Winners and Losers

In 21st Century America, the powers that be have decreed politics be a battle of winners and losers, where winners are defined as those individuals (and corporations) that have achieved a high degree of financial wealth. Modern conservative theory is built on the notion that everything in the democracy should be focused on ensuring the success of the already successful. The position is justified through the continual communication that those who achieve great financial success work harder than those that don’t.

Once the American public accepts that work ethic is the determinant of success, it then becomes accepted that a deficit of financial success is necessarily the result of laziness or lack of ambition. It should be evident that these notions are unambiguously false; the new class of American wealth is based on financial services in lieu of productive enterprise. These individuals aren’t required the education of doctors or lawyers, the stamina and craft of contractors, the courage of the military, police or fire, or the tolerance and hustle of retail management. Yet they earn more than any of the above.

Wall Street types are the highest achievers in our brave new world, earning a wealth completely separated from the notion of value that most Americans embrace. They are defined as winners, and so are supported by the establishment as winners should be, with the support guaranteeing the continuance of the line. Wall Street types have become the new landed nobility in our proto-feudal America, with a core wealth earned by bold action, and a virtual hereditary wealth sustained by loaded politics.

This is not to suggest an inherent evil in Wall Street, nor a driving need to abolish or constrain the institution and its operators. But many institutions, indeed most, that have valid purpose and noble mission exceed their natural boundaries; it is the curse of human imperfection. Wall Street success is wholly and properly defined by financial achievement, financial achievement is wholly related to calculated risk-taking. Calculated risk-taking is necessarily focused on the asset at risk, and the interest offered in return. The rest of society is excluded from consideration. It is only prudent for society to set boundaries for such risk-taking, boundaries of course, that are anathema for the organizations themselves.

But Wall Street, in our collective national mind-set, is the home of wealth-creators, or job-creators, or hard-working success stories. Pick your favorite label. We have capitulated to the idea wholly; every daily news program, in every town and city, reports on the level of trading on the nation’s major exchanges. Such numbers have become proxy for economic success, in the spite of their almost complete disconnection from real economic success. Think about it; the capital markets were largely recovered within 2 years of the crash of 2008, while the job markets will take another 4 years to reach trend at the current pace.

These are the consequences of a society where money is preeminent, the definition of earning money is tied to the amount earned, rather than the method of earning. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Job-creators, to use the parlance of those who favor unregulated marketplaces, are motivated by profit. Entrepreneurs don’t enter or refrain from markets based on tax rates. But individuals who work, and work hard, for a basic living count on the infrastructure that a functioning democracy provides. They are reliant on the security, both in physical and consumer terms, that a functioning democracy provides. They are allowed to dream about the future their children might have thanks to the education that a functioning democracy provides.

Vote not for the job-creators who by their own description are self-reliant winners with little need beyond their own bootstraps. Vote instead for those who protect the working class whose efforts make the winner’s lives possible.


The Rational Middle is listening…