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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/4/18

For Minimum Decency, A Maximum Wage

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From Common Dreams

Amid rising inequality, a new book argues, the notion of capping income has suddenly become politically plausible.

'Income and wealth have concentrated to a degree unimaginable in the early 1990s.'
(Image by (Photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr/cc))
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In the United States today, a just-released Federal Reserve report informs us, over a fifth of the nation's families simply cannot afford to "pay all of their current month's bills in full."

Over a quarter of families, the report goes on, skip "necessary medical care" because they can't afford the cost. And an even greater share -- 40 percent -- wouldn't be able to cover an unexpected expense of $400 without having to borrow cash or sell something they own.

In other words, many millions of American households have essentially almost nothing in the way of savings. And not much in the way of income either. Two out of every five Americans, the new Federal Reserve study details, have annual household incomes less than $40,000.

Meanwhile, at the other end of America's economic spectrum, we have households raking in much more than $40,000 every day. Half the CEOs at America's 200 biggest corporations now make over $336,538 per week, according to a review of 2017 corporate compensation that Equilar, a pay consulting firm, has just completed for the New York Times.

These top execs and their fellow wealthy can afford to handle any personal emergency life may throw their way. More importantly, they can also afford to buy a level of political influence that turns their needs -- and their needs alone -- into national priorities.

The end result? We find ourselves in a United States where nearly half the nation lives at the edge of economic disaster while government wallows in a "gridlock" that magically vanishes only when lawmakers have a chance to enrich the already rich.

So what do we do about all this? Maybe we need to start thinking more boldly about solutions to our ever-widening economic divide. One such solution: a maximum wage.

I started writing about the idea of a "maximum wage" -- a cap on how much richer an already rich person can become over the course of a year -- over a quarter-century ago. Back then, few people took the idea of a capping income seriously because serious people just weren't talking about income caps, not anywhere in the world.

But that's changed. Today we can point to places all around the world where the idea of a cap on income has become a matter of serious political discussion, as I relate in my new book, The Case for a Maximum Wage.

In France, a progressive candidate in the first round of the 2017 presidential election, Jean-Luc Me'lenchon, campaigned on a platform that included a call for a maximum wage. Me'lenchon finished just 4 percentage points behind that election's eventual winner.

In the UK, the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, muses openly about moving his nation toward a maximum wage. In South Africa, polling just conducted by a business group found 53 percent of that nation's public supporting a maximum wage for corporate execs and only 18 percent opposing.

We now have serious people, even in the United States, talking capping income. This past March, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Keith Ellison, told the Congressional Progressive Caucus that America needs to consider enacting a maximum wage.

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Sam Pizzigati is an  Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Editor,  Too Much ,  an online weekly on excess and inequality

Author, The Rich Don't Always (more...)

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