The demise of the middle class in the US and the rise of the 1% is the most disturbing trend of our age. The neoliberal takeover of the mainstream economic thought started with President Carter and continued with Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama. ‘The demise of welfare as we know it’, and the continued squeeze on social programs has pushed more people out of the lower middle class and the era of Franklin Roosevelt and Johnson is long gone. The top 1% share of income keeps rising and at over 22% it is nearing the highs of income inequality, reached just before the great depression. We are now at the edge of the abyss and the result of the next election may well decide our fate for the next age.
There is continued dissatisfaction amongst the youth, as this generation has only seen a congress at war with itself, and politicians not able to deliver on the promises they make, due to a divided house. The faith in democracy has eroded and participation in the process is fueled either by the extreme nationalistic dialog, portrayed by the likes of Cruz and mimicked by Trump on the Republican tea party right. The other side is the egalitarian socialism espoused by Sanders, who talks against income inequality, the need to reduce the risk from too big to fail financial institutions, universal health and free education. We as a society must decide which direction we want our future to go, as these are extreme choices; that we must face, to be true to ourselves.
The greatest gains in income and equality have historicaly been, when the system has been fair and not in favor of the wealthy elite and their protective power. It is only when leaders have stepped up and protected the poor, and made an even playing field, that the world has prospered and the middle class grown. This was borne out by the economic policies in the fifties and sixties in the US and I shudder to say the eighties and nineties in China when it becam glorious to be rich. The great prosperity was possible even when the top tax rate was near 90% under Eisenhower, and it is said that if Bernie’s policies are allowed to take root, we could have another great blossoming in America.
An analysis of his policies by one economist shows that median income could rise to 82,000 from less than 54,000 today while providing better education, healthcare and massive investment in infrastructure, by rebuilding this great nation. Poverty would be reduced dramatically to 6%, and the growth rate of GDP would grow at double the current projected rates to over 5% and the national budget would go from the current major deficits to major surpluses. If it sounds too good to be true then we just have to look back in history, when we had more enlightened leaders who cared. They were not elected by Super Pacs and the wealthy, but represented the ordinary people, who elected them. We cannot go to a National Right that demands it is more equal, but must proceed to a humanistic left that cares for true equality.
The age of the neoliberals is dying, and it is up to the youth and the poor to rise up and demand the new egalitarian socialism, which insists on more equality and growth. We need opportunity and the national wealth to be spent, on our infrastructure,education and health. The people need the economy to work for us and not for the ultra-wealthy and the capitalists alone. We live in a capitalistic society which has been usurped by power brokers, who no longer know how to grow the economy, and have encouraged grid lock, and politicians who will look the other way, while they pocket the rewards of our labor.
The vote in this election matters more than ever before, as either we will fall into the chasm of narrow parochial views, or rise on the waves of a shared prosperity. The choice is clear but the electorate is fooled by gerrymandering and deceptive advertising into a false sense of complacence. The revolution is here and nobody sees which way it will go, but all I can quote is, that ‘the times they are a changing’.
He who would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (9 Feb 1737-1809)