Seeking Justice

6/6/20

Hard work and ability certainly seem to be common denominators for those who’ve achieved financial success, but that’s not all there is to it. Anyone with even the most limited awareness would have to appreciate that luck, opportunity, and the willingness and capacity to take risks are also critical ingredients. Unfortunately, those ancillary elements are limited for those at the bottom of the economic ladder; and as a result, that segment of our society operates at a disadvantage.

It’s hard for me not to think of these issues personally. I’ve benefitted from my white privilege with a quality education, a network of teachers and mentors who helped develop my skills and connect me to my first job, employers who invested in my human capital and further expanded my opportunities. With family help, I was able to buy my first home in Brooklyn, and I was fortunate to start a family with a professional woman who was more than an equal partner, financially. And then there’s the fact that my good fortune translates to my kids’ good fortune, as well.

I think of my situation in comparison to that of those who’ve been victims of racism and other forms of subjugation. For them, the prospect of replicating almost any of the critical milestones of my history seems almost impossible. Clearly, many from distressed zip codes and deprived backgrounds have overcome or navigated around obstacles and managed to secure the American dream, but for too many others, that dream is simply out of reach.

The public responses to the killing of George Floyd (@georgefloyd) reflect a long-overdue recognition that injustice has permeated our society. We may be starting to address those injustices by focusing on police reform, but true justice requires a serious restructuring of the economic plumbing to address the yawning income inequality that has abetted the divisions in our society that have become widely acknowledged as requiring change.

Meanwhile, the May employment report, which posted a down tick in the nation’s unemployment rate, appears to be bolstering the Republican party’s wait-and-see attitude with respect to extending the flow of stimulus dollars, with President Trump indicating his possible willingness to do more to support the economy with tax cuts for investors and a tax deduction for business meals, meant to help restaurants.

This is the how the problems of our nation will be solved? I don’t think so — and neither do the majority of Americans looking to affect meaningful change. That change needs to address the vastly disparate economic conditions in America today, directly; and trickle-down economics won’t cut it. The Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement (@blacklivesmatter) are inextricably linked. Those arguing that we’re now in the position where we can ease up on a palliative fiscal response are woefully out of touch; and if Democrats can’t capitalize on these sharp philosophical differences now, it will be a lost opportunity.

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Kawaller holds a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University and has held adjunct professorships at Columbia University and Polytechnic University.

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Ira Kawaller

Kawaller holds a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University and has held adjunct professorships at Columbia University and Polytechnic University.