Rabbi Brad Hirschfield on Wal-Mart ruling, widening pay gaps and more (video)

Jun 21, 2011

Live with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

What does Judiasm have to say on the equal treatment of women?

"Supreme Court unanimously denies 1.5 million women status as class in sex discrimination suit against Wal-Mart." I thought the vote was 5-4. Hardly what I would call unanimous. I have little doubt the class action suit idea was that of a lawyer and not the plaintiffs who felt discriminated against. After all, the lawyer would receive a whole lot more than any plaintiff. Findings: Another stat to rile up the masses. Media fodder? Absolutely, unless they also includes the precise figures that are fair or acceptable. NBC: I'm no more offended than I am for every program that is "edited to fit in the allotted time".

The pay gap is both unfair and unethical, but is that so surprising? Is there any possible way for the U.S. to move from this model?

My question about pay has nothing to do about race or gender, just why some jobs are worth so much more money than others. Is the job of a CEO really that much more demanding to deserve to get 10 to 50 times the income as someone working on the front lines of the company? If I currently earn $50k/year what more would I need to be able to do to earn $5 million/year? I understand that some jobs require special skills and the efficiency at a job comes with experience, but are those really the root cause for such a wide pay scale?

Yes the owners of MS, Google Apple etc have a massive amount of wealth. They have also reshaped the way the world works, created new opportunities and thousands of new jobs. The problem isn't that they are wealthy, its that the rest of the world is beginning to modernize and will do stuff far cheaper. Ask a textile company to pay a living wage in the US, and instead of just doing some labor overseas, the whole company will be out of business. This isn't a Communist country. Everyone does not have the right to make the same amount of money or even anything close to it. The rich are not the problem. The problem is that too many people are tied to dying industries and haven't updated their skill sets for the new realities.

Does this not sit with the Rabbi Hillel challenge to not do what is hateful? Is it not hateful to accumulate wealth when poverty grows?

At what point does the wealth disparity become so stark as to be reason to oppose our current system of governance? MLK said we were there 40 years ago. Things have only gotten worse.

The Economist magazine reported a month ago that 70% of male African-American HS dropouts age 25-54 are not working full time. This is not the same thing as the unemployment rate, because it includes those not looking for work, such as the disable and incarcerated. Ideological beliefs about "welcoming strangers" are one thing, but if our economy doesn't have jobs for both our home-grown low-skill population and those who are in the country illegally, which ones should be dis-employed first?

No one should own two houses. If you own two houses, then society is overpaying you.

LAST QUESTION: My answer to where are the jobs? Is the same one I have poisted for the last 17 years. There aren't any jobs, and that's a good thing. For the last 40 years we have been steadily eliminating jobs- we have been automating everything that we don't want to do ourselves. The problem is that economists are not moving with the flow of progress. They still think that employment is king. It isn't any more. That simple fact is being ignored at our national peril. Well that's still my $0.02 worth.

In This Chat
Brad Hirschfield
Brad Hirschfield is the president of Clal - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He writes the For God's Sake blog for The Washington Post. A regular on Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network. he appears frequently on NPR, PBS, and CNN, and is routinely listed as one of America?s "most influential rabbis." His most recent book is You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism.
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