Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Caudillos

Nick Kristof, who railed against increasing income inequality in the USA, calling America a banana republic, continues today:

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.

People have a sense that our economy is going the wrong way, that jobs and growth are expanding elsewhere and diminishing here, that we're a declining power. I'd suggest that that vast income inequality, at the cost of a stable, confident middle class sustained with good jobs at good wages, might just be more a factor than government stimulus of an economy in recession. The job's hardly finished in Latin America, but we've seen a movement away from caudillos dropping dissidents off helicopters into the sea, however much still needs to be done. And we've seen the opposite movement here. The American cult of the CEO, seems to me, is the full equivalent of the Man on Horseback: outsized rewards seen as a just due; cult of personality; celebrated for the exercise of arbitrary, unaccountable power; their companies' stock prices rising when they hurt people by closing plants, laying off workers, downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, thinking outside the box, and, in general, giving pig fuckers a bad name..

I know, I know; outdated, disproven Keynesianism, even if Henry Ford knew enough to make the Model T affordable to those who built it. Silly me...

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Those former banana republics are not altogether vanquished, but most are rising while the U.S. falls. Health care, education, economies and wages are ahead of ours in many below our southern border. In almost all, the former conquerors/conquistadores have been put out of the government offices they established, and the indigenous populations are no longer slave labor. Too bad we're going in the other direction. I don't forget, 'filibusteros' is Spanish for freebooters, the U.S. soldiers that tried to establish their own homeland in Central America and were chased out.