My great grandmother, may she rest in peace, used to cringe anytime the news would broadcast the name of a “sinner” with a Jewish sounding name. The world in which she grew up informed her that such identifications were not good for our people.
Therefore, I bet she would have cringed to hear billionaire Sam Zell, born to Jewish Polish immigrants, pontificate about the income disparity growing in the goldeneh medinah.
He has the chutzpah to blame the negative reaction to such a phenomenon on the envy pervasive among the lower 99 percent of us. Instead, he avers, we all should be emulating his cadre’s work ethic. (I can just imagine Marie Antoinette egging him on.)
Not only is Zell’s analysis a pox on Jewish ethical understanding and prescriptions, he must be living in an economics la-la land.
Is he unaware of the impact of globalization in which unfettered capital flows toward the relatively immobile, lowest paid labor markets? In which the 1 percent parlay their outsized political influence into favorable tax, trade, an anti-union legislation? In which their children’s schools, neighborhoods, and networks provide them access to opportunities, while the vast majority of Americans are supposed to content ourselves with Horatio Alger stories? In which anyone being served by a minimum wage-earner ought to realize a minimum wage multi- plied by 80 hrs./wk., 52 wks./yr. doesn’t even grant one median middle class status?
The 99 percent have not abandoned our work ethic. Rather, we are smart enough to know that Zell’s ethic is grist for the mill of revolution, which history teaches arises not out of the ranks of welfare mothers, but out of the ranks of a middle class disgusted by such condescension.
Rabbi Scott B. Saulson, PhD Brookhaven