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economic justice


Republicans are winning the semantics war.
In the 2000 Al Gore presidential campaign Vice President Al Gore framed the debate as the 1% vs. the 99%. He won the popular vote on that issue, but did not win the election. Pew Research pointed to why he did not do so well in a poll in which they asked: Do you believe that you are in the top 1% of earners in the United States?" Their poll found that 19% of heads of households believed they were in the top 1% and another 20% believed that they were going to be. The Al Gore campaign thus wrote off 39% of the electorate.
An example of Republican semantics occurs when we speak of "average" household income which has been about $50,000 + 6% per year for quite some time. The average that $50,000 represents is the "median" income; not the "average" in the popular use of the term. The mean (arithmetic average) household income is more like $125,000* per year. Some of those people who believe themselves to be in the top 1% are probably not even above average.
Theodore Roosevelt spoke of his economic policy as the "Square Deal" and Franklin Roosevelt's was the "New Deal." Their reference metaphor is not spoken of anymore. The Roosevelt's Deals compared the economy to a poker game. When the chips are spread around the table the game has some vigorous betting activity. As the chips pile up at one end of the table the game slows and when the chips end up in one stack the game comes to a halt. The Square Deal and the New Deal sought to spread the chips more evenly around the poker table. The Paul Samuelson Economics 101 text explained the phenomena as the economic cycle. (Wikipedia has bought into Republican semantics and equates the economic cycle with the business cycle.) The economic cycle is where money flows from consumer to investor to producer to consumer etc. in an endless cycle. The Republicans, of course, are hung up on shoveling money at the investor and even blatantly calling their policy "supply-side" economics. Democrats could learn from their choice of terminology and call their policy "demand-side" economics (which in fact it is). To me demand-side economics sounds much more appealing than a reliance on class struggle rhetoric.
The American exceptionalism which I learned in school is a bit different than that which Republican terminology speaks of today. In 1776 most governments in the world were monarchies where monarchs ruled through their nobles or the 1%. The document that notified the world that we were a new nation rejected rule by a select few with the words "...all men are created equal." We were then the exception in liberal political thought and we made those thoughts a reality. In our subsequent history we became more democratic. Democratic meaning rule by the "demos" or rule by the many rather than rule by "one" the "mono" in monarchy or the few the "aristo" in aristocracy. And speaking of the "cracies;" the current crop of Republicans has gone so far right on the political spectrum that they resemble the anarchists of a century ago. In the original meaning of the word and anarchist was one who was against government.
*In 2009 the GDP was $14,660,400,000,000 and the number of households was 117,338,000 or $124,729.02 per houshold.

Pete Fisher
Arroyo Grande, CA