As do most Americans, I have a direct interest in growing the economy. Also like most Americans, I have noticed conflicting rhetoric on just how to grow the economy. Let me start with an example:
My brother and I were both raised in the same home by the same parents. Our schools were the same and we ate basically the same food, thus no dietary cause for what I am about to mention. But as we both became more successful, made more money and attained more possessions, he slowly started becoming an exclusionary person. He started to talk negatively about the folks from Mexico, Central, and South America. “They” were sending their kids to “our” schools, using “our” hospitals for “free” health care, and just generally messing up “our” good thing.
Then I started to point out that over 50% of his employees were Hispanic. That he had even decided to start learning Spanish so that he could communicate with them. His business is construction. A recent upturn in his trade has persisted, and now he can’t find enough potential employees. He has even considered going to Puerto Rico to hire new employees in order to take on the work his company has won over the last couple of years. I reminded him that Puerto Ricans spoke Spanish too but he blew that off because they are US citizens. Touché! But he lost sight of the fact that before he had a lot of really cool toys and made a lot of money, he too was a inclusionary guy. But as his bank account grew, he became protective of his gains and decided that the darker skinned people, in general, are here to take it away. Until, that is, I reminded him of the contradiction, first of all, and then secondly, of our own roots and background. Today, after hours of discussion about these issues, he seems to be sliding back- I just have to keep showing him and telling him that we are “all in this together. ALL of us.”
What’s at play here?
There are two primary camps of societally oriented people; those who embrace and accept that we are ALL in the game of life together; I call them Inclusionists, and those who want to divide mankind into two different categories (the classic “us” versus “them”); these people I call Exclusionists. The political climate that really kicked off with a vengeance in the 80’s was one where the Exclusionists began to make it politically and socially acceptable to push large segments of our society into an exclusionary corral due to their lifestyle; whether earned or inherited. This category of wastrels encompasses an almost unlimited group of folks since the various ways of judging them can vary from Exclusionist to Exclusionist. The most commonly used category is dictated by skin color.
A new report from Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute details how people of color are disproportionately affected by wage discrimination. In refusing to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15, an estimated 8.2 million African Americans and 13.1 million Latinos are left working multiple jobs or forced to apply for government assistance programs to make ends meet. And that is just the data we have on wages in relation to skin color. Exclusionary policies that disproportionately affect religious minorities, women, or people of the LGBTQ community, only further detract from the American economic potential.
A perfect example of an exclusionary policy that would ruin the economy is the “big, beautiful wall!” that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to crow about. So let’s just keep “them” out. And the Mexicans who are here that are working hard every day to provide a living for their families or to better their personal lives, let’s send all 11 million of “them” back. Then let’s sit around and scratch our heads about who the heck is going to do all of the work they were doing before we made such a rash move. As business owners, my brother and I will sit around and wonder where part of our staff went, and what just happened to a portion of our consumers.
In the end, all one needs to do is to use the age old test; if the roles were reversed and those of us that have no longer did, if our children were hungry and ill clothed and we needed to go to another country, let’s even presume America, wouldn’t we want to be accepted? Wouldn’t we want a chance? And if we failed, wouldn’t we want at least for a society as wealthy as ours to help us take care of our children? Those of us that have been lucky enough, smart enough, or simply worked hard enough to achieve what we have owe at least some part of that back to the larger good. Don’t build a wall to protect what you have, build a bridge to share it! I’m not talking about equalizing outcomes, but don’t we want to live in a country where there are equal opportunities?
That’s what my group, the Patriotic Millionaires, are working for, an inclusionary society where equal opportunities to things like a living wage or a fair tax system. Because, those schools are ALL of “ours”, those hospitals are for ALL of “us” to use, and quite frankly, in economics, we all do better when we are all doing better. When our system is inclusionary, when everyone is working together, we only stand to gain.