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. 

Now Is The Moment Democrats

From a Google Image Search – The New York Times

Congress is back in session after Labor Day, and it will be time for holiday recess before we know it. For Democrats this may be a now-or-never moment. This is the moment when we either put some accomplishments on the Congressional Record and implement them in the real world, or possibly lose seats in the 2022 midterms. Democrats’ margins are already so thin in both the House and the Senate that if we lose any seats we will be locked out of action by partisan Republicans and there will be no legislation to take America forward into new opportunities that could replace inequality with some balance. If Democrats lose not only do the American people lose, but the Democrats will lose, and not just in 2022 but in 2024. Republicans are frantically working to fix elections so that Democrats cannot win. If laws passed by Democrats have a chance to show Americans that Democratic initiatives will improve their lives, all the fixes in the world might not help the Republican Party.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4263) is coming up for a vote. It will attempt to stop states from passing laws that suppress the right to vote by forcing any new voting rules to seek preclearance in a federal court before they can become laws. This restores a procedure that was subtracted from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prematurely, based on the bills we are watching red states pass. 

Since the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is unlikely to pass the Senate, Democrats propose that the “For the People Act” could do the job (although it would be even better if both bills passed). This House Bill is HR-1, showing the priority Democrats place on this bill. It would expand voting rights, change campaign finance law to reduce the influence of money in politics (overturn Citizens United v FEC), ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal office holders. 

The Infrastructure and Jobs Act – HR.3684 which passed the Senate on August 10, 2021, and affects highways, rail – both rail safety and freight, public transit, airports, electric vehicles, water infrastructure, energy and Western water infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, resiliency for the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA funding, and cybersecurity, environmental remediation, and ‘pay-fors’. (Holland and Knightlaw.com)

The 3.5 T “Human Infrastructure” Package which focuses on family, climate and health care. This bill is still in committees but includes universal pre-K, free community college tuition, paid family leave, climate priorities, public housing, job training, new Medicare benefits and extends expansion of the Affordable Care Act, and immigration policy.

Only one of these bills has any support from Republicans and there are at least two Democrats who say these bills are too expensive and too progressive. (Kristin Sinema – D-AZ and Joe Manchin – D-WV). America needs all these bills to pass and become law. 

Nancy Pelosi is aware that Republicans will use their barely bipartisan participation in passing the infrastructure bill as a point in their favor in the midterm elections. She knows we need to get the “human infrastructure” bill passed if we expect Americans to understand the advantages of a Democratic administration. She says she will not advance the Infrastructure and Jobs Act until the ‘Human Infrastructure’ Bill is also ready to be signed by the President, either by a bipartisan vote or by using the reconciliation process to pass the bill with only Democrats. Nancy Pelosi understands the legislative process far better than anyone, but the pressure is on. Timeliness is important and timeliness is not something Congress is noted for.

Can we get this all done before the holiday recess? 

Most Democrats are anxious to end the filibuster rules that can be used to block legislation in the Senate. Filibuster rules are not part of our original documents, so it’s odd that the ‘originalist’ Republicans are desperate to hold on to this holdover from Jim Crow days, yet not so odd given the difficulty Republicans are having because their racism is showing. Unless we want to leave American jobs and social opportunities to powerful corporations who do not want to pay taxes because they don’t live in the America the rest of us live in, we need to end the filibuster. Even without the filibuster it will be difficult to pass these important bills into budget priorities. Considering the difficulty states have had distributing COVID funds to renters and landlords, designating money does not necessarily mean that all these programs will be administered properly in every state. We need to show that government can step up and step up quickly.

Everyone throws their hands in the air when someone timidly proposes added four seats to the Supreme Court, but Democrats also need to pursue that path. The current makeup of the Supreme Court is part of the Republican coup (not the Trump coup, although he got to implement that strategy and that’s why they love him so). The Supremes can block every law the Democrats pass and that should not be allowed if Dems intend to block the coup. 

Perhaps we will have to accept that endless cycles of progress are not good for people or for the planet, that growth cannot be a giant spiral, but perhaps a slow and thoughtful process of change and adaptation. Republican policies are far more likely to stall human progress and even make the economy more unequal than it already is. If wealth remains this skewed or gets further out of balance, there really will be a few aristocrats and most of us will be their serfs. We will be cut off from the rest of the world and we will be paranoid, constantly spending our money on military and intelligence priorities. We will have strange new allies who will not be our friends. From now until Thanksgiving is a crucial time for Democrats. We are sending you positive energy, hope it helps.