impossible things before breakfast every day.
I am mystified as to why American seem so dead set against equality of outcomes. We talk a good game about equal opportunity, but start talking about "sharing the wealth" and watch the hackles go up. But how can opportunities really be equal if outcomes are unequal. Unequal outcomes just sets up unequal opportunities for the next generation.
Did you know that the current per capital personal income in the United States is $35,328. That means that if you take all the income made in the entire United States, including all wages and salaries, all social security benefits, all retirement benefits, all disability payments, unemployment payments, all rental income, all business income, all royalties, then subtract all the taxes owed, and then divide that total by every living person in the U.S. all 300+ million of us, every infant, child, teen, adult and elderly person would get $35,328. That's a lot of money. Now think about the fact that 13 percent of Americans today live below the poverty line, which for a family of 4 is $22,050 (not $22,050 a piece but $22,050 for all four people). If personal income was distributed equally, a family of four would have $141,312. Obviously some one is getting way more than their equal share -- and some of them work for AIG.