The Difficulty of Life-Building

I’ve been living in New York for 2 years. It’s been interesting, to say the least. I have lived in 4 apartments, from a couch in a crazy lady’s apartment in Washington Heights to a sweet loft-like fittingly young apartment in Williamsburg, had 4 different jobs, somehow moving closer to something that I actually want to be doing, and seen several friends come and go (some of whom I knew before I moved here, others I met after I’d moved).  It’s been quite the ride, though I am way more excited about the future I have in front of me, because it seems like it could be really awesome.  I have become, to some extent, a New Yorker–almost getting hit by a car and getting pissed instead of scared, not really being surprised when I see men dressed as women, or seeing people behaving in ways that in any other context would be totally inappropriate.  It has been a wonderful place to be to see friends from all over the world, since most everyone has to come through here to go anywhere else.  I’m not sure how much more I will want to live in this city, though I do love hearing all the different languages, seeing people who are so varied, both in terms of their styles, ages and colors.  Sometime I feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole hustle and bustle, but it is an amazing, vibrant city.  Even with the awful smells.

I’ve been reading a lot (and listening some) to some very interesting thoughts on income distribution and politics, perhaps after the whole craziness of the recent election (sorry…I guess I can’t stay off the topic of politics).  I’ve been listening to Paul Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal, which is fascinating and depressing all at the same time.  He essentially argues that conservative politics has created a massive income inequality in the United States over the past 30 years, and he attributes it essentially to racial tensions in our country.   It was written in the summer of 2007, before the Great Recession, as well as prior to Barack Obama’s election, which makes it somewhat dated, though I’m uncertain things have changed any more, really.  Timothy Noah’s incredible and extensive 10-part series looking at income inequality doesn’t look at racism, but after reading his piece and listening to Krugman’s take, it is actually quite amazing to me that it goes essentially unmentioned (there is a section on immigration).  Krugman makes a compelling argument that Conservatives in the US were able to co-opt the majority vote in great part because there was an established difference in income between whites and blacks, and so welfare would have been re-distribution of wealth from rich whites to poor blacks (we’re talking in the 1970s/80s).  Reagan, of course, was an essential component in this transition, and in convincing “normal” Americans that they were better off without government help and they should vote accordingly.  But he used not-so-subtly racist language (welfare queens, etc). It is interesting how much all of this has been appearing, in Slate and the NY Times, so obviously there’s a little liberal bias, but I’ve seen several articles recently about income inequality and its effect.  The most jolting for me, however, was the shorter conclusion piece Noah wrote on Slate which allows much better visualization of the income inequality, and more interestingly, what people BELIEVE the distribution of wealth in the US is and what they think it SHOULD be.  They think it is much more equal than it actually is and they believe ideally it would be even more equal than they believe it is.  These are Americans.  People who keep voting Republican.  Can the effing Democrats grow a backbone already??!  I am pleased that we elected Obama, but I actually think that some of the reason Democrats were so badly bruised is due to them not standing up for progressive values enough.   I’m not sure if I think everything is due to racism, or if it’s quite as strong as Krugman argues.  But I certainly think it’s something to consider.

The United States of Inequality | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Theoretical Egalitarians | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Download “The Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman [Audible]
Confronting Income Inequality | Robert H. Frank [NY Times]
Our Banana Republic | Nicholas D. Kristof [NY Times]