By Tom Kando
We have 10% unemployment. Therefore 90% are NOT unemployed. Of course, there is a lot more than 10% hidden unemployment. Still, no-one could argue that an absolute majority of the labor force is unemployed. So by this measure, a majority of the people are more or less “okay,” even though, there is more and more inequality.
Same with having a roof over your head, be it owned or rented. Most Americans are not homeless. By this criterion, too, a vast majority of Americans are “okay.”
By “being okay,” then, I mean: You have a job of some sort, a roof over your head, you eat three decent meals a day, you send your kids to school, you drive a car, you are not being preyed upon by criminals, and you are better off than those who are below the poverty line and those who have lost their job.
In this sense, those who speak on behalf of the folks who are “not okay,” - the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, progressives, President Obama - do not speak for a majority.
Here is how the majority thinks: “I have to look out for Number One. Now more than ever. Life is a zero-sum game. I can’t afford to pay more taxes. Things are already hard enough for me and for my family.”
If life is a zero-sum game - the stupid but prevailing attitude - then what’s good for the 10% to 15% who are NOT okay, is not good for the 90% who ARE. Sharing is not part of the majority’s thinking.
What if 20% of the people were not okay? Or even 30%? That would still leave a large majority who would feel that sharing is not in their interest.
And what are the chances of even 30% of the population becoming “not okay?” This has never happened in our history, and it is absolutely unlikely to happen in our future. It has hardly ever happened in the history of the world. It is almost an impossibility.
Think of some disastrous cases: Mexico looks pretty bad right now. But a majority of the Mexican people still lead relatively normal lives. Today, I can only think of one failed state where most people probably no longer "have a life" - Somalia.
In the past, who knows. Maybe the depth of the Dark Ages, the Merovingian era, the collapse of the West Roman Empire, the Black Death. I suppose there have been periods when human life was “short nasty and brutish, ” - jungle like. But by and large, most of the time, most people do “have a life.” They are okay. And that is certainly so today.
So when we say that “things are terrible,” there is now a “Great Recession,” and in the thirties there was a “Great Depression,” what we mean is that the number of people who are “not okay” has grown to an unacceptable 13% of the population, or at worst 25%. In civilized society, we are prepared to accept a 2%-to-5% level of misery, but not 15% to 25%. Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployment was “only” 25%. Never in the history of the US has a majority of the labor force been unemployed, or lost its home, or lost everything it had.
...and neither will it happen now. We’ll keep hobbling along.
So why would people rally around Occupy Wall Street, or President Obama, or any progressive cause? This would require sharing. But since most people see life as a zero-sum game, and since it is now more important than ever to “look out for number one,” sharing is not what the large majority of the people is about to do. That’s too bad.leave comment here
Sunday, October 30, 2011
By Tom Kando