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Boortz: Faced with an impending national disast ... [Media Matters]:
"You just be logical. Get all of the emotion out of this. Get all of the emotion out of this. But if we are faced with a disaster in this country, which group do we want to save? The rich or the poor? Now, if you have time, save as many people as you can. But if you have to set some priorities, where do you go? The rich or the poor? OK? Who is a drag on society? The rich or the poor? Who provide the jobs out there? The rich or the poor? Who fuels -- you know, which group fuels our economy? Drives industry? The rich or the poor?"
First off, yes, its offensive to base people's worth on their income. But sadly, in this society that is precisely what we do day after day.
What I wanted to take issue with is the whole notion that the rich are the drivers of the economy. Boortz, and people who agree with him, seem to think that working people are disposable. This is a convenient way of thinking, especially if you need dirt cheap labor. They also seem to think that all rich people are a product of hard work.
The reality is a little more complex than that. Sure there are people that don't contribute much to society. But its also true that there are millions of working poor who, despite sometimes working two jobs, still live in poverty. It is also true that there are rich people who earned their money the hard way; by putting in long hours, educating themselves, and making sacrifices. But it is also true that there are scores of rich people who did nothing more than pop out of a rich womb.
Boortz's comments exemplifies his poor grasp of economic realities.
Work creates wealth.
Consider what would happen if you had a man with hundreds of acres of fertile land but only his own two hands with which to work that land. Now consider that same land with fifty workers on it. Which is going to create more wealth? The first situation is what lead to American slavery. You had people from Europe claiming huge tracts of land in the "new world", but with only their own two hands there was only the potential for wealth, because you can't escape the economic reality: Wealth is the extraction and transformation of a raw material into a marketable commodity. That requires work. No way around it. Even the basic act of extracting raw materials takes work. The only real way to get something for nothing is if you just stumble upon some gold or diamonds just sitting on the ground somewhere. Minimal work required there, but otherwise its going to require some labor to become wealthy.
You also have to realize the hierarchy of needs. In the larger scheme of things, those well paid professional jobs are the first on the chopping block. Which is more essential to survival, a marketing director, or a guy who picks crops? You know the answer, we can't eat marketing campaigns. If you had to pick a team to survive out in the wild, would you take a guy who knows how to pick food and build shelter, or a guy that can whip up a glossy ad campaign? The marketing guy might turn out to be one heck of a survivalist, but what I'm trying to say is that sometimes we fail to recognize that the skills needed to become rich and successful in this society are very much geared to a very specific time and place. Given different circumstances there might be a completely different set of winners and losers. The very existence of a well paid, highly skilled professional class of people is very dependent on ample (even excess) supplies of food, water, shelter etc...
Which leads to my next point.
Wealth loses its value pretty quick if it can't be used. The reason we seek wealth is for the material goods and services that it buys for us. If I had millions of dollars I could buy nice cars, take long trips, build a fancy house and deck it out in the latest in technological goodies, among other things. But all that is very dependent on workers who make cars, workers who build houses, workers who pilot planes and workers who put together all those tech goodies. Without that infrastructure of working people wealth becomes less valuable. If in Boortz's world a huge tidal wave comes and washes away everyone but a small group of wealthy people who were herded up to the highest mountain tops for safety, they could stand there and wave their money all day long, but unless someone wants to start working not much is going to get done.
His assumption, which is flat wrong in my opinion, is that we live in a society that rewards hard work with wealth and punishes sloth with poverty, and that there is a direct correlation between a person's net worth and their work ethic. I feel this confuses an economic argument for a moral one. I've known many hard working people that never get rich, and we've witnessed many rich people that posses none of the virtues that we claim to value. While there might be a correlation between wealth and work ethic, its by no means a strong one.
The mythology that we accept in this country is useful for many reasons. By devaluing the worth of essential work we can get people to perform those tasks for little compensation, without this work we would all starve and have nothing. If we can get the working class to create wealth with little to no compensation it leaves more for the rest of us; a very desirable thing in a profit driven society. By assigning moral values to the type of work a person performs we can justify low wages for what we call menial labor and defend inequality in a society. Boortz's comments were based on the conventional wisdom among most conservatives. Which explains why conservatives have such problems with immigration issues. On one hand they have the undesirables that they want to keep out of the country, but on the hand, the corporate funders realize the value of an influx of cheap labor.
Just consider that.
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