Rights for Me, Not So Much for Thee….

There’s plenty of information available detailing America’s troubling economic inequality; just recently, for example, Salon Magazine ran an article highlighting numbers that showed “America’s busted priorities” and their contribution to that widening gap. They presented the numbers in a variety of ways, but the summary tells the tale:

The following are averages, which are skewed in the case of tax breaks and investment income, as a result of the excessive takings of the .1% and the .01%. Details of the calculations can be found  here.

$8,600 for each of the  Safety Net recipients

$14,600 for each of the  Social Security recipients

$27,333 for each of the  Pension recipients

$54,740 for each of the  Teachers

$200,000 for each of the  Tax Break recipients among the richest 1%

$500,000 for each of the  Investment Income recipients among the richest 1%

The super-rich feel they deserve all the tax breaks and the accumulation of wealth from the productivity of others. This is the true threat of entitlement.

A recent investigative report from the New York Times confirms the suspicion that Salon’s numbers are not the result of inadvertence or accident. The subhead pretty much says it all: “The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.”

These numbers tell an important story, but they don’t tell the whole story: economic inequality both leads to–and results from–other kinds of inequality. It’s a vicious cycle.

Less affluent neighborhoods are less safe. Schools attended by poorer children have fewer resources and poorer results. Friends and relatives of poor Americans are unlikely to benefit from the networking that the more affluent use to find job opportunities. Access to quality healthcare remains unequal even after Obamacare.

Actually, what is even more troubling than these  persistent inequities has been the hysterical resistance to Obamacare’s very modest effort to extend health care to poorer Americans. A substantial portion of the public has responded to the Affordable Care Act with hostility and a truly unhinged animus. The assault has not focused upon reasoned concerns about aspects of the law; instead, opponents have indignantly rejected the very suggestion that access to healthcare might be a human right, or at the very least, a primary good that government should provide.

It isn’t only efforts to equalize access to healthcare that have met with hostility. Increasingly, we see  substantial support for unequal rights in other areas:

Americans place a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of the protections, according to a new survey.

Solid majorities said it was extremely or very important for the U.S. to uphold religious freedom in general. However, the percentages varied dramatically when respondents were asked about specific faith traditions, according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

This reluctance to understand that rights are different from privileges—this inability to understand that no one really has rights if government gets to decide who gets them and who doesn’t—reminded me of Nat Hentoff’s 1992 book “Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee.” If there is one area in which equality is supremely important, it’s equality before the law–and contrary to what too many Americans seem to believe, equality is not a zero-sum game.

There’s a significant “chicken and egg” component to these various manifestations of inequality—which comes first, economic deprivation or reduced social efficacy? We may not be able to answer that question, but surely we can figure out a way to break the cycle.


  1. “Access to quality healthcare remains unequal even after Obamacare.”

    It is early in the day and there is too much to absorb from today’s blog at one sitting so I will only touch on one issue, the quote copied and pasted above.

    With all I have seen regarding “Obamacare” I have yet to see any reference, except my own on this blog, regarding the questionable fact that applicants in Republican states with their own health care system are NOT ALLOWED to apply directly to ACA unless and until they have been denied coverage by all companies listed in the state system which includes Medicaid. This means sending each applicant’s information to the many companies listed, then sit and wait for some response from the state. This renders Obamacare totally unavailable and useless in Republican states with few exceptions. My own family’s attempt was an exercise in futility due to their October 2013 application leading to being notified of acceptance months after (late June 2014) the ACA deadline (March 31, 2014) with the only offer being a monthly premium of $1,200 (original, dropped policy $450) and annual deductible of $12,000 (original dropped policy $9,600). Because the state of Indiana did not notify them of acceptance – or denial – till too late, they were fined $900 due to being without required coverage for that year. They trusted the state of Indiana’s promise of availability of quality coverage for all at reasonable rates.

    This is probably the case in all Republican state health care systems…how can they legally deny American citizens the right to apply to the health care coverage of their choice when this is now required by law? They can do it because they choose to and who is to stop them? They are not qualified to police themselves; they are the fox in the chicken coop guarding their victims.

    “Economic inequality” are only words; letters strung together into meaningless phrases and catchwords. All of the statistics listed in the blog are not mere numbers; they refer to people, people in need who are sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of financial decline while trying to survive. “Getting ahead in life” has become another meaningless phrase as it is now an opportunity we knew in the past.

  2. “We may not be able to answer that question, but surely we can figure out a way to break the cycle.”
    but not yet

  3. I can not help but to notice that your blogs so far this year have been about “corruption”, “lack of ethics”, and now “inequality”. That seems to me to be the trifecta of causes for revolution.

  4. “This reluctance to understand that rights are different from privileges” – I believe this sentence sums up the Christian religious right rhetoric.

    When the words “freedom” or “liberty” are combined with the word “religious”, it is nothing more than a statement claiming the right to discriminate. Those claiming this right to discriminate essentially want to force everyone else to give up the rights to their own freedom and liberty. They are demanding that everyone else aquiesce to their authority.

    On Meet the Press this morning there was a gentleman that conducted a study regarding the anger of Americans. The bottom line showed that middle class Americans are angry because not only is the American Dream no longer a possibility for us, but that we have been falling behind economically for decades. If you are interested in checking out the statistics of the study, one point of interest is that white republican women are the most angry.

  5. How does my neighbor having lots more money than I have adversely affect my life? As I see it, when she has more money, she is more likely to afford what I produce.

  6. Re: JoAnn’s comments. It seems to me that what your family got caught up in, and what has happened to so many others, is the result of all the Republican efforts to”make Obama fail”. What those who bought into this diabolical effort refuse to see is that they are failing their own country. I do not know what this year will bring, but paraphrasing Bette Davis’ best line ever, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

  7. Ken Glass; that is the most Republican comment you have ever made on this blog. So typically unaware of any reality but your own little part of the world. You have tunnel vision and, like my uncle who became totally blind due to retinisis pigmentosa, your vision is rapidly narrowing and will soon close that tunnel totally. Maybe then your hearing will become more acute and your will become aware of what is actually going on around you.

  8. One way to consider “rights” is as aspects of life not limited by law. There are many reasons why law is absent from certain aspects, the Constitution being only one.

    If money hadn’t ever been invented humanity would have had to figure out otherwise what each person is entitled to by birth and what extra certain life actions entitle.

    With money in the picture we solved that problem by agreeing that what each person is entitled to upon birth is what they were born into.

    Then we said that during life each of us is additionally entitled to whatever we can take from others legally. We thought that as necessary to motivate each and every one of us to to contribute our talents ultimately to the good of all of us. Of course we all started the race at the line defined by what we were born into.

    In can be argued that those simple assumptions worked well in the days when there was not much beyond survival at stake. Of course that reality no longer exists for the median person but is still the reality for many outliers.

    Like happens so often what seemed like a good idea at the time loses effectiveness as times change.

    In a perfectly collaborative world we’d get together and adapt new rules for new times but in this case we have created a monster – people with so much comfort and so much power, both from their share of our resources, that they can stop society from solving the problem that they represent.

    In the past that always spelled revolution. It still does. The question now is has progress revealed less traumatic means to revolt? (Aside: the concept of an impending armed insurrection is the main tool that the NRA uses to sell the products that they are hired to advertise.)

    Of course democracy opens up the possibility of a voter revolution that redefines “rights” of birth as more than what one is born into. An equal start for everyone. That would have to effectively outlaw unlimited wealth and privilege and require by law the tools of life be given to all, merely by reason of their birth. To my way of thinking that would include mental and physical health, adequate education, domestic and global safety, freedom both of and from religion.

    The good news is that there is nothing standing in the way of accomplishing this progress except for the present “right” to unlimited wealth.

    We have to choose between two alternatives. Armed vs voter insurrection. Seems simple to me.

  9. JoAnn, your family’s experience is simply not typical. I applied for a health care plan on the federal marketplace in Dec 2013 for coverage starting in Jan 2014. I switched to a different plan on the marketplace for 2015, and renewed that coverage for 2016. At no time was I required to apply to any other agency. The only exception, in Feb 2015, when the medicaid “expansion” was implemented, is that I had to go back in and re-confirm income estimates, etc, to verify that I was not eligible under the new HIP2.0.
    You have mentioned before that there was a disabled child in the mix (not sure if I’m recalling the right mix of family members). Maybe that factor requires you to first apply to other state-run programs. But for most people under most circumstances, there is nothing preventing you from obtaining coverage directly from healthcare.gov first.

  10. Ms. Strinka; my intelligent daughter-in-law followed all instructions. When told the state was not releasing status results to applicants till April or May 2014, she contacted ACA directly. THEY told her she had to go through the state system and to try applying for any one of the companies on the Indiana list. She attempted to do this but was told by the state they were NOT accepting any more applications till AFTER March 31, 2014, even though she was already in their system. She did not misunderstand, she followed all instructions. Of course the state system accepted and provided coverage for some people immediately – they could hardly refuse all applicants. I have a single friend who applied in October 2013 and was immediately accepted, her rate went up $50 last January, no idea about this year. Yes; this is the family with the disabled child but…made no difference because they had been paying all medical and prescription bills with their original coverage. The only option offered by her employer, the Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese, is Anthem-Blue Cross/Blue Shield who, incidentally raised their monthly premium $70 beginning this month. So she is now paying $520 a month for nothing and is still paying all medical bills…which are rising along with her monthly premium. Had she been allowed to apply to ACA she would have done so in October 2013 – that is why she opted out of her original plan and began the process through the state of Indiana as directed.

  11. JoAnn Green, you respond to my most Republican comment ever in classic liberal form. I.e. I am blind and oblivious and maybe some day I will be enlightened. No response to my question, just an insult about my lack of intelligence. I invited you to enlighten me but you chose simply to mock me instead. I can almost see you condescending facial expression.

  12. The Trump thing is not a mystery. Relatively dumb white Americans are 1) still racist and mistrustful of other cultures and ideas, and 2) noticing that someone or something has made it impossible for them to lead decent lives (Bob at the gas station: “I think it’s them darkies or them moslems that done it”). So some guy comes along and says that he will be a strong man (a strongman) and make this right, and to them this is beautiful music.

    To expect this cohort to even be capable of understanding your words above or about ethics or just about anything else is simply asking too much. We can go on about the what causes this, but in fact those “causes” (racism, nationalism, religiosity) are really the symptoms of ignorance and stupidity. The only long run cures are 1) education, and 2) and political system that is not excessively democratic (which is what the founding fathers clearly intended).

    In the mean time, all we can do is outvote them. Those who stand to lose most generally do not vote, and Bob definitely does vote, so we MUST push as many like minded people to the polls as possible. The future of our way of life depends on it.

  13. Joann, from the HealthCare.gov website.

    1. The Health Insurance Marketplace is for people who don’t have health coverage

    If you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source that provides qualifying coverage, the Marketplace can help you get covered.

    *If you have job-based insurance: You can buy a plan through the Marketplace, but you’ll pay full price unless your employer’s insurance doesn’t meet certain standards. Most job-based plans do meet the standards.

    *If you have Medicare: You can’t switch to Marketplace insurance, supplement your coverage with a Marketplace plan, or buy a Marketplace dental plan. Learn about Medicare and the Marketplace.

    Sounds like your daughter dropped her job-based insurance in order to receive ACA insurance. Perhaps that slowed the process.

    From HealthCare.gov https://www.healthcare.gov/quick-guide/

  14. Ken you seem to be in denial of the possibility of being wrong or at least oblivious of what has and has not worked for American government. All that you offer in defense is that whatever people have gathered in up to this point in history they have exclusive universal right to. From God seems to be your opinion.

    I would propose that your first mistake is living in a democracy subject to the rule of all citizens. We who have the votes, not the gold, make the rules. We do what we think is best for everyone not just you.

    Republican entitlement is wearing real thin. You are not entitled to be right. You are not entitled to dictate. You are not entitled to take over what is ours. All of us are free not just you.

  15. A couple of G—-r’s troll minions have recently slipped in here. In that same fashion, they bring not a wisp of understanding about the truth of the matters at hand. “There is none so blind as he who will not see.”

  16. The answer to Health Care in the USA, is what Bernie Sanders has proposed which is Medicare for all. As a retired Boomer I was lucky all my working life, to be employed by large multi-national corporations which provided Health Care. I had to pay for part of it, and there were also Co-Pays, net work limitations, and deductibles.
    As Veteran I have access to the V.A. Care, along with Medicare. What is surprising and deeply disappointing to me is some people I know who are Democrats have surrendered to a preconceived idea that Bernie will not be able to get Medicare for all in the face of fierce Republican resistance. These people have surrendered before the fight has begun.
    The Republicon Plan is if you can afford Heath Care you can have whatever the Market provides, if not go home and die.
    Thankfully, I see a lot of support for Bernie among the Millennials.

  17. Louie, I agree with Medicare for all but think about the fact that I have paid for it over about 50 years. And my employer for over 40 years.

    The real problem is less who pays it and more that it’s just unaffordable for more and more people no matter who signs the check.

    So my main hope for Medicare for all is effective cost control, the real issue. I’m pretty sure that will take steps well beyond Medicare for all.

  18. Ken, your neighbor may have “lots more money” because she and her class are protected by tax laws which shield her wealth from taxes that you and I have to pay. You might read all of Sheila’s post this time.

  19. When considering family disfunction, therapists apparently can trace a particular pathology back through generations – such that the behaviour your alcoholic great grandfather brought forth in your grandmother can still be found operating in you, and your own children.

    Suppose we considered the behaviour of the privileged with the same long historical tale (which I am pretty sure most of you do). That would mean that Ken Glass’s own blind privilege is inherited. He operates in his world with the assumptions that made trade unions necessary, that caused the great depression, that eventually resulted in the current very broken but still extant “social welfare” system. So, he is caught and perhaps is not at fault – but he does have the opportunity, and I would maintain, the responsibility, to seek a different pattern.

    We have already identified the fear that continues to drive Mr. Glass and his fellow travellers – that somehow there is not enough to go around so that the need to secure and pile up riches and rights on their side is a desperate drive of his survival against the other’s survival.

    Or, to answer his post above, his neighbor’s ability to purchase his goods (and therefore insure his own presence on the rich side) should be somehow untrammelled and forever guaranteed. Nevermind human nature.

    Nevermind justice, but, more amazing, nevermind the common sense that that nasty man, Henry Ford operated with – lots and lots of folk needed the ability to purchase his cars

    I apologize that this post is less respectful than I intended. I do respect that fear that conservatives seem to suffer with, I lived most of my life with the fear that somehow I would not figure out how to go forward day to day and get the necessities for my children. Now I live with the fear that they and my grandchildren will fall into a worse abyss.

    What to do? I fall back on the cynical wish that these rich jerks who are decimating all justice across the board as fast as possible will be condemned to older life in the care of someone whose education was truncated, whose life was twisted by these nasty actions. Or, as we said in the 60s, kharma will get you.

  20. JoAnn- I’m not questioning your daughter’s intelligence or disputing her experience. I’m simply pointing out that it is the exception, not the rule. You said yourself, that you have not read about this limitation anywhere else. Perhaps that is because very few people have encountered it. The healthcare.gov marketplace was not designed to be an alternative for people who had access to an employee plan that met required coverage levels.
    I’m sure your story is true, but I wouldn’t want that unusual story to discourage others who need coverage from seeking options on the marketplace because of the bad experience of one family.

  21. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

    The above is from a letter to the Canadian people from Jack Layton, the dying leader of the federal New Democratic Party – NDP. Over the decades, the NDP has been behind many of the best changes in Canadian society, specifically, e.g., our medical system. This party has been seen as our Conscience. Perhaps it is.

    In the last federal election, the ground shifted and the hopeful middle ground Jack carved out was occupied by the Liberals led by the younger Justin Trudeau. You all will know this, mostly. My point is this (and i realize i am, and apologize for, over posting here) – in taking joyful control of our country, young Trudeau elaborated on Jack’s principles in a very good way.

    He said in his acceptance speech – conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbors.

    And this is my more coherent apology to Mr. Glass – you are my neighbor and I value and require your alternate views to both clarify my own thinking and/or open new doors that I could not imagine. I believe that our divergent perspectives are both necessary for our world’s best future. I want you and yours to be safe and prosper!

    What I cannot grasp is that you do not, apparently, want the same from and for me and mine. Your intrangisence troubles me; your evident belief in your own superiority, no matter what, makes me crazy (and less than polite). What is going on? Are we, as I speculated earlier, dealing with a sense of being “chosen” coming down to you through Calvinist ancestors?

    Again, what to do? Try to communicate respectfully. Try to live correctly within my own sphere – which encompasses that Quaker idea of searching for and responding to that piece of the holy in every individual. And (here is where my Quaker principles wobble badly) trust that kharma will truly come to both of us, but that you will finally be able to realize that you are embedded in a race of others such that your value is in relation to the whole – only that. For me, I hope that I will finally get those principles integrated into my daily life.

  22. Political philosophies, or worldviews, are not so much right or wrong as in or out of tune with the times. What I believe in is the middle of the road on average over time.

    But to get there the populous must continuously be correcting, searching, considering new approaches.

    That is why democracy works – a population mostly stuck where they are, with a small portion thinking, keeping up, never satisfied, switching sides dependant on the times.

    Conservatism over done, extreme, has led to a liberal revolution which, probably, will lead inexorably to a conservative revolution in the future as the swing voters, the only ones who make a difference, correct again.

    On top of that dynamic there is also always the scarcity of exceptional politicians. Like sports teams the luck of the draw also causes party popularity to ebb and flow.

    I also believe that progress in technology and our penchant for reproduction limited only by our capacity to subsist will have to lead to the middle of the road curving to the left.

    It’s complicated but at least so far self correcting.

  23. Ken; I didn’t think your question qualified for an answer. Ms. Strinka seems to have found one that should suffice.

  24. Mary Strinka, thanks for not giving up on me simply because we disagree. I have only skimmed the article you posted and intend to give it further attention. I find it interesting how many assumptions about me were made, simply because I questioned the assumptions of the majority on this site. Three of my four grandparents were long-time union members. Two of them struggled through 15 years of retirement making ends meet by giving music lessons in their home. The other grandfather left school in 1906 after fourth grade and worked in the veneer business for the next 72 years. In May of 1929 he opened his own mill and worked 16 hour days for the next 20 years. I am privileged, but not the way that term is generally used today. My privilege is the family tradition of hard work and concern for my fellow human beings. I feel confident that I have spent as much time and resources helping other people as anyone reading this post. The assumptions made by many of you are as bigoted as any person you look down your collective noses at. You assume I am a troll and either ignore or insult me because you “know” you are better than I am. That is really too bad because you might be able to learn something from me. I am certain that I can learn something from you. I wonder if that certainty is because I am open to learning from those with different viewpoints?

  25. Ken, to me hard work is table stakes these days. Everybody who is earning their living rather than basking in comfort works hard. I believe that the ability to work hard is one of the things that we are born into. We learn it by seeing our families do it.

    My issue is people who believe that there is a Republican candidate this year who’s qualified to be President. I just can’t see it. And I’m a Republican.

  26. Pete, I am less than enthusiastic about the crop of candidates who are available on either side of the aisle. I yearn for a candidate who can provide a vision without fear or massive give-aways. Clinton and Sanders are not the answer any more than Trump is.

  27. I know Ken that your party has been campaigning against Hillary for a couple of decades now and you are supposed to buy what they sell. However the question remains: if they don’t like Hillary why didn’t they offer an alternative?

  28. Two things Pete! First, I would love to meet the young people who have learned their work ethic from family because the 1200 middle schoolers show little evidence of such a work ethic. Second, am I to assume that your enthusiasm for Hillary is so tepid that you were going to consider a republican? I made myself a promise in 1996. I promised never to “spend” my vote merely voting against someone. If I couldn’t vote FOR a candidate, I would not vote at all. Maybe you should consider a similar commitment.

  29. Ken, there are two qualified candidates. I will invest my vote in making sure that one of them wins the office. I am a registered Republican but the party left me after LBJ. I keep hoping that they will come to their senses but they keep compounding their problems – a sign of how dysfunctional their worldview has become.

  30. Pete, it always amazes me when I put together a thoughtful (though misguided from your perspective) post asking several questions only to get answers to just one. My response to your answer is a request for clarification. Based on your perception that the GOP deserted you in the mid-60’s, am I to assume that you were fine with Nixon in ’60 but not in ’68? What changed? It seems odd that a dedicated republican could not find anyone to support in Goldwater to Dole to McCain. Seem to cover a quite wide political spectrum. The question left unanswered, was where are the young people learning the work ethic from their families, because they are not in my middle school?

  31. Ken Glass – if you want to keep your commitment to not “spend”a vote on tepid support, go ahead and do that. It’s not like you can save it up and use it another time. Just go ahead and let other people determine the outcome.
    As for me, I will continue to vote even when my vote is for the lesser of two evils. Choosing to walk away from the system just lets a smaller more extreme faction control the outcome.
    Why do you assume that everyone who participates in this forum is somehow obligated to answer every question you throw out?
    Ken, if you can spend your days among 1200 middle schoolers and not find a single one who has learned a work ethic, then maybe you are in the wrong profession.

  32. Mary; excellent comments. Sad but true that we too often must vote for the lesser of two evils; the state of the governor’s race in Indiana is truly pathetic at this time. The Democratic “front runner’ (leftover from the gubernatorial race 4 years ago) is an excellent example; he doesn’t even seem too interested in the fact that there is an election this year and he might be running. The opposition is Pence who doesn’t know whether to wind his watch or scratch his butt (yes, I stole that line from Dolly Parton in “Steel Magnolias”).

    Repetitive action seems to have infected the GOP; Congress repeatedly trying to repeal the ACA (56 times so far?) and ready to do it again. Pence signed the RFRA into law, then “fixed” it only to “refix” it and sign it again. LBGTs still lack protection here. The Constitution and Amendments have been traded for one of the many versions of a book titled “Holy Bible” and civil and human rights have gotten lost during this unending revival run by Republican snake-oil salesmen…and a few women. That missing work ethic Ken Glass is seeking is hidden among the millions of underpaid workers the religious right ignores; having lost site of the Biblical referral to paying “a laborer worthy of his hire”.

    I will vote for John Gregg – IF he does get the nomination to run for governor – because he is a Democrat and definitely the lesser of two evils compared to Pence. I will vote for Hillary IF she is nominated for the presidency for the same reason. Another case of the lesser of two evils no matter who is on the Republican ticket.

  33. Ken, The Clinton Foundation is a good reason one should vote against Hillary if Bernie doesn’t make it. It is wholly unconstitutional money laundering to change foreign policy including trade policy changes. There are too many scandals involved. Sadly, millions will vote for her just because she has a D next to her name. Corruption, corruption, corruption, the lack of loyalty to a country and more to a our party.
    Read “Clinton Cash” it’s all in there.
    many Republicans appear to be voting for outsiders. Trump, Cruz who are neck and neck in their primary

  34. Inequality is the term used to promote socialism and the redistribution of wealth. It’s not so much that we shouldn’t be mindful tax breaks that can be absolved by a fair tax system, but the reliance of a people on government grows as they become more aware of their ability to simply let government supply a welfare state.
    Obamacare is riddled with tax penalties for the middle class and that is why many are offended by this law. We need to provide tax breaks to provide middle class an economic release but now the government is increasing the price of insurance for those who earned it plus there penalties for those cadillac insurance plans. Unions were not happy. Premiums for a few will decrease while for others it will increase. ~5% are being helped while 85% are have changes or will lose their plans. Some who can’t afford to pay and then don’t have a beginning coverage until their finances are exhausted
    We become more willing to take away from hard working individuals to get at the rich.

    Parents who now work two jobs are less focused on the welfare of their children. Neglect comes from single parents or the underpriveledged with poor skills so much that teachers become advocates for the children in their health and welfare. They become less focused and teacher aids in low income schools are a definite need. Give to your community with time and energy where you can, finding solutions is the goal of everyone.

    There can be an easy solution to most of our problems if we allow some ideas to come from the centralized government but allow states to maintain and produce solutions with laws as was planned by our forefathers.

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