Ordinarily, when people speak of income disparity they are talking about individuals or about classes of individuals. The statistics are amazing: the U.S. hasn’t had this wide of a disparity in at least 8 decades. The disparity is often even more shocking when you compare institutions. I found two stories in this vein today. On the one hand, the Sacramento, California Public Library system is planning to cut hours in an attempt to prevent lay offs of employees.
In the richest state in the richest country in the world the most basic of public services, the library, has to cut hours (“Sacramento Public Library closures scheduled due to staff furloughs“). You can just hear the austerity folks chanting their song: “We have made unsustainable promises for so long, and now it’s time to pay the piper. The recession has been over for a while but the economy is only growing slowly, etc. There’s not enough money.”
Only, that’s not true; there’s a lot of money but it’s elsewhere: “MIT and Harvard pour $60M into “edX” online courses.” I like the idea of free online courses but I can’t help but wonder why two private institutions have access to huge pools of money for this sort of program while, on the other side of the country, indeed in most of the country, public institutions are struggling to survive. I suspect the answer is public policy not accident.
The French election of a socialist government, led by Francios Hollande, isn’t a simplistic “rejection of austerity.” It is also a recognition that we, the Western Democracies, do have the money, but it lies elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we’ve essentially disarmed ourselves, dismantling labor unions and filling legislative houses with Republicans servants of the status qua. In Europe that hasn’t happened and there’s a chance priorities can be changed.