Monday, January 30, 2012
Here's the part that matters to us:
"They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success
that every American had a chance to share – the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for
retirement. The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can eithersettle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American
values. We have to reclaim them."
You change the word "American" to "Singaporean" and you will realise he is not just describing America's problem but also our problem. We are one of 2 developed countries with extreme income inequality... outliers compared with others - our inequality is higher than the US most of the time in the past decade. The difference is Obama sees this as the most challenging problem for the American society and one of great urgency while our leaders think that some tweaks here and there and a little helping hand for the poor will be sufficient - one recently elected MP/minister wrote in her Facebook that we should find our own way on this issue of inequality and if you read the article[Link], "our own way" is not to try to narrow the gap and mitigate the effects of inequality significantly but to get the people to accept it by telling them there is social mobility and help those who have fallen very far down into poverty to stay just afloat. Herein lies the basic difference between myself and the ruling party, the opposition and the ruling party and, I believe, most ordinary Singaporans and the ruling party. What she described is not the Singaporean way, but the PAP way...
Obama spoke about his belief that a person who works hard at whatever job should be able to raise a family, send his children to college, own a home and retire properly. You either believe this should be the goal of society as we advances or not. You can also subscribe to market fundamentalism and believe a man deserves whatever he gets as dictated by the "free" markets. Joseph E. Stiglitz warned us about this in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
"The theories that I (and others) helped develop explained why unfettered markets often not only do not lead to social justice, but do not even produce efficient outcomes. Interestingly, there has been no intellectual challenge to the refutation of Adam Smith’s invisible hand : individuals and firms, in the pursuit of their self-interest, are not necessarily, or in general, led as if by an invisible hand, to economic efficiency"
We must not lose sight of the ultimate purpose of having a strong economy and track the outcomes based on this purpose. Ho Kwon Ping spoke recently gave a speech on how our "wage revolution" has been interrupted[Link]. In it he explained, how the import of cheap labor led to widening wage gaps between lower skilled and high income professionals. His data shows that Singapore is far worse than Hong Kong where the govt has stricter control over the import of labor. The policies that resulted in the current situation is clearly an example of govt losing sight of the ultimate purpose of having economic growth - to ensure that a broad segment of the populace enjoy the benefits of this growth.
Obama's test of economic fairness is whether a person working hard at a full time job is able to set up a family, send his children to college and retire properly. I think Singapore fails this test miserably - a large segment of our population will not have enough to retire properly based on the number that will not be able to accumulate the minimum sum by retirement age[how many will have $131K by age 55] and the large number on workfare [Link] people who don't even make enough for basic living.
We are left with 2 paths - to restore our "wage revolution" and ensure that wealth distribution is more equitable or maintain this system of inequality and retain the status quo until people show their rejection ("by occupying") more forcefully and brings this unjust system to an abrupt halt.
Posting Time 3:57 PM
Posted by Lucky Tan