- The federal minimum wage has been at $7.25 for a decade.
- The 3 wealthiest people in America now own more than entirety of the bottom 50% of our country.
- The median family income has stayed the same despite soaring productivity soaring over the last 20 years.
These are appalling statistics.
The United States needs to tackle income inequality and strengthen our middle class while eradicating poverty. The wealth of the 1% has skyrocketed due to the failed policy of trickle-down economics pushed by Republicans for decades. This is a systemic failure that needs to be addressed. Hoarding wealth does not improve our country.
How do we address this?
1. Tax reform
Our first step is to repeal the awful tax cuts put in place by Republicans. They only serve the top earners in our country and hurt the middle class.
We start by simplifying the process of filing taxes. The IRS has most everyone’s information. It should take a matter of minutes to file your taxes and should be free for everyone. Recently, Congress passed a bill preventing the IRS from creating a system of filing due to lobbying efforts from companies like TurboTax who profit from filing simple returns.
Businesses still need to take deductions, but the process should change. Amazon profited over $10 billion last year and paid nothing in taxes. I understand carrying forward losses, but only to a certain point. Companies should be allowed funding by venture capital and run at a loss, but somewhere along the line, American citizens start subsidizing those losses. Whether it is an employee cap, monetary cap, time cap, or other type of restriction, it must be regulated better.
We need to move to a different method of incentivizing companies to increase wages. Wal-Mart is our nation’s largest private employer with about 1% of the population on their payroll. More Wal-mart employees are on government assistance than any other employer. I propose we modify tax breaks to encourage higher pay. For example, every employee whose wage is above $15 an hour gets to deduct, say, $18 an hour. Those numbers are not solid as they depend on both whether Medicare for All passes and tax contingencies, but they are the type of incentives that businesses need.
2. Healthcare as a right
Every American has the right to healthcare that isn’t tied to their job. Medicare for All will prevent bankruptcies and stop the financial burden sickness brings on families. We need to increase public funding into medical research and regulate prices on prescription drugs. No one should have to worry about paying for their insulin, being diagnosed with cancer, or having a freak accident that prevents them from working. We are the richest, most innovative country in the world, yet our healthcare system is the most regressive.
3. Corporation restructuring, trust-busting, and accountability
Currently, publicly held corporations have one legal obligation: Increase shareholder value.
This is an immoral, unsustainable goal. For years, corporations have been finding ways to abuse people and the environment to increase quarterly profits. CEOs are hired, make short-term decisions to increase profits, and move on after being paid millions. The stocks drop quickly, people lose jobs, a new CEO is installed and the cycle continues. Companies will damage the environment or break the law knowing that the fines will be less than the profits so overall it is a positive move for the stock price. We need to hold companies accountable with fines greater than profits or even jail time. If you are poor and steal $100 from a convenience store you go to jail, if you are rich and break the law to steal $100 million you get a $10 million fine and return to work. This is unacceptable.
Companies are not reinvesting capital. Large companies who have cash lying around aren’t spending money on new products, they are buying other companies and becoming monopolies and giant conglomerates. This way, they can layoff redundant employees and increase profit numbers for shareholders. Companies like AT&T are now far larger than when they were broken up in 1982 for being a monopoly. Conglomerates make promises to regulatory agencies that they won’t raise prices to approve a merger, then nothing happens when they don’t hold up their promises (AT&T and Time Warner merger being one example). This is due to corporate lobbying and regulatory capture, and they get to deduct it on their taxes!
We need to refocus the legal obligations of corporations. I love the idea that employees elect 40% of board members. Corporations are nothing without employees, they shouldn’t be allowed to put employees last. Laws must be passed that increase penalties for harming the environment or large groups of people. There needs to be penalties for companies that layoff Americans to move factories to other countries. If planned long-term, Shareholders will continue to see returns on investments with more reliability.
We need the average American to have more money. Our economy only works when people are spending. By increasing wages, reducing healthcare and education costs, and refocusing corporations to have a human interest we will thrive as a country. People will have money to take vacations, buy houses and more products, all the things that corporations desire. By shifting to a long-term, human-centered approach, we can bring back the middle class and strengthen America.