The Big Threat

From a Google Image Search – Paradise Village, Mexico

Much has been said about the wealth gap in America and in nations around the planet. History suggests that enormous gaps between a wealthy few and the many whose lives are limited by their finances leads to unrest and eventually revolution. History also suggests that once the revolution is over, although a few may change their economic circumstances, things quickly revert to the same inequalities that pertained before the bloody upheaval. This leads to the conclusion that revolution may not be the best way to resolve the recurring problem that makes all the cream rise to the top. Money gives people power over governance and allows the privileged few to make sure that laws are passed which keep money flowing into their pockets – that taxes are structured to their advantage – and allows them to broadcast the “big threat” –  if we take away or redistribute their wealth it will mean that they will take the whole economy down with them, not necessarily from malice they assure us, but because without them the entire economy will not work.

Forbes tells us that since the pandemic the rich have gotten richer. Just seven Americans are worth $996 billion. The seven are Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla and Space X), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). “That’s a group small enough to fit in an SUV,” says Forbes. Some of the graphs from Inequality.com show how skewed our economy has become.

This first graph shows the gaps in wealth between top and bottom of US citizens:

This graph shows how similar wealth inequality now is to wealth inequality just before the Great Depression:

This third graph shows the differences between CEO’s and workers in terms of paychecks:

Clearly, once you have money it is difficult to think about giving it up. Those who have it believe the money is theirs. They earned it, they don’t intend to share it with the untalented, the uncreative masses, the worker bees, or the deadbeats. They resist arguments that show how the wealthy stacked the deck in their own favor. They refuse to accept that when their own profits grew, they could have raised employee’s wages to close the gap. Many refuse to use “their” fortunes to fund societal needs that will reduce their profits, such as oil and gas millionaires and billionaires who refuse to believe they are changing the earth’s climate and refuse to give up their addiction to fossil fuels even though they share the dangers extreme climate changes bring. Homogeneity might work with milk, but they have no wish to join the masses. They like being the cream. 

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was shocking, although most Americans were very clear about what Republicans had wanted for over a decade. Despite clear evidence that “trickle down” doesn’t work, Republicans insisted that if we cut taxes for corporations and wealthy families, corporations would be beating down doors, transporting factories back across oceans to bring manufacturing back to America. It was quite easy to see that corporations would not be likely to come back to a nation with such high overhead costs and labor costs, at least until there was no cheap labor left in the world. 

Of course, not everyone saw this. They believed the story that the Democrats killed American business with unions and their strident demands, although globalization was the real reason factories migrated to Asia. They wanted the fifties back, although the fifties lasted for a very short time and represented a postwar boom. After the 2017 Tax Act was passed the economy did pick up a bit, but certainly did not take off enough to bring us a new boom. Even if the pandemic did not come along, the economy did not show any signs of recreating the 50’s, or even the “sigh” 80’s, halcyon days of that economic genius Ronald Reagan (mythic or myth).

This graph shows wealth distribution after the tax act became law:

So, Mitch McConnell is supposedly protecting America when he refuses to increase the budget to meet the needs of the moment or raise the debt ceiling in a mean snit to throw more shade against those spendthrift Democrats who actually think that lifting up the ‘bottom dwellers’ will be good for the economy. Kentucky accepted the expanded Medicaid offered in the Affordable Care Act and would benefit from the programs offered in the For the People Act. Why do they keep sending McConnell to Congress when he doesn’t even back things his constituents need? It’s a mystery. 

Henry Olsen is a conservative opinion writer that The Washington Post offers a voice to, perhaps out of respect for his longevity. He swears that passing a $3.5 trillion dollar act that supports people in a time of economic transition, when many are not necessarily trained for the jobs that will be available, will do incalculable damage to the American economy. However, it seems that if the American economy must be this skewed to survive, then our nation is already on its last legs. 

How can we bring the American economy back into some semblance of balance? There are many options. Wealthy Americans finally won exemption from paying taxes on capital gains, thus insuring generational wealth. We could back track on this. We could raise the corporate tax rates to something reasonable. We could beef up the IRS to enforce taxes on the wealthy. We could raise wages. And for starters we could pass the For the People Act, which is not nearly as progressive as progressives would like it to be. Our wealth distribution does not have to be this out of whack. No one deserves to hoard enough money that it will threaten the survival of everyone on the planet.