Whatever the intent, original, twisted or revised, there is an overriding truth in the phrase: A rising tide lifts all boats, that is, if you have a boat, it has no holes in it, and it is in the water rather than in dry-dock.
Unfortunately, this tired phrase is used to justify the ridiculous amounts of annual compensation for some folks; it is used to support what most of us know is a false outcome; and it is put forth as a beacon of light for poor people, hope that as soon as the rich get richer everyone will do better. Looking at today’s economy, I think we can see the fallacy of that contention.
Folks on Wall Street, after making their way around the monopoly board a few times, passing “Go” and collecting hundreds of billions of dollars and numerous “Get out jail free” cards along the way, are being paid embarrassing amounts of money. The annual bonuses given out by investment banks and other financial institutions are more than most of us earn in a lifetime. I guess they bought a lot of boats with that money.
Another saying became popular during this latest rip-off of society by corporate thieves: “Too big to fail.” We were assured not only that they would not fail but that they would succeed. We were assured that the tide would indeed raise their boats, or should I say their yachts, while our little dinghies sprung leaks and started to sink. So much for the rising tide.
I don’t know when we are going to stop falling for the games being played on us by our government and their corporate shysters, but I hope it’s very soon. The eloquence of their cute little sayings placate us and soothe our emotions. Their phrases go down in history while we go down the tubes. When will we learn that it’s all about them—not us.
Here’s the deal, once again for the umpteenth time. No one is going to save us but us. We are all we have. Economics, like politics, is local. You have to own a boat in order for it to rise with the tide. So, let’s move forward on those basic principles. Let’s lower our penchant for nice sayings and decrease our emotional investment in politics. Let’s get real, brothers and sisters, and raise our awareness and activism around collective economic empowerment.
The economic assumptions inherent in a rising tide lifting all boats are flawed to say the least; and we have seen them in action. This latest use of the phrase will be no different, especially if we do not adhere to the first principles of economics: Ownership and control of income produces assets. Until we not only acknowledge that time-tested truth, but act upon it as well, please be aware that a rising tide can also drown you.
(James E. Clingman, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati’s African American Studies department, is former editor of the Cincinnati Herald newspaper and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. To book Clingman for a speech or purchase his books, call 513 489 4132 or go to his website, www.blackonomics.com.)
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