This is a blog from my site from awhile back. New to DailyKos so I figured Id rummage through the archives and post a few here.
Hello again. Welcome back. Today, I want to question your beliefs again. Well, maybe not question, but rather force you to ponder your beliefs. To be specific: What does the "American Dream" mean to you? Most Americans peg the "American Dream" as having a house in the suburbs, 2 cars, 2 (or so) kids, a pet, and an annual family vacation. Of course, this is just a generalization, but for most people this is about what the "American Dream" entails. Very few of us actually see ourselves as being abundantly wealthy where money has no meaning. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we don't think about that kind of life from time to time, but most people understand that this is more a pipe dream than it is the "American Dream".
Now my next question to you is this: How attainable is the "American Dream" for the average person, and how attainable will it be in the future? So, if you believe in the average "American Dream" with the suburban house, two cars, etc., is it realistic to expect that you achieve your goal? It depends. Its not far-fetched to think you will be able to afford a normal, comfortable lifestyle...for now at least. However, Over the last 30 years, there has been an outright assault on America's middle class. Don't forget that the middle class is where you would find a majority of people living the "American Dream". Yet, over the last 30 years, America's middle class has watched as their wages rose at paltry levels, while inflation often outpaced any gains in most years, leading to a lower standard of living. Now don't think it is because America has been in decline economically or something silly like that. The richest of those among us have seen their incomes and overall wealth explode since the early 1980s. These people are richer than ever.
How could we let this happen? Simple. De-regulation of commerce, union-busting, and destroying a progressive tax system have resulted in the middle class getting screwed and the upper class laughing all the way to the bank.
Prior to the 1980's about 35% of American workers were unionized, which led to competition in the labor market, which ended up meaning that about 70% of the workforce was in a union job or a job that nearly mimicked the pay and benefits of a union job. Today, about 11% of the workforce is employed in a union job. This has led to slow wage growth and reduction in overall benefits including health care and pensions. This can also explain why I make about as much money as my parents did at my age 30 years ago, even though I can't buy half as much with the money.
After NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, and our entry into the WTO, the floodgates were opened, and instead of prosperity flowing into our country we instead saw our jobs get swept out of the country under the guise that "free trade" was the key to the future global economy. For years, we have been told free trade creates a partnership for prosperity. HA! The only ones who have prospered are the trans-national corporations and the countries that allow slave-like conditions in their factories. Think about it, why would they pay you $15 an hour plus benefits when they can pay someone $2 A DAY with no benefits and no bathroom breaks? Thanks Bill Clinton. Great trade deals. Not to mention that President Obama just picked up the torch and signed a free trade deal with South Korea. Great.
The last piece of the puzzle to how the middle class and the "American Dream" are being destroyed is current tax code. We need to institute a more progressive tax code. Under this system the concept is simple: the more money you make, the higher your taxes will be. Prior to the 1980's, the top tax rate was at or near 70% for the richest Americans. Today it is 35%. That is until you add in all the loopholes and the reality is that most of the richest Americans pay somewhere between 18% and 25% of their income (that is if they didnt make their money through capital gains, then its 15%). Compare this to the 10% to 20% the middle class ends up paying. Now I can know what some of you are thinking , Well wouldn't it be more fair if we all paid the same percentage? Think about this, if a person is making $20,000 a year and their taxes are 10%, they pay $2000. Now lets say someone making $1,000,000 pays the same flat rate of 10%, which equals $100,000. The person making $20,000 a year is probably in need of every penny they earn. They probably rent rather than own, they probably only own (or lease) one vehicle, and would probably need government assistance if they had a child. The person making a million is living comfortably in their house, probably has two or more cars, and could raise 2 kids without trouble. So, then wouldnt it make sense if the more money you earned the more taxes you paid? Shouldn't the guy making a million pay atleast 25% in taxes? They still end up with $750,000 and can still keep their house, cars, and kids. Wouldn't it then make just as much sense to tax someone making say $10,000,000 at a rate of 35%, $100,000,000 at a rate of 50%, $500,000,000 at a rate of 75%, and $1,000,000,000 or more at a rate of 90%? This tax system prevents a pooling of cash into a small amount of hands, and prevents corporate and political dynasties from corrupting the nation. Furthermore, the richer you are, the less you spend as a percentage of you income. The rich tend to save more, which takes money out of the economy, which reduces demand for goods, and a vicious cycle ensues. In the last 30 years, we have seen the tax rates for the super rich lowered and lowered and it has resulted in the astonishing gap in income between the middle class and the uber rich. If the gap continues to grow, the "American Dream" will not be attainable by anyone except those born into privilege.
In summation, it is time to stand up and let Washington know you are tired of being marginalized in search of profits. As Americans, we should be in search of the "American Dream" instead of in search of another dead end low paying job. The "American Dream" lives within us all, but it is being bludgeoned to death by the insiders and robber barons of our time. We need to bring back a vibrant, unionized workforce. We need to end "free trade" and bring jobs back home. And we need to institute a logical, progressive tax system that eliminates the class disparity we have now. Without the middle class, this country is nothing. We are this country. If we remember that and stick together, there is no reason we cannot regain control of this great nation. Thanks for reading. Tell a friend.