Putting Wealth and Community into Perspective

Well, big money wins again! Once again, the the wealthy are prospering and the rest of us are fighting over the crumbs. I read a disheartening statement in the news today. The article, by Geoff Mulvihill is called “Anger brews over government workers’ benefits” reports, among other things, that government employees actually do have a slightly better economic deal than private sector workers. Here’s what the article says:
National data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that public-sector workers do better when it comes to pensions and benefits.
As of last September, professional and management workers in the private sector were making $34.91 in hourly salary; public sector professionals made $33.17 an hour.
The government entities spent 1.7 times as much on health care per employee-hour worked and nearly twice as much on retirement costs. Public-sector workers — who are more often represented by unions — are far more likely to have defined-benefit pensions with promises to pay for the retirees’ whole lives.

So, here’s the deal: private sector workers make slightly more and public sector workers have better benefits. If we look exclusively at this data, we might be able to make a case for some adjustment. But first, let’s put these figures into some perspective.

Consider this: The richest 400 people in the country have a combined worth of about 1.37 Trillion dollars. That deserves a WOW, but there is an even more significant figure than that. Between 2009 and 2010 the net worth of our 400 wealthiest increased by 8%. First of all, who among the private or public sectors got an 8% raise between 2009 and 2010? In order to put the middle class wage struggle in perspective, let’s assume that 8% is the income for a year of the wealthiest 400.
An 8% increase from $1.27 trillion of $1.37 trillion is about $101.5 billion. That’s about $254 million for each of them.

There are 52 40-hour weeks in a year. So $254 million divided by 2080 hours per year shows us that each of our 400 wealthiest people made $121,995 per hour!!!!!!!!!!

(Someone might argue that the wealthy work hard for their money, so let’s assume, again for the sake of perspective that they work every available hour, never sleeping or taking any kind of a break from work. There are 24 hours times 365 days in a year, or 8760 hours. This means that this group makes $28967 per hour for every hour of the year! If the average worker’s whole economic package is about $50 per hour for 2080 hours per year, consider that the wealthy make more than 2400 times the amount the rest of us make in the same number of hours! (Try putting your own economic numbers into the calculation and see how you fare.)

Now, I ask you, given this obscene disparity, why should the $33 and $34 dollar per hour workers be encouraged to fight with each other about who has the better deal.

So Wayne, you might ask, what does this have to do with community? Well, in the political arena, it appears that the wealthy retain their power in part by fomenting a political situation that makes the rest of us enemies of each other as we fight over the economic crumbs. How can we ever build community when we are manipulated into such an adversarial relationship with the very people who should be our allies against a grossly unjust system? As long as we maintain our narrow focus on the tiny differences between the public and private sector, we will never even see the much more significant elements of systemic injustice.

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”
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