This is the third of a three-part series dealing with the financial predicament of workers.
Conservatives’ solution to the financial squeeze on workers is simply to grow the economy by deregulation and reducing taxes on the rich. But considering the George W. Bush tax cuts actually resulted in job losses — as well as adding trillions to the deficit — and financial deregulation in the late 1990s resulted in the 2008 Great Recession, do we really want to stay on that path? By the way, what conservatives speciously refer to as the “job creators” haven’t created one net additional American manufacturing job since 1977.
Besides, if, as we’ve learned in Part I, the ownership class is disproportionately taking its largest share of earnings since the 1920s, simply expanding the economy will only result in increasingly greater inequality — kind of a zero-sum game for workers. Add that to the Republican insistence on slashing benefits like food stamps and unemployment insurance as outlined in Part II and the majority of Americans face a pretty dismal future.
So, how to do we change that picture? First, we must recognize that growing income inequality is at the heart of the problem. Whoops! Mention income inequality and conservatives immediately accuse you of “class warfare.”
But billionaire Republican donors have poured millions of dollars into advancing the very policies that promote income inequality — unfettered capitalism, regressive taxation and a deteriorating social safety net — through organizations like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth. I guess it’s only class warfare when the working folks fight back.
The top 1 percent of earners saw their average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grow by 281 percent over the last three decades. By contrast, people in the lowest fifth of the population saw their share of income decline from 7 percent to 3.4 percent and people in the middle three-fifths saw their share drop from 50 percent to 42 percent. The most affluent fifth of the population now receives more than 54 percent of the nation’s income, up from 43 percent in 1979.
Look what 30 years of Reagan’s trickle- down economics have gotten us. A disappearing middle class squeezed by stagnant wages and shrinking social services and a mega-rich plutocracy that has benefited enormously from anti-labor management tactics; 200 percent in worker productivity gains; favorable government tax breaks, subsidies and shelters; and lack of regulations encouraging casino- like financial chicanery.
The top 1 percent — a good many of them the culprits of the recession — took in 95 percent of all the gains since the recovery began. A quarter of the population owns 87 percent of the nation’s $70 trillion in wealth. It’s time to restore the kind of class balance we experienced in the mid-century by tapping these new inexcusable windfalls resulting from exploiting the distress of the middle class and working poor. Only 2 percent of that in the form of paying living wages and marginally higher taxes can start putting America back together again.
As International Monetary Fund studies prove, greater income equality benefits everyone. The 2 percent!
Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.