Inequality: One Of This Election’s Big Issues

Eight days to caucus, right? Here is a brief look at what I consider to be the really overwhelming issues. Depending on your perspective, any one of these could be in your top spot:

  1. Climate Change – well it is all moot if the planet shakes us off like so many fleas, isn’t it? The climate may not be the immediate, in your face issue, but it surrounds us and is in everything. The Green New Deal may be the policy that comes out of the threat of climate change
  1. Honest elections with paper trails.    If we have no confidence in our system of election, then belief in the legitimacy of our government will soon spiral downward. The right has been doing all they can to undermine confidence in the elections and the legitimacy of the government since Ronald Reagan. The Help America Vote Act that spurred the purchase of thousands of voting machines with no way to check the validity of the vote left our systems open to hacking and other forms of attack. This must be fixed. Democrats in the US House made it their top priority when they took power in January of 2019. They passed a bill that Mitch McConnell has effectively killed in the Senate.
  1. Health Care    huge inequality still exists in our health care system and will continue to exist as long as profit is the main driver behind our health care system. Profit and health care should not be linked together. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to try for a national health care system. Profit driven corporations and individuals have been able to stop national health care since then. Over 100 years is long enough. We have also seen that “incremental” steps are fairly ineffective. Universal health care needs to be a national policy, just like it is for all other so-called first world countries.
  1. Inequality    This is the one I want to spend some time on today since it doesn’t get the press that the other major issues do. With the near extinctions of America’s union movement, especially in the private sector, we have seen wages stagnate. As wages as wages have stagnated costs of essentials such as housing and education have skyrocketed.

Here our old friend Robert Reich has a short video on why the Millennial generation has no money: (4 minutes)

But the millennials are not the only group that is facing a huge inequality gap. Most of America is. The major reason for that inequality is low wages. Over at dailykos Wednesday night, Meteor Blades noted that:

At the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker writes—This Is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity:

Until 1968, the minimum wage not only kept pace with inflation, it rose in step with productivity growth. The logic is straightforward; we expect that wages in general will rise in step with productivity growth. For workers at the bottom to share in the overall improvement in society’s living standards, the minimum wage should also rise with productivity.

The distinction between inflation and productivity is an important one. If the minimum wage rises in step with inflation, we are effectively ensuring that it will allow minimum wage earners to buy the same amount of goods and services through time, protecting them against higher prices. However, if it rises with productivity that means that as workers are able to produce more goods and services per hour, on average, minimum wage earners will be able to buy more goods and services through time.

While the national minimum wage did rise roughly in step with productivity growth from its inception in 1938 until 1968, in the more than five decades since then, it has not even kept pace with inflation. However, if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today, as shown in the Figure below.

trends in minimum wage

hat tip to

Meteor Blades then ends with an FDR quote that, like many FDR quotes, is still relevant today:

“In my Inaugural I laid down the simple proposition that nobody is going to starve in this country. It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By ‘business’ I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.”

 ~~Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act (June 16, 1933)

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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