The land of haves and have-nots
Unknown to most people, there is a relentless struggle in society between those who have and those who have not.
A recent Gallup poll, “Majority Rejects Idea of Haves, Have-Nots Divide in U.S.,” created the impression that there was no such divide when in fact 41 percent felt otherwise. So the headline was correct but the impression was wrong.
Eighty-one percent of adults with incomes above $100,000 consider themselves as haves which they should because they are the haves. On the other hand, 63 percent of those earning under $40,000 claim to be have-nots, which they should because they are the have-nots.
The reason 58 percent of the respondents denied the existence of this conflict is that they are the haves who are not suffering the consequences of being have-nots. As a result, with no personal horse in the race, consideration of the problems of the have-nots is academic.
With very little at personal stake, legislators and members of Congress find it easy to lay problems over for study or the next session. No rush. I am not hurting.
Because they control the policymaking process, legislators decide on the allocation of resources or the collection of revenue. In North Dakota, when there was an income tax to cut, it was the tax most impacting the haves that got the biggest share of the cut. The have-nots got a pittance.
The same thing happened at the national level where a huge tax cut gave the haves far more than the have-nots. It was claimed that this was justified to stimulate the economy. It may have had some effect in that direction but the recovery had already begun in 2008.
Then we look at disaster assistance and find that federal money went much more quickly to the prosperous states of Florida and Texas while impoverished Puerto Rico is still waiting for lights and water years after the hurricane.
In this era of bitter partisanship, we try to label the other side as villains. There is no question that most Republicans are the haves while Democrats become the surrogates for the have-nots. But running under the underbrush are the lobbying groups that blunt the enthusiasm of Democrats for economic justice by making campaign contributions.
The have-nots have a tough future to get economic or social justice. They will always live at the mercy of the haves. Government at all levels is checked and balanced to such a degree that nothing can happen until an overwhelming majority supports it. The have-nots will never rally enough support for change. Status quo governments benefit the haves.
In his insightful book, Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr concluded that economic justice will not come through education, morality or sociology. Unusual for a clergyman, he concluded that power must be challenged by power.
Unfortunately, the have-nots are have-nots. They have not the insight, the understanding, the money, the cohesiveness or the leadership to muster the amount of power they need. So they have to accept what is given them, whether it is just or not.
We have not touched on the question of why these folks are have-nots. We have limited data. As a consequence, our judgment of why have-nots are have-nots is all based on anecdotal reports or misinformation we want to believe.
How many welfare queens are there? We don’t know. Or freeloaders who won’t work. We don’t know. So we pass legislation on hearsay or bias.
Yes, Virginia, don’t let them kid you. There are haves and have-nots.