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America: Toward a More Perfect Union or Winner Takes All?
in the news: As poor people in America worry they'll lose health insurance coverage with Republican work to repeal The Affordable Care Act proceeding, "Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill" headlines a New York Times story. Meanwhile, Time magazine's June 26 2017 cover story—about "upheaval at the world's most valuable startup" Uber being "a wakeup call for Silicon Valley"—is seemingly unrelated. Or is it?
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): The Time story describes Uber as "not...the only tech company with a winner take all worldview." How might we concisely describe such a worldview? As it relates to Uber, The Time authors do this using phrases like "brash, aggressive approach," "driven by plain greed," and "ends justifying means." The last issue of this Project Worldview blog—"The Circle: Perfectibility Through Participatory Social Interaction"—characterized the most successful tech companies in terms of various worldview themes, notably: #19B Corporate Capitalism , #22A Expansionism (Economic growth), #26A Consumerism, #26B More is Better Mentality, #43 Seeking Wealth & Power, and #46A The Technological Fix Mentality. Yet both our last blog and the more recent Time cover story note there's another side to this characterization: that Uber and companies like it are (or at least are trying to be) good guys with a progressive agenda.
Perhaps rather simplistically I associate such companies with the San Francisco Bay area in general. Perhaps nowhere else in America is the contrast between the "haves" and "have-nots" in such dramatic display as San Francisco. If you're downtown walking to catch the Google bus (which probably few do, rather they hire an Uber car!) to ride to work in Silicon Valley you'll undoubtedly encounter homeless people, some asleep, some panhandling. In terms of (2015 Brookings Institute) numbers, the income gap between rich and poor in San Francisco indicates the richest 5% of households rake in an average of $423,000 a year, while the poorest 20% make around $24,000. Despite this inequality gap, even Republicans view this part of the world as dominated by "do gooders" / liberals who care about the plight of poor people and want to strengthen the societal "safety net" associated with the Social Welfare state (see theme #49A). In imagining the Silicon Valley future, one wonders: Will the do-gooder tendencies or the greedy self-interested ones prevail?
Recognizing that Silicon Valley in particular, and California in general, is both key to American economic growth and longtime trend-setter, one can ask the same question about the American future in general. While numbers of homeless people have stabilized / perhaps even dropped in recent decades, since the 1980 the American wealth / income inequality gap has steadily grown. Many view the 2016 election as evidence that the "forgotten" people (especially in the Rust Belt) who have steadily lost economic ground since the 1980 have finally had enough. Many of these folks fully expect their supposed champion—President Trump—to help them "start winning again."
Critics charge that the latest Trump backed Republican effort at healthcare reform is, as former President Obama put it, "a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.” Rather than a win for the "have nots," they see this—what they might also characterize as another attempt at shredding the safety net—as another step toward America becoming "a winner take all society."
Much has been written about this topic. The March 2014 article "The impact of the winner-take-all phenomenon" by University of Virginia Business School dean — —
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