Crises of manhood.
Perhaps they go up as the income gap widens.
We’ve now reached the top-heavy arrangements that precipitated the Civil War and the Great Depression.
In both cases we didn’t really vote ourselves out of the crisis.
The crisis happened; the money from the top collapsed; and we started again.
Although at least with FDR and the New Deal and financing WWII, the highest incomes were taxed at very high rates, and much money was spent on public works, the social safety net, and a war to end all wars and fire up the economy.
I was always “wow! yeah, he’s right!” about Tony Judt’s statement about how it didn’t occur to those who thought that capitalism had to bring about violent revolution that the industrialized West might vote itself the income redistribution necessary for a healthy polity. And I still think it is a good point, but in that case, first the stock market crashed and the top and the wealth collapsed.
(?Is this the case? And the New Deal and its public works apparently didn’t go far enough to really get the engine humming again. What really did the trick was a terrible war fought far from the homeland. ?Is this the case?)
[Look at this Top Tax Brackets in the US, starting 1913 Starts very low, gets up to 73% by the end of WWI. Then starts dropping in 1922 and by 1925 it is 25%. The stock market collapses on October 28, 1929. FDR is elected 1932; in the same year the top tax bracket goes up to 63%. It goes up, especially with WWII and is 94% in 1944. 1945-63 it is 91%. 1964 it’s 77%. 1965-81 it is 70%. These are mostly boom years. What does that say about the idea that taxing the wealthy hurts business? 1982 to 1986 with Reagan at the helm, we’re still at 50%. 1987, the end of his tenure, and we’re at 38.5%, and we’ve hovered around there ever since. Right now we’re at 37%.
There’s a chart here A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequalities titled Income Gains Widely Shared in Early Postwar Decades — But Not Since Then. At the end of the 70s, the 95th, median, and 20th percentiles start to diverge a little. And then you see the bottom two categories trending slowly upward while the top category heads to the skies. So that by 2018 real family income (as a percentage of the 1973 level) is like this: The 95th percentile is making 180% of what the median household made in 1973 (a year when all three real family income levels [how much people have to actually spend] were just about equal); the median is a little over a 100%, and the bottom 20% is a little below 100%.
Is it not ironic that the collective nostalgia fueling “Make America Great Again” rests upon a time when everyone’s real family income was pretty much the same? It wasn’t racism that was nice about that time. It was having a regular job and being able to raise a family with it. And feeling safe. (The gun laws, as it happens, were much more restrictive way back when as well.) And having a functioning democracy that didn’t make you feel like every election was a battle of us versus them, where democracy itself hung in the balance.
In fact, the trouble with that time was racial inequality and the awful gash it tears through we who would be We the People. A nation finds its way forward as a nation. That means we listen to each other, we think together, we compromise, we seek together a newer world.
I would argue against raising the top income bracket, and instead implement a wealth tax and public spending with good jobs, training programs and other incentives to jump into the green energy future, and other redistributions focused on working together over handing-over money. Until we can get things to a healthier. Like maybe the top 95% is at 150% of the 1973 real home income; the median at 145%; the bottom 20% at 140%. I don’t. Something like that. With a wealth tax, you don’t have to worry so much about undermining people who maybe only have the occasional good year, or cannot perform their profession for a long time.
I don’t see why we can’t set policies with the explicit aim of both having a healthy economy and a healthy distribution of incomes. It is not true that the wealthy deserve the money they earn. No one deserves anything. And everyone owes some difficult-to-measure, but significant portion of their success to the system wherein they live and work. We should incentive industry and creative solutions to problems. But not at the cost of allowing economic power to entrench itself the way power always does.
The powers that arise within a nation state are always to some degree owing to the structures and organizations of that nation state. And all powers should be limited, otherwise powers game the system and instead of the wisest ideas winning out, those ideas that further entrench entrenched power win out. That is the way downward.]
Crises of manhood.
When I was a boy, he was a young man.
He said he couldn’t believe the union workers at the UAW.
Going on strike when they already made more than teachers in town.
With one guy who was only allowed to push a broom and when he found nothing to push, he sat around.
And they got more vacation than he could ever imagine getting.
And so on.
Many years later he worked in a right-to-work state as a middle-manager.
And he said, those guys at the top, they would send kids back into the mines if they could.
They’d tell themselves and everyone that it was best for the company and thus best for everyone.
So he saw that people just ain’t no good.
They bend everything to their advantage and never think they’ve got enough, never notice unfairnesses that benefit their little families and other ego-trips, but cannot take their eyes off perceived unfairnesses against their daydream lives.
And that was also the time that cell phones were just coming on, and he said, the first ones to have cell phones are the shop guys, and they are on them all day arranging which bar they’ll meet up at when their shift ends at 3pm.
And he said, men need to work. Otherwise they squirrel their lives away.
And he said, young men are dangerous. Society should find them good jobs and wives for their own sake and for the sake of society. Otherwise young men spin their wheels, make trouble, and spread their chaotic misery all over town.
And he said these things.
And they had some truth to them.
And we would every year take one long van ride to visit one set of grandparents in their mountain paradise, and a magically shorter plane ride to visit the other set of grandparents in their seaside resort.
And we were lucky and happy.
And also there at the place where he came face to face with upper management and went away with a worry in his belly, when we first arrived, there was a young shop guy with a young wife and two young women. And we helped them move a little ways across town to a little cheaper place. And years later he said he’d lent that guy money. He’d been so convincing. And there was the family to think of. But that guy never paid him back and he kept bumming money and moving his family to cheaper and flimsier places. And it was because while he did have his family to think of, he also had to keep buying drugs.
And so we learned that before you lend someone money, you should pause and think, maybe find out a little more of the situation, especially if you’re new to town.
And he said men are fools. We need to give them tasks to do even if those tasks don’t matter. Because men need to work and use that money to care for their families. That way they feel useful and are at least kind of right.
Then once there was a guy we knew who lost his job and couldn’t find a job; and I said something revealing indifference to this man’s plight. And so he looks at me, his face now beginning to show the wear and tear and lines of age and accumulation of chance or Fate, across the dining table. He said, “You have no idea what that does to a man.” And I was quiet. Because I saw that I didn’t have any idea about such things.
And so it went through the years.
A man needs to please his wife in the bedroom.
And go to work and provide for his family so they can have all the things that his time and place thinks a family is supposed to get.
Then he feels he’s doing a good job and deserves the love and respect he craves and maybe even gets.
Wise men rest on impermanence and interconnectedness like birds rest on the air. They enjoy the tranquil Beauty of impermanence and interconnectedness like a dolphin enjoys leaping out the water, arching through the strangely pressure-free and pricklingly emptiness of that strange world above the shifting lid of their homeland.
A man ain’t noth’in but a man.
He should let it go.
All those dreams of strength and power never meant anything compared to the early morning light when you stand on the dusty stony earth and smell the sage meld its essence to the dry Western air.
The more corrupt a state, the more people have to choose between success and decency. And success includes looking after your family, which is often considered a fundamental decency. This is why anti-corruption laws are important. A good place is one where you can thrive while helping others. A bad place is one where you have to cheat and lie and steal to get your children clean water and decent food.
A man is not what he thinks he is.
When he dies, the powers and pleasures that he believes belong to him evaporate and are no more.
When he dies he is left only with the Love that he learned to live.
For now he should be kind and gentle and think carefully before speaking and acting.
Time will carry him into the abyss soon enough.
Let him prepare by living here and now beyond life and death, beyond being and nonbeing, in the flow.
Viewed as permanence, emptiness unfolds into an infinite world beyond being and nonbeing, an infinite Love. Viewed as impermanence, emptiness unfolds into infinite worlds of impermanent interconnected shapes, motions, and notions.
A man should listen first, consider, and then speak.
A man should find a way to support his life that is helpful to others and healthy for his own person.
He should seek synergy and win-wins in his interactions with others.
He should play the game right.
we’ll go now
up into the pines
the mountains that circle our town
we’ll watch the river frolic within its bounds
and smell the air so dry and sure
Nothing like gender, race, creed, ethnicity, religion, nation, politics, nor even one’s personality: nothing like that is Real. We wear them for a time.
The clothes are helpful to the degree we use them to live the Love that chooses everyone.
That is all.
From dust to dust, but this abides:
Spiritual Love, the kind of spacious kind delight joyous and solemnly compassionate laughter with which all is OK, and without which, nothing’s quite right.
Copyright: AM Watson (of the Sandspring Watsons, though the town forgets our barbershop, platform shoe and limp, spittoons in every corner, illegal blackjack with whisky in the backroom, and love of theological and political debate, hard-shelled in our faith, predestined to do alright hanging on to the curving edge of this dusty, well-lit but pleasantly and aromatically shaded spot)