Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Robin Hood in the USA

26 September 2015

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The NY Times of 16 September 2015 reported that “Median household income in the United States was $53,660 last year, the Census Bureau reported, and the poverty rate — 14.8 percent — also saw no improvement. About 46.7 million people were in poverty in 2014, the bureau said, the fourth consecutive year in which the number of people in poverty was not statistically different from the official estimate for the prior year.”

Median income is the amount that divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount. Mean income (average) is the amount obtained by dividing the total aggregate income of a group by the number of units in that group. (Wikipedia) The 2013 average household income is $73,487 with 35% households above.

I’m more and more convinced that rising inequality explains the political successes of Bernie Sanders on the left and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” on the right. It’s not only a US phenomenon though. The ridiculously high rewards in some industries have been an excellent source for polarisation and radicalisation in many other countries. In essence, it’s a phase of disorder looking for a new equilibrium. Also see my September 8 blog: Equilibrium and disorder.

In a 1-man-1-vote system, interesting developments could occur. The mere fact that Bernie Sanders is now eclipsing Hillary Clinton (NYT) in the polls puts him in the major league of players. However, the popular vote does not count in the USA as 2000 Presidential candidate Al Gore well remembers. There are many voter restrictions in the USA aimed at benefiting political parties at both sides.

The primary message of Bernie Sanders mirrors that of Robin Hood: take from the rich and give to the poor. It’s a simple and effective message. It could indeed make him the President of a country that has little respect for the poor – and several other “minorities”. The visit of Pope Francis to the USA underlines that too: the poor, the refugees, and the prisoners get his attention. (NYT)

The message of Bernie Sanders also mirrors “similar” messages in South America. The entire American continent is in search for a new equilibrium – even Venezuela but in a different direction. An equilibrium is always in the “middle” and never at the far ends. Ruthless capitalism and authoritarian communism have both proven to be unsustainable concepts. Despite their differences, they do have 2 things in common: they benefit a few at the top and disrespect the masses below.

To a large extent, capitalism and communism are even the same system but with a different name. Even the legal system hardly brings a difference: in one system justice (or protection) is for the politically well-connected, and in the other system justice (or protection) is for the rich. What does “freedom” really mean when you can’t pay your bills? Survival is all that matters in the end.

In my view, Bernie Sanders deserves a chance in restoring one of the core values of America – equality. It will get worse for a few but it could hardly get worse for most.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. Abraham Lincoln

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