Intersectional Justice

Economic Justice

Our initial Economic Justice Core Group met from October 2017 – June 2018.  These “key learnings” constitute an overview and summary of the subjects they studied:

  • Kleptocracy – From the earliest period of our history, the U.S. economic system has been rigged in favor of wealthy, property-owning white men who benefited from stolen land (from Native Americans) and stolen labor (from enslaved Blacks).
  • Vicious cycle – As Noam Chomsky says in Requiem for the American Dream, there has been a “vicious cycle” at work for much of our history: concentration of wealth has led to concentration of power which, in turn, has led to policies and laws benefiting the wealthy, and so on.
  • Obstacles to upward mobility – Access to “the American Dream” by way of upward economic mobility has ebbed and flowed throughout our history but, in general, obstacles have been placed in front of all groups other than cisgender white Christian males. On the whole, those with power and privilege have hoarded opportunity and denied broad access to:
    • quality, free public education
    • affordable healthcare
    • the wealth-building aspects of real property ownership
    • political power

Denied these resources, millions of Americans have been, and continue to be, trapped in vicious cycles of poverty begetting poverty, with no end in sight.

  • Oppression of people of color – The oppression of people of color has evolved – from enslavement to Jim Crow to less overt white supremacist mechanisms such as our current criminal justice system – but the intent has remained the same: deny access to political power and the fruits of our economic system.
  • The fable of American history – Those in power have controlled the conventional narrative of American history, a narrative that omits much and obscures the truth about systemic oppression and hoarding of opportunity.
  • Escalating inequality since the 1980s – We have been living in an historically unconstrained time for capital and wealth since Reagan’s “neoliberal” economic policies took hold in the 1980s. Neoliberalism interrupted a period of leveling brought about by New Deal programs put into place in the wake of the Great Depression. It has been through our political choices – not economic necessity due to globalization or technological change – that we have dismantled these programs.
  • Financialization of the economy – During this same period (since 1980), the rise of the financial sector has fed inequality in a number of ways:
    • diverts income from labor to capital
    • skews income gains toward those working in the financial sector
    • values restructuring of businesses in ways that benefit one set of stakeholders (managers, shareholders, private equity) at the expense of others (workers and their communities)
    • has shifted production to low-wage countries, in effect, pitting American workers against Chinese for the benefit of the capitalists
  • Values – The less-regulated capitalism of the neoliberal era values profits, share price and GDP growth above all other possible measures of economic success and well-being. Stakeholder capitalism has been replaced by shareholder capitalism with its short-term thinking and narrow view of costs. Consumerism divorced from deep human satisfaction is the fuel that drives this system.
  • Not sustainable – The limitless growth championed by unregulated capitalism is unsustainable. The signs are all around us:
    • extreme inequality
    • damaged democratic institutions and processes
    • environmental degradation
    • climate change
    • one million species in danger of extinction
  • Gentrification and the affordable housing crisis – At the local level nothing speaks more directly to economic injustice than the fact that large numbers of our citizens have been “priced out” of housing as property has appreciated in our rapidly growing city.

Resources

Book Reviews

The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy by William Greider

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Reviewed by Cathy Covington~ William Greider finds that capitalism's central strengths are: an ability to derive more from less which is better than that of any other economic system; and ithe fact that it [read more]

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

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Reviewed by Vivian Brenner~ Rothstein’s book is disheartening and painfully descriptive. His main point is that the segregation and separation of housing in the US is not a cultural norm, but a systematic method [read more]

Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by Robert B. Reich

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Reviewed by Shannon Bradley~ This book, published in 2015 examines how the term “free market” has been used by those satisfied with the status quo to justify continuation of policies and practices that undermine [read more]

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