Local view: Will growing inequalities sink us?For a lengthy period in our nation’s history, chattel slavery was common. President Abraham Lincoln, following the Civil War, ended that with the Emancipation Proclamation.
By: Bernie Hughes, Duluth News Tribune
For a lengthy period in our nation’s history, chattel slavery was common. President Abraham Lincoln, following the Civil War, ended that with the Emancipation Proclamation.
However, very serious economic inequity still exists and, immorally, is becoming more flagrant with each passing year. The income spread increases regularly with only mere mention in a nation that prides itself on democratic exceptionalism. Revolution, as history reminds us, is not anticipated in a democracy.
Let’s get with the program.
There is some evidence that, over time, our nation may continue to remove inequities. We eliminated chattel slavery, after all. We gave women the right to vote. And the minimum wage was instituted (even if it hasn’t been raised in several years while other financial issues have been raised along with cost- and price-percentage adjustments).
We should be moving ahead. What is our problem? We threw off the monarchy originally initiated with theoretically religious justification. What possesses us, in a democracy of, by and for the people to allow the very top wealthy people to treat themselves in a most unequal and most preferential fashion? In no way do we imply complete equality. A reasonable difference is necessary for motivation and effort. Reasonable isn’t what we’ve done for too long.
In a democratic society, one would expect more equity. Our practice now is moving in the opposite direction. Labor organizations once had a distinct opportunity to speak for themselves. Our unions have had their voices diminished. European countries are practicing democracy; Germany, as one example, has labor representation at corporate board meetings.
On the upper end, corporations and banks have become too big to fail. When a financial fandango such as in 2008 occurs it becomes the taxpayers called upon, again, tax-wise, to save the day.
Low-income citizens are imprisoned for lengthy sentences for marijuana possession while wealthy “banksters” unbelievably escape prison — and then receive generous higher wages and bonuses.
The Action Network, a nonprofit, reported that 10 million people received bonuses and salary increases while 10 million people were Scrooged out of their homes. Tax reform has been needed for a long while. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says we should close a tax loophole that helped General Electric, as one example, pay zero dollars in taxes for four years.
Another inequity that we should rectify is extremely low wages for the working class. Employers have been able to hire cheap immigrant workers, which increased their profits but cost low-income wage-earners their jobs. Shaming us now is our difficulty in providing citizenship status for so many immigrants and their children, many of whom have worked many years in the U.S.
The frosting on the cake for large corporations was the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Wealthy corporations now can buy congressional votes legally, which only increases financial inequities. The too-large government (is it?), as negatively interpreted, has permitted the elimination of governmental regulations so the wealthy elites now have their cake and can eat it, too.
In Jared Diamond’s book,” Collapse,” a statement seemed to be a silent warning from that 19th-century collapse analysis: “Exploitation of Cambodian peasants by the extravagant elite had something to do with the collapse in Cambodia.”
Bernie Hughes of Superior is professor emeritus of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.