One of the frequently noted similarities of the economy between today and and just prior to the 1929 collapse is the strikingly similar concentration of wealth into a few hands. We almost bit the bullet of a major economic collapse in 2007-2008 after a round of Republican economics put us in an inequality set up like we had in 1929.
After some amazing heroics by Democrats that were fought tooth and nail by Republicans, the country was pulled away from the brink. Unfortunately despite this close call with disaster, the American people once again restored the Republican Party not just to the president, but to control of all branches of government. And the concentration just picked up again.
Data from last December had the concentration of wealth for the top 1% of Americans at 40% of the economy. The top 20% had 90% of the economy leaving the rest of us to fight over that last measly 10%.
That is foreboding. America’s best economies took place when wealth was much less concentrated and was kept that way through governmental policies that did tax the rich and did help the poor. But those days are long gone. In their place we have the infamous “trickle down” economics. This was once known as the “horse poo” economics.
While the horse poo economics has fairly well ensured a widening and almost permanent social strata, Republicans seem to want to make it even worse. Through policies enacted at local, state and national levels they punish the poor in nearly every aspect of their lives from forcing births to impoverishing public schools to ensuring a low wage economy though “right to work” laws and union busting policies to cutting off government aid and nutrition programs and of course doing all they can to make health care unaffordable and unattainable for the poor.
In this vein, perhaps the holy grail of the Republican Party is to end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If they can’t end these programs the next goal is to turn them into “privatized” versions where the upper 1% skim huge profits off the skeletal remains of these once great programs. We in Iowa have had a front row seat to what a disaster “privatization” can create.
It is not hard to envision what this country will look like in a few more years of policies geared to enrich the wealthy and impoverish anyone not wealthy. Wealth will dominate policy decisions even more than it does today (is that even possible?) as the political class becomes more and more dependent on wealthy donors for campaigns.
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney was pretty direct last Wednesday when he let it be known at a bankers’ gathering that Republicans will do what they want if they get the “campaign contributions” (bribes) they want. Can’t be much clearer than that can you?
All is not lost yet, but time is going fast. Democrats have unveiled policy proposals in the past few days that can give us all hope. One such proposal is Medicare for all citizens as an opt in program. The proposal I read would have a sliding scale premium based on a person’s economic status.
Another proposal from Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey would guarantee a job for every citizen. Thus those who for some circumstance or another couldn’t work in a traditional job could be fitted to some work. Heavens knows there is more work that needs to be done in this country that there are workers. Do we have the political will to take on this challenge?
Many folks from Bernie Sanders on the national level to our state Democratic gubernatorial candidates have been emphasizing access to education and the need to make post secondary school affordable if not free.
Democrats from the state house to the congress continue to stress the need for livable wages. How can anyone ever be expected to escape poverty when prevailing wages can’t even support half a person? Having a living wage indexed to inflation would go a long ways toward reducing poverty.
Many folks who are currently getting some kind of government aid would most likely not need help with a livable wage and the ability to opt in to Medicare. While Republicans try to force the poor to work for poverty wages in order to get a meal, it just makes more sense to put the burden on the business community to pay living wages as a cost of doing business. Why should taxpayers have to subsidize their employees?
The graphic below shows a quick comparison between two very similar states going different directions:
Other countries throughout the world can do it yet the richest nation on earth can’t handle a living wage structure? This sounds like a question that was settled about 150 years ago.