Fairness is a huge issue in our lives. We start having concepts of fairness before we can even spell the word. crying over getting a smaller scoop of ice cream, being punished for something we didn’t do. later it can be about a new hire making more than an experienced co-worker or fired for doing something dozens of others have gotten away with. A neuroscientist who has studied the role of fairness in our physiological well being writes,
The fact that being treated unfairly can generate a strong threat response is unlikely to be a surprise to anyone. However what may be a surprise is that a sense of fairness can also be rewarding, in and of itself, and significantly so. Fairness, it turns out, is another primary threat or reward: the experience activates the same network that monitors real pain and pleasure.
Prime your brain to look out for fairness issues and they start to appear everywhere. Political clashes, both verbal and violent, tend to be driven by fairness issues. I recently turned on the television to see a villager in Africa shouting that she was willing to die to right the injustice of an unfairly rigged election. Fairness-generated emotions can run high in more mundane situations too: the feeling of being “taken advantage of” by a taxi driver taking a longer route can wreck an otherwise great day, despite the relatively insignificant money involved. It’s the principle that counts. The legal system is deeply about fairness. Think of people who spend enormous sums of money to “right wrongs”.
So it goes with public policy. In the U.S. we have one side consumed with obsessions about relatively small things – someone getting a few more weeks of unemployment benefits that average $330 a week. Or getting subsidized insurance fro their children. While another side has tried to make the case that while that small stuff sounds big when talking about the federal budget it is chump change compared to the give-ways, subsidies , trade policy favors, infrastructure and unpaid for environment damage done by wealthy individuals and huge corporations. These differences in fairness perception cannot be accounted for solely in terms of politics. There is a psychology at work. One side knows something about the deeper intrinsic values at stake and the other side is mired in petty obsessions. Five Reasons the Super-Rich Need Government More Than the Rest of Us or why they are even more dependent on gov’mint than everyone else, but do not have the moral courage to admit it.
In his “People’s History,” Howard Zinn described colonial opposition to inequality in 1765: “A shoemaker named Ebenezer Macintosh led a mob in destroying the house of a rich Boston merchant named Andrew Oliver. Two weeks later, the crowd turned to the home of Thomas Hutchinson, symbol of the rich elite who ruled the colonies in the name of England. They smashed up his house with axes, drank the wine in his wine cellar, and looted the house of its furniture and other objects. A report by colony officials to England said that this was part of a larger scheme in which the houses of fifteen rich people were to be destroyed, as part of ‘a war of plunder, of general levelling and taking away the distinction of rich and poor.’”
That doesn’t happen much anymore. Of course, the super-rich aren’t taking any chances, with panic shelters and James Bond cars and personal surveillance drones. But the U.S. government will be helping them by spending $55 billion on Homeland Security next year, in addition to $673 billion for the military. The police, emergency services, and National Guard are trained to focus on crimes against wealth.
In the cities, business interests keep the police focused on the homeless and unemployed. And on drug users. A “Broken Windows” mentality, which promotes quick fixes of minor damage to discourage large-scale destruction, is being applied to human beings. Wealthy Americans can rest better at night knowing that the police are “stopping and frisking” in the streets of the poor neighborhoods.
2. Laws and Deregulations
The wealthiest Americans are the main beneficiaries of tax laws, property rights, zoning rules, patent and copyright provisions, trade pacts, antitrust legislation, and contract regulations. Tax loopholes allow them to store over $1 trillion in assets overseas.
Their companies benefit, despite any publicly voiced objections to regulatory agencies, from SBA and SEC guidelines that generally favor business, and from FDA and USDA quality control measures that minimize consumer complaints and product recalls.
The growing numbers of financial industry executives have profited from 30 years of deregulation, most notably the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Lobbying by the financial industry has prolonged the absurdity of a zero sales tax on financial transactions.
Big advantages accrue for multinational corporations from trade agreements like NAFTA, with international disputes resolved by the business-friendly World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization. Federal judicial law protects our biggest companies from foreign infringement. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would put governments around the world at the mercy of corporate decision-makers.
The euphemistically named JOBS Act further empowers business, exempting startups from regulatory accounting requirements.
There are even anti-antitrust measures, such as the licensing rules that allow the American Medical Association to restrict the number of doctors in the U.S., thereby keeping doctor salaries artificially high. Can’t have a free market if it hurts business.
3. Research and Infrastructure
A publicly supported communications infrastructure allows the richest 10% of Americans to manipulate their 80% share of the stock market.CEOs rely on roads and seaports and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, and communications towers and satellites to conduct online business. Private jets use 16 percent of air traffic control resources while paying only 3% of the bill.
Perhaps most important to business, even as it focuses on short-term profits, is the long-term basic research that is largely conducted with government money. Especially for the tech industry. Taxpayer-funded research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the Internet) and the National Science Foundation (the Digital Library Initiative) has laid a half-century foundation for technological product development. Well into the 1980s, as companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft and Oracle and Cisco profited from the fastest-growing product revolution in American history, the U.S. Government was still providing half the research funds. Even today 60% of university research is government-supported.
Public schools have helped to train the chemists, physicists, chip designers, programmers, engineers, production line workers, market analysts, and testers who create modern technological devices. They, in turn, can’t succeed without public layers of medical support and security. All of them contribute to the final product.
As the super-rich ride in their military-designed armored cars to a financial center globally connected by public fiber optics networks to make a trade guided by publicly funded data mining and artificial intelligence software, they might stop and re-think the old Horatio Alger myth.
There are more “fair” giveaways to the elite like Mitt Romney at the link. They include subsides for wealthy corporation – of which Romney’s Bain Capital befitted. The 280 most profitable companies on the Fortune 500 received $223 billion in tax subsidies. But, but… a conservative Republican was in Wal-Mart one day and saw someone buy French champagne with food stamps; if this were possible it would be wrong. Disasters caused by corporations and the cost to fix them. You here about multimillion dollar or even billion dollar fines, but government ( tax payers) always get stuck with part of the tab. Yet Exxon for instance only paid paid 2% in U.S. federal taxes from 2008 to 2010. Now having read that some quotes from the introduction to that article. Billionaire financier Sanford Weill blustered, “We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built,” and financier J. P. Morgan, who spouted, “I owe the public nothing.” That perception, the legend of the self-made man or woman, is not about politics, it is about the incredible power of self delusion, some deeply held myths about value and some ridiculous ideas about what is fair.
I bought a cast-iron skillet at HomeGoods, on a whim, because I felt like I needed one. Everyone in the food world is always jizzing all over cast iron skillets. Benjamin’s family had a whole array of them that they’d had since his parents were married. It was gross but it was also so captivating, this idea that life could be so solid, that a marriage could be encapsulated in a set of cookware. His parents both used them on a regular basis, and they were smooth with years of use, seasoned to perfection.
Part of a much longer essay about skillets, cooking, life and relationships. I have a cast iron skillet. I think you have to in the South or you’ll be deported or something. My is seasoned to perfection as well. It is a kind of family heirloom I guess, it over seventy years old, at least that. I only use it now to bake cornbread. Though very occasionally I’ll put a little old bacon grease ( saved in a special grease container – also an old southern tradition) and fry a few eggs over medium. To the uninitiated it all probably sounds weird or even gross, like listening to a Polish friend of mine talk about some bloody sausage concoction. Its all in what you grow up with I guess.
Today is Ida’s birthday, born 16 July 1862.
For nearly four decades, journalist, editor, and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett waged a fearless campaign to end the scourge of lynching in America. The daughter of former slaves, Wells mounted a challenge to racial inequality in 1883 when she sued the railroad after being dragged from her seat for refusing to move to a segregated car. She began contributing articles to black-owned newspapers and became part owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight in 1889. When three black businessmen were lynched in Memphis in 1892, Wells vehemently denounced this atrocity and launched her anti-lynching crusade by investigating other lynchings and publishing her landmark treatise Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.
Scott Meslow manages to say in a few words what took me a couple paragraphs to say, The Moral Universe of ‘Breaking Bad’
Breaking Bad operates by the rules of science; every action causes an equal and opposite reaction, and at this point in the series, Walter is a man of very extreme action.
GRAVITY. An experimental film.