Political Issues — Income Inequality

Because there are many different issues involved in this political free-for-all for the Presidency of the USA, I’m going to do a number of posts relating to the issues at hand.

Income Inequality

I’ve been reading a lot of rants about how Sanders’ adherents seem to want everything “handed to them” and that his supporters don’t include any people who “really work for a living” (defined as primarily jobs which require hard physical labor such as farmers, factory workers, construction workers and the like).

There are a couple points of this where I believe some people don’t understand what either Senator Sanders is standing for, or what his supporters really want.

First off, to answer the main issue of supposedly people want to have things “handed to them.” I am willing to believe that there may be some small portion of the people interested in voting for Senator Sanders who do want everything just given to them.  There are always those people, in ALL walks of life and of all political stances.

Farmers (and sadly also many people who own land but do no farming) receive subsidies, some of which is paid to them intentionally to ask them NOT to farm for certain things on their land.  Sadly, many of the government’s subsidies are being given to wealthy farmers and agricultural super-companies, leaving the people who NEED the subsidies to go shift for themselves.  The government doesn’t make it easy to track down the total amount of farm subsidies paid out in any given year (or at least I couldn’t find a total on any of the federal sites I looked at – taking a reasonable amount of time to research that information).  The most clear financial amounts I could find stated a total of $27.7 billion for 2015.

Just like those farmers, the larger percentage of Sanders’ followers don’t want to be just handed money, they want to earn it.  What is really going on is that many of us are extremely aware, from personal experience as well as from information from people of all walks of life, that we are not working on a level playing field.

The income and wealth inequality being discussed is NOT about the Robin Hood example that many attempt to use to simplify the negative stereotype of the kind of person who supports Senator Sanders.  Most of us don’t want to “rob from the rich, and give to the poor.” The reality of the situation is that since the 1970s it has become almost impossible for someone in a lower tax bracket to move up the ladder, no matter HOW hard they work.  It’s not just about the cost of education that is stopping some of us.  It’s the fact that certain types of people are consistently passed-over for promotions, for being given more responsibility (even if they have proven to be far more responsible than those around them, or those given the promotions) or even for simply a cost-of-living raise.

The poverty level for a single person is $16,242.  For a family of 3 (2 adults, 1 kid) is $27,724.  Having lived with a career retail person, I know for a fact that most retail management (those in-store, as opposed to up the corporate ladder) average approximately the amount given for a family of 3.  But, many of those managers are not your typical young adult who hasn’t gotten married or had kids.  Often they are single parents, usually with more than one child in their family.

Even as a freelance web designer (before I broke my mind and health) I was barely making the poverty level income, because I had fallen into a trap of freelancing, the client who wants access to you 24/7 and isn’t willing to pay you more than starvation wages.  The work literally took over my life, and between them and the constant stress of living with my ex, I had NO time in which to find a consistent client who would pay me what I was worth.

When it comes to income inequality, we are SUPPOSED to be a country that rewards hard work and perseverance.  We’re  supposed to be a meritocracy. But hard work and perseverance are no longer enough to allow the average person to succeed.  Since the latter portion of the 20th century, it has been almost impossible for the lower classes to even move up to the middle class, let alone to the bottom level of the wealthy.  Merit is no longer enough to move forward in a career, let alone to move up.

I’m not talking about issues of race or gender here.  Even with the income inequality of women, of people of color, of those who have body size issues (both larger and smaller), of those who have “invisible illnesses,” of those who are LGBT or any other label of someone who may be different, there is STILL an overall issue of income inequality.  You have to know the right people, go to the right schools, get the right KIND of experience, or be the right KIND of person to even have a chance to move up financial classes.

That is NOT meritocracy.  That’s an oligarchy, and it’s been happening for far too long. The rich own our government. Period.  They get the government they pay for.  They get the news they want, because they own the companies that produce the news (regardless of the media of news – be it broadcast news, newspapers, or online news companies).  And they have treated the American public as idiot children, attracting attention to something shiny while they take over yet another set of rights.

Senator Sanders wants to change that.  He wants to change the current rules that allow for far too much abuse.

If you go to his website, he wants:

  1. Wealthy individuals and families, as well as corporations, should not be given tax breaks that end up giving them huge refunds instead of paying their fair share of taxes.  Even without returning to the levels just after WWII (in which the highest tax bracket was charged 94% on anything over $200K, adjusting for inflation that $200K would be only those making over $2.69 million per year), if we simply rolled back to the taxes on the higher brackets to that of the 1965-1980 years (which was 70%, and only affected those making over what would be the current amount of $561,000), the income equality would ease.
  2. Raising the minimum wage.  This is sheer economics.  If the public has more discretionary funds (i.e. more than bare subsistence/poverty needs) the economy does better.  Why? Because our economy is based on supply and demand.  When demand is higher, corporations make money.  It’s not about giving people more than they deserve, it’s about re-balancing the economy.  When those who are wealthy take themselves out of that balance, the economy fails.  If the wealthy actually did what many conservatives think they do (i.e. keep putting more money into the hands of consumers) then something like trickle-down economics would work.  But we’ve known for decades that that policy fails simply because the money of the rich is NOT put back into the system, but horded by the über-rich.
  3. Encouraging financial stability by returning to many of the programs created by FDR’s  “New Deal” because not only do we need more jobs, we need our infrastructure renewed and re-done.  What was considered “make-work” at the time has become necessary for continuing the ease of transport for products to reach markets.  Our roads, our railroads, our ports and many other items that facilitate transport of goods and products need to be updated and repaired. But we starve those departments of local, state and federal governments because too often we are told it is just “not necessary.”  Please, go ahead and tell that to the poor man down the street who has to replace his car joints repeatedly because there are so many potholes in the road that he can’t avoid them.
  4. Reversing trade policies that leave people here unemployed because it is cheaper for our manufacturers to have their factories overseas.
  5. Focus on giving our youth an actual leg up in the business world by ensuring they have opportunities to work and gain experience.
  6. Tuition-free public college.  Arizona (1935), California (1980s), Indiana (more recently) have already been making this happen.  There would still be “for profit” schools who can charge whatever amount they want to, but public education would be funded in the same way that K-12 public education is already funded.
  7. Single payer healthcare.  The so-called “Obamacare” item that got passed is a travesty.  All it really did was put more money in the hands of the insurance companies, who happen to be the REAL reason why healthcare costs so outrageously much.
  8. Requiring employers to actually give their employees the ability to have a true “work/life balance” without killing themselves or their finances.
  9. Finding ways to ensure supportive pre-school childcare, which as an industry has become bloated.  Even parents with above-poverty paychecks are finding it almost impossible to pay for responsible childcare (i.e. care that doesn’t end up harming or killing their child(ren).

I’m not sure I support his ideas on unions, and I need to do further research on the supposedly too-big-to-fail issue.  Not because I have any love for Wall Street, but because I need better research.

I’m also doing further research on Mr. Trump’s positions, but that will take another longer post.  I really ought to end this one.  I didn’t realize I had gotten to over 1500 words. 😀

 

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