October 12, 2006

Economic Moral Values

The economy is growing. Hear the oohing and ahhing when the Dow hit a record? That’s the Republican national leaders getting a tingly sensation in their loins (money beats out underage pages any day).

Meanwhile, economic inequality is growing. Wages are stalled; in fact the median household earnings are lower than in 1999 while costs are greater. Robert Reich refers to the issue as “fairness” in his commentary.

Economic inequality is a moral value. Are we supposed to celebrate CEOs negotiating 8 figure compensation while wages stagnate? Are we supposed to sit and continue to listen to people who tell us they are our moral superiors because of their chosen faith and “get out the vote” election-year issues, and continue to define the playing field based on a perception of morality that serves their narrow political interests?

Arianna Huffington hit the nail on the head when she wrote, in her memo to Democrats:

If the Democratic Party is not about bringing focus and urgency to the creation of a more fair, just — and, yes, moral — society, it might as well cease to exist. FDR gave expression to the moral principle that should be animating Democrats when he said that “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Isn’t this the exact opposite of the immoral credo that animates Bush Republicans?

She then quotes from Barak Obama’s Democratic Convention speech:

Alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga: a belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the South Side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. . . . It’s that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. ‘E pluribus unum.’ Out of many, one.

I am not a registered Democrat. But it seems to me that this is what Democrats should be talking about. Drop as much political stuff as possible for politicians and lead, for goodness sake. I could get behind that kind of leadership, and could even join a party for a change.

If you want to pop the champagne corks at the Dow (please, look away from the NASDAQ, which BTW, appears a little lackluster by comparison) then by all means stare at your stock options.


Still thankful for your Republican leadership’s hand in the Dow numbers? Then you might also be interested what Gene Sperling wrote for Bloomberg.com today about the market’s meagre 9% annualized growth since 2003:

That’s less than half of the 20 percent annualized gain for the market in the comparable time period following the 1993 budget of Bill Clinton’s administration.

Yet, I don’t seem to recall many conservative pundits attributing President Clinton’s tax policies as the sole or even partial cause of the stock market’s dramatic surge of the 1990s. Indeed, think of how Clinton would have been vilified by right- wing pundits had the stock market failed to rise in real terms during such a 4 1/2-year period under his watch.

Most importantly, a 2005 study by the Federal Reserve found that the 2003 tax cuts had nothing to do with the Dow’s 25 percent increase that year. The Fed study found that equities unaffected by the tax cuts — such as real-estate investment trusts and European stock markets — rose proportionately with the Dow during the weeks in which the tax reductions were announced and passed.

Those champagne bubbles do sting the nose, don’t they?

Posted by James at October 12, 2006 8:15 PM
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Phenomenal post, JP, thanks.

Posted by: leslie at October 12, 2006 9:41 PM

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