In this critical moment in American history we need to know where every candidate stands, and we need to bend the debate and the positions of folks we support to how to save an America in crisis.
Though we have many problems I believe there are three interwoven critical issues, which can determine whether or not our other problems can be solved. We need to know where those who would lead America stand on these issues:
- Wage stagnation and decline and persistent unemployment. There simply is not enough money at the bottom of the economy to power the American economic engine. Wages have been stagnant or declining for about 40 years now. Unemployment shot up after the Wall St. disaster of 2007 and employment hasn’t recovered yet.
- Massive gulfs in wages and wealth. The most recent WSJ data I’ve seen shows that, “95% of 2009-2012 income gains went to [the] wealthiest 1%.” Those at the top hoard money or invest it overseas and certainly don’t invest in the USA.
There are many ways to narrow the wage and wealth gap, in part by raising wages. The first and easiest is to raise the minimum wage. While this might have a minuscule effect on cost, it increases consumer demand at the bottom of the economy. Given the scope of the crisis we should be talking about at least doubling the minimum wage to $15 an hour plus instead of the paltry $10 an hour, and indexing or tying future increases to increases in the cost of living.
The most organic and efficient ways to raise wages and narrow the wealth gap is by encouraging with legislative action collective bargaining and union organizing across the entire economy. We should make employer interference in workers rights to organize and bargain federal felonies punishable by incarceration. Given how quickly and easily and often we incarcerate young men of color, we should have no qualms about incarcerating the people who routinely ruin the lives of thousands of American families. Gaining union recognition and bargaining should be a simple process, as it is in most other countries in the industrialized world. Workers should know that the more co-workers are in the union, the stronger bargaining power they have.
We have to raise taxes on the wealthy. It is insane that we have powerful office holders like Paul Ryan who want to reduce food stamps, unemployment, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while allowing the filthy rich to pay half the tax rate on their unearned investment income that we pay in wage taxes. It makes no sense at all. We should raise the rates on those making over $250K a year to the level Clinton had them. Of course, we need a complete overhaul of corporate taxes. For Caterpillar to be able hide $2.4 billion from American taxpayers overseas and all corporations to be able to hide $2 trillion offshore is an atrocity.
We cannot do what is needed until we take power back from the ridiculously wealthy. Supreme Court decisions, state administrative and legislative action to restrict or destroy voting rights and the power of unrestrained, deregulated and unfettered capitalism have turned what we used to call American Democracy, what many have called the foundation of American exceptionalism, into an oligarchy or plutocracy. Money now buys elections.
But the worst wrong would be for us to give up, to throw up our hands, to think it can’t be changed. We can still change America. And we must.