Identity Blind Economics
By: Matt Bump | Our Voice Contributor
As a working class young adult, with 2 felony convictions I can now say I have been discriminated against. Checking the felony box did me in. Captel Inc immediately denied multiple applications I put in after a period of incarceration, despite 3 years of experience with them. But I look at the power structure in America and I am aware of what groups of people are marginalized. And as some point out, there are outliers and exceptions. The truth is without action, discrimination in the form of education, housing and exceptions-employment will forever be enabled.
When you check your age, sex, ethnicity etc you are partaking in the first step of potential discrimination against yourself or another person. When you do something as simple as include your name you may be subject to scrutiny. For all we know, millions of people may have been discriminated against due to a more localized bias or preference of a manager or other authority figures. Whether its for checking white, black, male, female, not preferring to list ethnicity, or a gender identity, having a tribal or ethnic name, or even a Caucasian sounding name.
These are some of the welcome mats to Economic Discrimination. We already know that women are just as capable as men in many if not all forms of labor but make significantly less money than their male counterparts for the same work. Furthermore, women only make up a small percentage of board members and there is a glaring disparity of representation in STEM fields, despite being half the population. Maybe even worse – being a female and a minority in a subconsciously sexist and racially biased environment.
So what do we do? Ban all of this information from applications? Maybe. Here’s my argument for that position, with a lot of other important steps and ideas along the way.
Jobs play an integral role in distribution of wealth. Jobs require skills. Those skills are attained through one of 2 routes: education or experience. Those are the merits on which jobs should be given. Some are quick to point out that merit based hiring like this may be unfair to portions of the workforce.
Access to experience knowledge requires you to have a starting point. Not everyone gets a starting point. Not everyone is a great student on paper either.
So how do we address equality in terms of access to education? Because education is often a qualifier for a starting point. I believe that college tuition should be fully or almost fully guaranteed to every student for purely economic reasons. We currently have a mixed economy. Socialist principles instituted into a capitalist style market. There are many ways that the government could fund tuition and this includes being proportionate to our personal income, or as some have proposed, a speculation tax on wall street. Maybe something less politically expedient like closing loopholes for millionaires and billionaires who don’t contribute their fair share to our country. Maybe cutting back on the worldwide war presence would be a start.
The Iraq war costs could have probably paid off almost all of the outstanding student debt to date valued at over a trillion dollars. The middle and lower class shouldn’t bare the majority of any economic burden when our leaders make mistakes with our tax code, foreign policy, or other big issues not mentioned. It hurts them disproportionately.
Democrats and republicans say they fight for the little guy, the small business owners. Yet the tax burden is higher on them than most big corporations whether domestic or multinational corporations, big banks and special interest groups like fossil fuels.
The narrative must be controlled. The taxes that often get cut are usually to benefit the rich and advance the debunked economic theory known as trickle down economics, and from there conservatives argue that raising taxes would hurt small business and middle class families, by framing that the tax revenue would be raised by taking money from them. This is how delusional, misleading and out of touch our politicians can be: they don’t even think about taxing the rich, because bringing it up would make the idea popular. Socialism would be popular. Its principles already are if you don’t say the name.
It’s not like the rich people are the majority of people in the population despite their direct representation they get from those in office who they pay all over the country. Big money needs to be eradicated from politics. The People are being duped. Education is an easy thing to expand access to. And doing so could advance the merit based employment tactic and benefit all people despite any perceived disadvantage. The only thing that needs to be addressed to avoid wasted money are predatory for profit schools that prey on vulnerable poor people and minorities with hopes of a better life. They should be struck down.
As for the argument against what I call “blind identity” employment allocations I have only heard one retort in my conversations with people, of which most were conservative… “Freedom”. Freedom to hire and deny anyone they want for any reason, which is a complaint that on it’s face is a seemingly reasonable concern. All it really is doing is decrying the inability to discriminate and ensuring the welcome mat is there for the exact thing we need to eradicate. That same “freedom” stands against what we need to strive for: equal opportunity of all people to succeed and be given a chance based on their qualifications. None of which should be: age, race, sexual identity, gender identity, name or nonviolent criminal history. You should be given a chance to excel in your work and education.
Furthermore, I think we should take a look at universal basic income, especially for those in college. Part of making a strong middle class is the fight for $15 an hour, and unionizing workers in order to raise the standard of living for all people. Interviews can be done with methods alternative to what we have now as well. I don’t want to see the days of fear and conservative political correctness prevent someone with body modifications like piercings or tattoos from attaining employment. Peoples talents are wasted because fear-based judgement got in the way of our progress towards equality.
In terms of banning the box I think we also need to offer forms of redemption to felons like: joining the military or if you successfully complete a sentence you should be able to have your record cleared. Although they have made a potentially deadly mistake repeatedly, keeping them as a felon will further increase the burden on society by housing them in prison and preventing them, along with all other lifelong felons, from finding meaningful employment .
Everything needs to change. A new system will benefit us morally, socially and economically. Identity blindness might help see to it that everyone, regardless of class, age, gender identity, sexual identity, race, or non-violent criminal history will have the opportunity to make an impact in our great idea of a country. A country which sadly espouses equality in name but not in practice.
Matthew Bump #638880
Jackson Correctional Institution
Black River Falls, WI.