Like many Americans, I was outraged about the AIG bonuses that were lavished on executives that have brought ruin to so many Americans, hell, the world. Outraged, but not surprised.
We all know there are separate rules for our separate classes. For the majority of us, the 99%, if you don't do your job, you don't meet performance minimums, you're fired. No bonus, no severance, you're at will - not yours but your employer's. But for the top 1%, there are different rules. Fuck up the financial system for the entire world, well, you'll still get a bonus - just maybe 2 or 3 million dollars less than you expected.
Its outrageous of course, but our current dialogue is a typical Washington, DC dog and pony show. Watch as the House votes to tax back those bonuses, watch as the Senate stymies, but regardless, the witch hunt over the AIG bonuses is a lovely diversion and it does nothing to fix the systemic problems that run through the bedrock of the country, and that, unless fixed, will just doom us to further misery.
The two words that dare not speak their name: Income Inequality.
Income Inequality in this country is at levels not seen since the roaring twenties, and we all know what happened after that. Yet, our politicians are still afraid to name the $100 trillion elephant sitting on our dining room table.
The right-wing has done an absolutely fantastic job in demonizing anything that might be considered socialist in nature. That was not by accident. The harms done by the red trials of McCarthyism and the constant promotion of the "free market" have made anything that even sounds like "redistribution of wealth" on equal footing as having Osama bin Laden as honorary chair of the Veteran's Day parade. All the while, the redistribution is happening its just heading to the top instead of the bottom.
We have an opportunity to kick this bullshit to the curb, and we need our President to not be afraid to be bold and tackle these problems head on - and if you must call it socialism, so be it.
After 2009, it should be clear to every American that there is no such thing as the "free market". The tooth fairy is more real, and brings better returns than the "free market" ever has.
My generation and those coming after us, don't have the same ingrained "socialism is evil" mantra bombarded into us. Sure the residue is there, but we're open to another way. Many of us, if not our friends, have been to Western Europe - it doesn't seem like hell in a hand basket. Even socialist healthcare is better than no healthcare at all.
Am I suggesting President Obama just say, "Socialism now, socialism forever!"? No. But its time to acknowledge the elephant in the room - America is not going to get better until we deal with the huge ill of income inequality.
Bankruptcy rates in this country are not astronomical because we're all loading up on big-screen TVs and prostitutes. Most bankruptcies filings in this country are people unable to pay medical bills. How many times have you had to use a credit card to pay for necessities like food or medicine?
It is long past time for some of the wealth at the top 1% to "trickle down" to the 99% rest of us.
In Social Science Quarterly, Economist Timothy Smeeding sums it up stating,
"Americans have the highest income inequality in the rich world and over the past 20-30 years Americans have also experienced the greatest increase in income inequality among rich nations. The more detailed the data we can use to observe this change, the more skewed the change appears to be... the majority of large gains are indeed at the top of the distribution."
When was the last time you got a raise that actually raised your salary higher than the rate of inflation?
The problem is, more and more wealth in this country sits with the top 1% as the rest of the country see our wages stagnate or, like me, recently fall with the economic downturn. So what can be done?
I freely admit that economics is not my strong point. I am dyslexic with numbers, always transposing them, so doing a simple bank deposit can be an exercise in frustration.
So I turn to higher minds on this stuff, mainly Paul Krugman. Krugman in the video link below, debunks the myth that the middle class gradually evolved. According to Krugman, the middle class was created quickly after the great depression in what was called the great compression.
Krugman says that there are several public policy factors that can lead to growing the middle class and decreasing income inequality. They are:
Increasing taxes on wealthy individuals
Increasing taxes on corporations
Increasing the ability of workers to organize into labor unions
I challenge President Obama, our LGBT organizations, and anyone who cares about the middle class to name the issue we seem to be afraid to name.
While our treasury department can print more cash there is only a limited supply and that supply has been being gobbled up by the top 1% for far too long. Call it socialism, income re-distribution, or whatever you'd like, but we have to address it.
So tell me about your situation.
What direction are your wages heading? What solutions do you think we could implement to deal with income inequality and bring the promise of America closer to the reality?