By: Beverly Alves
Wealth and resources are not infinite; they are finite! Therefore, if some have too much, many others are left with little or nothing.
It always amazes me when I hear commentators say our economy is improving, while unemployment and underemployment are on the rise. On July 3, the DOW hit an all time high; it topped 17,000 for the first time. Yet the medium wage is down; it is down to the level it was in 1998, and the average income of the bottom 90% of workers is down $5,000, from $35,000 a year to $30,000 a year, adjusted for inflation. People are feeling pressured; they are being squeezed!
Although long term unemployment levels are down, sadly, many people are not able to find full time jobs. Some people are being forced to work two, or even three part time jobs, often out of their field, without benefits, in order to survive. So when economists say the economy is improving, whose economy are they talking about? Economic growth is eluding middle and lower class families. We need shared prosperity!
We need to invest in the future of America. Our deteriorating infrastructure is holding back our economy. Leading economists tell us that rebuilding our roads and bridges will create more jobs initially, and also make our economy more efficient. Rebuilding our infrastructure will improve profits for business, which then can create more permanent, long term, full time jobs.
We also need to provide equitable healthcare for all people in America; first because it’s the right thing to do, and also because many businesses are only hiring part time workers. Under current law, the responsibility placed on employers with more than fifty employees to provide health insurance is adding to this problem. In addition, many employers providing health insurance have increased the employee contribution for insurance and also the employee’s out of pocket costs for medical care, in order to cut their own expenses. This leaves workers with less money to spend, creating another hindrance to our economy.
The problem of student debt must also be addressed. Many young people are coming out of college with debt equivalent to a home mortgage; often they can’t find work in their field or work that would help them pay off their debt. Some spend the rest of their lives playing catch up. Some never catch up. It’s a new form of bondage; it is demoralizing!
We must support our public education system; it is the foundation of our society. In addition to providing greater support for our public schools, we need to ensure that those who decide to further their education either by going to college or technical school, have access to public institutions that will provide them with the education and training they need, at a reasonable cost, so they can fulfill their individual potential and become productive members of society.
Young people need to be encouraged to become educated in the fields for which they have a talent. Everyone does not have to go to college! We must respect and support all honest labor! My late husband Joe’s uncle, who was a noted scientist, once told us that although he lived in a very professional neighborhood, “The best house on the block belonged to the plumber/electrician.”
Employment is not just a way of earning a living, although that is essential. Employment gives us a purpose; it helps us build an identity. It gives us dignity. It is said that “All work is noble that is nobly done.” It is demoralizing not to be able to find a job. Unemployment eats at the core of the individual and breaks down our society as well. Statistics indicate that crime, domestic violence, substance abuse, all increase in society when there is long term unemployment. While we are building up our job banks, we need to extend unemployment benefits for those who are still unable to find jobs.
We also need to provide essential services, including food and housing security, access to medical care, mental health support, if necessary, and any other services that are necessary for the wellbeing of each individual and the betterment of our society, as a whole, instead of making cuts to these services, as we are currently doing. A house is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built. The lack of money to finance necessary programs to uplift people is crippling and undermining our nation and its people. A vibrant society cannot endure while a large percent of its people are drowning; our solid foundation is starting to crumble.
It has been said that the “burden of sacrifice” must be shared by all. We need to think carefully about how this burden is shared. To someone earning minimum wage, every penny counts; they need it to merely survive. Many in the middle class are struggling to remain there. Between cuts in services and a regressive taxation system, so far it appears that only those in the middle, working and lower classes are shouldering this load.The “burden of sacrifice,” should not just be placed on those who are unable to afford the essential care and services they so desperately need. It should not be placed on those who are already burdened by life itself. That’s not fair! That’s not healthy! That's not democracy!
Does anyone really think that our great nation will continue to thrive and endure if those in need are denied essential services? Does anyone really think that our nation will be able to thrive and endure if those who must live from paycheck to paycheck, and/or on credit, incur debt which they no longer can repay? Does anyone really think that those who are extremely wealthy would be deprived if they paid their fair share?
According to research, “extreme wealth and extreme inequality are reaching unprecedented levels and will only get worse, unless we change course.” Cuts being made in services that are essential for the wellbeing of those in need, and essential for the wellbeing of our society, could be reduced significantly, by restructuring the tax code; the wealthy must pay their fair share.
After our Great Depression, President Roosevelt said, “The political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality.” Economic experts say these are some of the things we must do correct these problems.
No one wants to discourage imagination, creativity, initiative, perseverance and the many other admirable traits that are essential for success. But how much should someone be financially rewarded for having these traits? Is there no limit? How much wealth does one person need to have, to feel financially secure and successful? How much wealth is enough?
Provide free public services crucial to leveling the playing field.
Create a progressive taxation system.
Create regulation to rein in extreme wealth and inequality by:
Setting limits for bonuses.
Setting limits on interest rates.
Setting limits to how much people earn (as a multiple of the lowest earners).
Cracking down on tax avoidance and tax evasion.
Thomas Jefferson said, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” We need to do what is in the best interests of all the people of America, not just what is in the best interests of the privileged few.
Perhaps by doing this, we might even be doing the wealthy a favor. Money, power and materialism cannot buy happiness. The secret to happiness is the way you treat others, and what you do to make yourself better and the world a better place. We must always remember; We’re all in this together!
Disclosure: Please note that the personal views expressed here in the blog section do not directly respresents those of the Gray Panthers, but rather are offered as personal representations of the authors viewpoint. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please send them to us and firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to the author, Beverly Alves at email@example.com.