We’re in economic trouble. As the deficit wages on and the country continues to spend billions of dollars on wars that make no sense to average citizens, it’s easy to say that we need austerity and tax relief. That’s what this country voted for in the mid-term elections, as a slew of new Republicans were elected to Congress. Unfortunately, that action is shortsighted and relief will not last.
The elected Republicans are responding to a warranted distrust and unease with our current administration, but this new direction could corrupt our chances of lasting economic recovery. It may sound tragic, but we need greater taxation more than ever. In these economically troubled times, we are digging ourselves deeper by talking about cuts to budgets and public programs.
About 30 years ago, President Reagan began a long series of cuts to federal agencies and public funding — ushering in the first era of big time tax cuts for the wealthiest elite. And this trend only continued. The tax breaks hurt the most disenfranchised first. Cuts to funding generally suck necessary funds from education and welfare — programs that keep clothes on children, employees healthy, and roofs over heads. These are all in high demand.
It’s no accident that as cuts to important budgets continued, income and wealth inequality skyrocketed. We now live in a new Gilded Age. The average CEO gets about 204 times the salary of traditional employees. That’s immoral and outrageous. Are they doing 204 times more work? No. Are they doing 204 times more jobs? No. Some people point to the pressures of being a leader — the taxing life that they lead. To those supporters of income inequality for upper management versus average employees, I urge you to develop some empathy for the person that is on food stamps, working full-time, and dealing with children — all on poverty-inducing wages. Isn’t that stressful, too? I think the impoverished person would gladly take on CEO-level stress to pay their bills each month, reliably feed their children, and possibly (holy crap!) take a vacation from time to time.
Walmart is a perfect, nightmarish example, where CEOs and upper management make it big, and their precious employees wear blue uniforms and need food stamps to make ends meet (even when working full-time). It’s then that those outfits look more like prison uniforms.
Even more alarming is the growing wealth inequality. The Economist recently highlighted new research from two of the leading wealth economists. What they found was shocking. There are 16,000 families — 0.01% of the population — that have an average net worth of $371 million each. Staggering hardly describes this level of “average” wealth. The research suggests that this represents 11.2% of total wealth. To be clear, 0.01% of the population has 11.2% of the total wealth! How do we accept this inequality and disparity? How do we accept this assault on true family values? How do we accept this inequality that causes massive funding gaps?
We’ve reached astonishing levels of wealth inequality — approaching records from 1916. This disparate wealth disrupts middle-class opportunities, wealth generation, and social class mobility. All opportunities are stifled for the masses, as a select few profit. Those who’ve suffered most have the least. I cannot help but reflect on our values as a country. Could this corrupt — post-Citizens United world — truly be what our Founding Fathers set out for America?
Today more than ever, we are one nation, poor, divided, and unequal.