It Really IS The Inequality

by Poligags

It really is the inequality.

Americans have been through the wringer for the last several years. We endured the fallout of the bursting economic bubble. We’ve witnessed congressional tantrums and showdowns over the debt ceiling, the budget, taxation, and the trillion-dollar coin. We’ve been subjected to sequestration and the threat of austerity measures.

While economist Paul Krugman said (New Republic) that “economics is not a morality play,” at every turn, it is the average citizen whose continued economic well-being has been at stake in these debates over the economy. Real wages continue to deteriorate. The jobs market remains flat and the middle class simply doesn’t have the purchasing power to spend the economy back to health. People are being asked to do more, accept less and accede to being bled dry.

What pols don’t seem to realize is that when people are unemployed, they draw from the system. They rely on unemployment insurance to make ends meet. Some turn to food stamp and welfare assistance. They utilize public health care resources. There have been reports recently of TANF recipients who have exhausted the funds for which they were eligible moving toward disability for continued income.

By contrast, people who work pay into the system. They pay into federal and state coffers. They travel to and from work, sometimes paying tolls and, in nearly all cases, gasoline taxes. They use their incomes to purchase homes, paying property taxes that fund schools and community services. They patronize stores, buying things while keeping others employed; they pay taxes on purchases, as well. Further, according to the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, US employment accounted for 68% of world-wide employment; so we benefit ourselves and the global economy through our economic strength.

The powers-that-be only see the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) angle. For years, the so-called job creators have been sitting on over a trillion dollars in assets. Last summer, one article cited that figure at $5 trillion (The Atlantic). Instead of stimulating the economy through hiring (and the resulting spending noted above), they “save it for a rainy day”. And, whereas corporations used to contribute about one-third of the tax revenues that funded government functions, they now only contribute less than 10% (The Contributor). The corporate entity is also entitled to shelters the average person is not: corporations offshore their money so that it isn’t subject to taxation. Sixty corporations were found to have hidden $166 billion in assets in just this manner (Daily Kos).

It doesn’t end with corporate taxes. Congress has quashed pay equity bills twice in the last year (Think Progress). Based on a survey of 327 of the S&P 500 and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, CEOs are making 354 times what the average worker earns (Executive PayWatch). One family – the heirs of WalMart’s Sam Walton – have as much wealth as the bottom 40% of the population (PolitiFact), while WalMart “associates” must accept public assistance despite full time employment (PolitiFact). This is because the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is too meager to be a living wage (living wage calculator). President Obama proposed a minimum wage increase to $9; several states have adopted this standard, but no headway has been made at the federal level. We argue that this rate is still insufficient, but it would be an improvement.

All of these things contribute to our current state of disparity between the haves and the have nots. The gulf between the two is widening and threatens whatever opportunities exist for economic recovery. So, while the House of Representatives meets only 126 days in 2013 (Washington Post) and engages in such productive activities as naming post offices and dedicating weeks to celebrating vegetables made inedible by multinationals with lobbyists, remember: it is the inequality. Right up until November 4, 2014.

© 2013 Poligags