In my opinion, income inequality is the most serious issue facing Americans today. Wealth accumulation by the top 1% is currently at its highest level since 1928. Such inequality was not sustainable then, and it is not sustainable now. In fact, history has demonstrated that modern societies with high levels of income inequality ultimately collapse; either as a result of war or due to failure within the financial system. As Americans, we have an obligation to ensure that our politicians understand the seriousness of this issue and demonstrate their desire to change our inequitable system.Since the 1980’s, the middle class has been in a sharp decline, largely because of policies enacted during the Reagan administration, and a shift from the Keynesian demand-side economics to Laffer supply-side economics. The theory behind demand-side economics is that a well-paid labor force generates demand, which in turn, creates the need for supplies, which ultimately leads to a growing economy. To the contrary, supply-side economics is based on maximizing corporate profits, which, in theory reduces prices. Upon adopting the supply-side “trickle-down” principle in the 1980’s, the government focused on: 1) de-regulation of large corporations, 2) castration of anti-trust laws, 3) weakening labor protections, and 4) reducing taxes on the rich. Reagan wasted no time in instituting de-regulations that enhanced the ability of large corporations to become monopolies, reducing taxes on the rich, and weakening labor unions. These policies were expanded upon and continued by all of his successors up to the present day. A glance at the equities markets substantiates the huge “success” supply-side economics has had on American corporations and funneling money to the rich.
In the meantime, the American middle class has been decimated. As a result of Free-Trade Agreements, millions of good paying American jobs have been off-shored and outsourced, resulting in exponentially increasing profits for corporations. Unfortunately, while real wages stagnated, costs for some essential goods and services have skyrocketed. Between 1995 and 2008, housing prices skyrocketed 50%. This was made possible due to Clinton’s deregulation of the banking industry and because the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to levels not seen in 100 years. The loose fiscal policy that has continued to this day has enabled Americans to borrow cheaply and put on appearances of maintaining their standard of living. The ever increasing income inequality, coupled with ever relaxed laws governing the process of our government has resulted in the loss of our democracy from the common people to the oligarchs. With essentially no laws regarding bribery, and loose campaign laws, profit-laden corporations are free to purchase their favorite politicians. By purchasing politicians, corporations have been able to turn the Federal, state, and local governments into perpetual money making machines for themselves.
Jill Stein is the only Presidential candidate who has stated that she will address the issues related to income inequality. She supports reenacting the Glass-Steagall Act, which prevented banks from getting into the investment business, such as what led to the financial collapse in 2008. She also supports repealing Citizen United, and thus limiting superPAC campaign contributions. Jill Stein supports labor unions, which protect worker wages and benefits, as well as raising the minimum wage. Stein has also discussed reinstating the inheritance tax, and increasing taxes on the very wealthy. In doing so, less money is transferred to heirs and the wealthy would have less money with which to purchase politicians. She has also talked about ending corporate loopholes, as well as corporate subsidies, which are largely a result of influence-peddling. Her support for universal health care, as well as tuition-free college also address the fact that both of these services have been rising as a rate far exceeding wage gains. We will eventually need much more, but all of these are a good start.
Although the United States ranks the 4th highest in the world for income inequality, most Americans are not even aware of this crisis. In reality, when you have billionaires seeking to be multi-billionaires in a country with the highest infant mortality rate among “wealthy” nations, you know you have a problem. Excessive greed among those who also have excessive power, is a very dangerous mix. The Great Depression was largely a result of greed of the wealthy to own more stock by buying on margin. The 2008 Great Recession was largely a result of the financial sector seeking unattainable profits by lending money to those whose did not qualify. We are currently fighting wars in the Middle East as a result of our quest for more oil and profits for defense contractors.
We must find a way to stop this insanity. Jill Stein is our only hope.