Will the rich be nicer to the poor?
September 21, 2001 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Will the rich be nicer to the poor? The way the stockmarket keeps plunging the rich might be asking the rest of us how to survive.
posted by jbou (22 comments total)
beautiful. I couldn't have put it better myself.
posted by themikeb at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2001

Funny how no workers are crawling out demanding a share of the losses investors are seeing these days.
posted by dagny at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2001

Because the workers always get a share of the losses, you Randroid! They're called "layoffs". Boeing workers are now sharing 30,000 "losses" with Boeing investors, for example.

posted by hincandenza at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2001

Uh, no, layoffs are in fact quite rarely directly connected to declining stock prices in the financial market. Layoffs are a result of declining earnings. Two entirely different things. And while I can understand your lack of counter-arguments, please stop calling me silly names. Sheesh...
posted by dagny at 12:57 PM on September 21, 2001

dagny-when layoffs are anounced stock prices go up the rich get richer and the poor take it in the ass and the middle class taxpayer pays for the hotel room.
posted by jbou at 1:03 PM on September 21, 2001

Why would workers be crawling out? That's an interesting, quite telling, turn of phrase.
posted by xiffix at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2001

The author of the article operates from the terribly naive assumption that there was ever a time in America where the poor farmer was just as likely to have as much political clout as the rich banker.

If his point is that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, that's a good idea, but The Golden Rule and The Gold That Rules don't have much in common.
posted by briank at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2001

Layoffs are a result of declining earnings. Two entirely different things.

Not entirely. Declining earnings lead to declining stock prices and vice versa. Having a declining stock price makes it difficult to get futher investment, leading to lay offs.

My biggest gripe about the distribution of wages is that anyone who does the work of attracting business - sales people, company directors etc - earn a huge amount more than those working on the actual product or providing the service.

Yes, this is a personal gripe. I'm a journalist and resent the fact I earn substantially less than the people who sell the advertising that goes round the pages. But the only solution to wage inequality is socialism and that's been rejected pretty much everywhere.
posted by Summer at 1:22 PM on September 21, 2001

Psst... buy (certain) stocks now... In a few years, you'll be quite happy again. Best deals on some companies we may ever see in our collective lifetime.
posted by dopamine at 1:29 PM on September 21, 2001

Agreed, dopamine. Best time to buy (or sell) stocks is when it really hurts to do it.
posted by luser at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2001

Sadly, as for the article, I think there will be little tsk-tsking in the media about wage equality on the backdrop of September 11th, then it will go away.

I remember a similar, though smaller scale, situation back in 1999 in Atlanta. Firefighter Matt Moseley was a local hero for a while after rescuing crane operator Ivers Sims from a mill fire engulfing his crane in a fairly spectacular manner. Atlanta Magazine (I think) ran a city salary survey a couple of months later - Moseley was featured with a salary that seemed ridiculously small compared to the corpies and entertainment types also featured. There was talk about a raise for firefighters - something may even have come of it, I don't recall. But then the issue blinked off the media radar.
posted by Vetinari at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2001

Dennis Leary was on one of the late-night shows (Leno, I think?) talking about how firefighters should be treated better, compensation-wise.

Maybe local governments (which pay the salaries of firefighters and police officers and teachers) should raise taxes on the rich?
posted by mattpfeff at 2:45 PM on September 21, 2001

Maybe local governments (which pay the salaries of firefighters and police officers and teachers) should raise taxes on the rich?

Which will drive more of those rich people to the suburbs, leaving a far smaller tax base with which to pay the salaries of firefighters and police officers and teachers. Sounds great!
posted by aaron at 3:24 PM on September 21, 2001

Um, if it's the state government doing the tax raising, then why would the suburb running make a difference, aaron? Or even better: what if all the local governments raised their tax rate on the rich- then those rich people could drive wherever they want, and still be taxed the same- so they'd just end up staying put, giving a greater tax base to pay the salaries of firefighters and police officers and teachers. Wow, that does sound great!

It seems your anti-tax-the-rich argument is founded on divide and rule... reminds me of how MLB teams finagle themselves a new tax-payer funded stadium. Bill Maher put it well last night when he said we're greedy- we want the security, the quality of core services like firefighters and teachers, but we don't want to pay for it in better wages. Me, I want a pony...
posted by hincandenza at 4:03 PM on September 21, 2001

And remember that nobody *forced* these people to be investment bankers, librarians, firefighters, lawyers, janitors, entertainers, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 4:44 PM on September 21, 2001

And nobody *forced* those hijackers to steer the planes into the WTC and the Pentagon. I'm not seeing your point...
posted by hincandenza at 5:40 PM on September 21, 2001

Just saying that nobody held a gun to John Doe's head and said, "You WILL be a firefighter and make $XX,XXX dollars per year!" John Doe chose to be a firefighter, knowing full well that he would likely not become "rich" in the process. If John Doe decides that he would rather have a higher-paying job, he is free to attempt same.

For example, summer (above) is not happy that the sales crew makes more than he, a writer, does. My point is that if he feels strongly enough about it, he is free to try his hand at the sales job, or pick up the requisite skills and then try it.

(ps - summer, not attacking you - no offense intended)
posted by davidmsc at 5:55 PM on September 21, 2001

Ah... thanks for the explanation, I really wasn't understanding you before. Although I guess for me the problem still remains: if John Doe chooses to be a firefighter instead of pursuing the most money, and this altruistic act in turn saves the life of Joe Executive, why do we still as a society put so much value on how much people earn as the single biggest measure of how much they contribute to society? Often it is suggested, for example, that Joe Executive is "contributing" more to society, hence his high pay- most extremely and foolishly demonstrated in Ayn Rand's foolish notion of the Superman/Executive pulling up the unappreciative riffraff of society with their brilliance and determination. However, I 'spect when Joe Executive is covered in soot, half-conscious and bleeding, being carried down 20 flights of stairs by FDNY's John Doe, "value" becomes a subjective notion. At least, that appears to be the point of the article: we can't not have firefighters (or teachers, or etc.), so why treat them like they're less important simply because they make less money?
posted by hincandenza at 8:28 PM on September 21, 2001

Tangentially, just because it's a nice little fable of capitalism: the first British fire brigades were privately run by insurance companies, in the wake of the Great Fire of London. (Understandably, because you'd rather pay to prevent damage, than cover losses.) Some old houses in London still have "fire-mark" plaques, which showed the fire crews which were "theirs": that's why Sun Life has its distinctive logo. Of course, this climate of free and robust competition had some problems, such as competing fire-crews setting each others houses ablaze. It's a business model that's probably now better associated with the mafia.

We don't see that many free-marketeers these days demanding that the fire service be run on such a basis; but they expect it to be there. A good job, too, since if it were still the remit of the insurance companies, I suspect that recent events would have brought some pretty heated renegotiations.
posted by holgate at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2001

Thanks, hincandenza.

That last blurb you wrote went straight into my great quotes file.
posted by ducktape at 10:49 PM on September 21, 2001

I'm a she, David.
posted by Summer at 6:19 AM on September 22, 2001

Oops...sorry, Summer. Funny thing, assumptions... ;-)
posted by davidmsc at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2001

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