Reno resident and former teacher Robert Gardner says his personal views on the American economy have changed since his youth, and since his time in the classroom and even more recently since COVID-19 has come to light, he’s felt compelled to make an argument on why changing his mind has been for the better.
His new book, “Sharing the Land of Plenty: No One Deserves to Earn That Much More,” addresses America’s plight of income disparity among the classes. He examines socialist and capitalist approaches to the nation’s economy, exploring jobs, wages and workers from top to bottom in a holistic manner.
“Most people are not getting their fair share,” he said. “I’m certainly not a socialist and I’m not a full-blown capitalist. I’m just a concerned American willing to try whatever it takes to make it fair for everybody.”
Gardner’s book is meant for an audience from about 18 to 40, those who are still forming political opinions or worldviews and still apt to change their minds on government or corporate practices more easily than older adults, he said.
“They’re trying to figure out where they fit in and where their belief system works,” he said. “I know I changed my perspective when I was in my 40s, and when I started teaching, I really changed my perspective. I saw the big picture on both sides of the coin.”
Gardner grew up in Alabama among the Bible Belt’s poverty. When he moved to Oakland, Calif., to attend junior college and eventually major in music theory and composition, it was seeing the affluent lifestyle along the West Coast by which he began to understand where better equitable tax structure was needed to benefit everyone.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” he said of his book. “The main chapter in the book talks about corrupt practices encouraged by the government, lobbying practices, profiteering, corporations are considered people, wage discrimination and disabilities. With all of those, I point out the flaws.”
He received two bachelor’s degrees in music theory and composition at California State University, Hayward and in elementary education at Sierra Nevada College, then earned his master’s equivalency at the University of Nevada, Reno. He was a full-time musician for 25 years and still plays on a part-time basis, but went on to teach in one of Nevada’s most low-income districts, he said, half of the schools of which were on free and reduced lunches.
“It all sunk in,” he said. “It brought me back to when I grew up in the South. Seeing that kind of poverty woke me up to disparity. When I was a musician, I hung out with a totally different group of people.”
Taking from popular “Star Trek” character Spock, Gardner said he used experiences to explain how “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” he said.
“In China or Germany, their internal economies are very strong, but we don’t really have any socialist production within our country,” he said. “We’re afraid of it. It’s possible we need to change our viewpoint of internal economics to compete. We would be able to handle this pandemic better. This pandemic is devastating our economy. Other countries are totally able to take the blow, to take the hit, but we really aren’t.”
Gardner said he’s been in contact with at least a few professors who are thinking of using his book as a textbook or addendum in their courses, though he admits it might be “a little dry.” But he says it’s perfect for sociology or economics for anyone who’s interested in these subjects.
“Sharing the Land of Plenty” is available on Amazon.com in paperback for $7.25 and e-book format for Kindle and tablets. It costs less than $3 to download.