The myth of meritocracy is a pillar of the American dream. Meritocracy, it is claimed, promotes the deserving to their proper station. If you work hard enough, you can earn your way anywhere. The connection to the American dream is clear – the land of opportunity is built on a meritocracy. The American dream is open to all, so long as you are willing to reach out and take it.
Let’s bring wage into this. Pay is a measure of status and economic worth. According to the notion of meritocracy, those who deserve to earn the most do, in fact, fetch the highest salaries, right? These are the hardest working best and brightest. The reward for their back-breaking efforts is a high salary. Receiving high pay signals that you deserve it and that you are valuable. The dangerous corollary is as follows: if you do not paid highly, the only possible explanation is that you have not earned it. You are not deserving.
My question, then, is how meritocracy can explain gender pay gaps. It is well established that women generally are paid $0.75-0.82 for every $1 a man is paid. The numbers get worse. African American women make roughly $0.63 and Latina women make $0.53 per one White male dollar. For me, it shakes down to two explanations. Either women do not work as hard, as fast, as long, as well as men, OR the notion of meritocracy ignores larger structural and historical forces at play.
The gender pay gap is just one example of how the theory of meritocracy undermines the struggle for social equity. Choosing to put faith in meritocracy draws the curtain on discriminating social structures, ultimately serving to reinforce and perpetuate inequality. Before we can fix it, we must confront it. Before we can confront it, we must move past the infecting suggestion that everything is earned.
The “haves” have not always earned what they have.
The “have-nots” have not always made the bed they sleep in.
There Is No Alternative (TINA) is a doctrine maintained by many sources in unison. What does it tell is? That the way we do business now is the only possible way things can be done. WalMart can’t afford to pay it’s workers more. Due to ObamaCare, Papa Johns must lay off workers, cut hours, and raise the price of it’s pizzas. Otherwise, it is simply not feasible to provide their employees with healthcare. Perhaps what Papa John is really saying is that his company can’t afford to provide workers with basic healthcare AND pay for his house or the 22 cars to fill his garage:
Really? TINA, along with the Republic party, goes on to tell us that the single way to create economic growth is to provide “job creators” with the incentives and money to create jobs. First, there is no evidence that reducing tax rates on higher socioeconomic brackets relates to economic growth. Second, I want to post some graphics to illustrate another way of doing business. Both graphics pertain to retail and discuss the economic potential of paying employees a realistic, living wage.
So let’s take a look at Costco’s former CEO:
What if the rest of retail were to follow this example? Economic stimulus and increased profit. What if the minimum wage in retail were raised to $25,000?
There is another way. Let’s start to reexamine our attitudes toward working and living wages.
Giving more money to “job creators” does not appear to be linked to economic growth, says an apolitical research group.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently published research in which it indicated the following:
“The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.
However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.”
The New York Times reports that Republican representatives protested the report so adamantly that the supposedly non-partisan CRS withheld the data from publication. This is understandable, since the research undermines the entire economic philosophy of the party. However, it is alarming that GOP candidates would protest the publication of non-partisan findings. I sometimes believe Republicans live in their own world, create their own facts (e.g., climate change). Perhaps this is evidence. It is also alarming that the GOP will continue to run on this platform, despite decades of evidence strongly suggesting it is ineffective to cut taxes for the wealthy.
This is blowing up all over. A recently released recording appears to contain presidential nominee Mitt Romney declaring that 47% of the electorate will vote for President Obama because they believe they are entitled to luxuries such as food, housing, and medical care. Here is the video as it was originally posted:
He seems to believe that he needs to disregard the interests of roughly half of the nation during this election. I believe what Mittens was getting at was the swing voters – the independents – and his plan to win those votes. However, I do also endorse the notion that this man will say or do whatever it takes to become President. He stands for everything - it just depends on who his audience is. By necessity, this also means he stands for nothing.