Tuesday, October 11, 2011
These are ordinary Americans speaking up against inequality amd the financial system in America at a speakers' corner set up by CNBC at the Occupy Wall Street protest.
A few weeks ago I went to the Borders closing down sale. I walked around for an hour but was unable to find anything to buy - my fellow 'kiasu' Singaporeans had bought trollies full of interesting books leaving behind stuff that few people would buy. Just when I thought I wasted my time going to the sale I found a book that only people like me would be interested in reading. The book is "Going to Extremes" by Barbara Ehrenreich:
"Over the past decade America has become increasingly divided between gated communities on the one hand and trailer parks and tenements on the other between the super-rich travelling by private jet and low-paid workers making multiple bus trips to get to their jobs, between a wealthy minority consuming cosmetic surgery, and the many too poor to afford basic healthcare for their children"
- "Going to Extremes"
The part about workers in US taking buses to work. I'm quite sure those buses are not packed like cattle trucks. In the last 10 years, in Singapore, we see prices of expensive homes crossing $2000 per square feet and the demand for good class bungalows rising to record levels at the same time the segment of the population too poor to afford their own homes has grown to record levels:
A few weeks ago, I saw a little ang moh kid at a playground near my home - I teased the hyperactive kid as he ran around the playground. They family has been here for several months and the mother came over to ask me where she can the parks and places to cycle, camp ..and so on. . After she was done with her queries, I asked her what she "thought of Singapore so far". Before she got to anything else, she said she was quite stunned by what she saw "so many rich people with big cars" and so many poor people..."poor old people working". Coming from France, she said has never seen anything like this. I've asked many foreigners how they find Singapore and this is the first time someone responded by talking about the inequality in our society before anything else. Very often they will say how impressed they were with our airport, how clean and green we are and so on before they sometimes asked why there are so many old folks working.
America is the only other developed country with comparable income inequality. But you have to remember that America is a big place with rural, sub-urban areas and top cities. Their inequality is spread over a vast territory many thousand times bigger than Singapore. Our inequality is concentrated on a piece of land 700 sq km in size where extreme wealth and poverty exists side by side.
Unless there is political change, the situation can only get worse. Today our parliament is dominated by the elitist PAP party. While they promise changes in response to poor election results, they are not ideologically inclined to address the huge and growing inequality in our society. This is the same govt that eliminated healthcare benefits and pension for rank anf file civil servants while preserving these benefits for themselves. They imposed GST to cut taxes for the rich and corporations. They increased their own pay as poorer Singaporeans saw falling incomes and marked decline in the quality of life. They richly reward a small select power-elite with scholarship and opportunities in the network of GLCs. Our inequality is manufactured by political strructure that preserves a system ideologically shaped for the benefit of a few. This ideological extreme has led to the extreme inequality and the situation will not improve unless Singaporeans wake up, speak up and stand up for what is right.
Posting Time 6:43 AM
Posted by Lucky Tan