I watched a recent show with Bill Moyers who spoke with Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute on the state of American capitalism. I was pleased that a prominent conservative spoke candidly about the need for American economics to change to meet the needs of all people. We so desperately need discussions like this to occur in Washington D.C. and to stop the stalemate that has paralyzed this country.
It is no secret that for the last thirty years nearly all of the added wealth has gone to the upper one percent while the middle class wealth has been almost static or has actually declined. If this trend continues we will see a two class society but I think it already exists. Wages have remained stationary but if you factor in inflation they have gone down at a time when all basic living expenses have increased.
Moyers and Brooks debated whether raising minimum wage would help or hurt American workers. Brooks debated that raising minimum wage would kill jobs thus in the end hurt the poor. Moyers argued that raising minimum wage would help the poor. They both agreed that things cannot remain as they are.
They not only debated minimum wage but also debated wages paid to workers by the big corporations like Wal-Mart and Target. Both agreed that low wages paid by these companies did create a large demand for public assistance and that these companies might be in effect earning profits from U.S. taxpayers. Brooks said it was not up to any one company to solve the low wage problem in the U.S. It is a national problem. Moyers tended to agree on that point as do I.
Given these points made in their discussion, here is my take on this national problem. The United States not only has a federal deficit problem but we also have other deficits far more reaching and problematic. We not only have a wage deficit but we also have an education deficit, a healthcare deficit, and a housing deficit. Fix these deficits and we can eventually fix the national deficit because our people will become more prosperous.
The big debate of course is who is going to pay for this? Is it going to be the upper one percent? Is it going to be the upper twenty percent? Where is the cutoff? One thing for sure is that it has to come from those who can afford it - the ones who have profited so handsomely in the last few decades. It certainly is not going to come from the poor or even most of the middle class because they are already struggling with just getting by to meet basic needs.
So you might be thinking that I am proposing some big Robin Hood type of government program - not necessarily so. I would like to see it be more of a voluntary endeavor by those who can afford it the most, but the funds are to be managed by the government. You might be saying "more government, are you kidding me"? This begs the question "what is government"? Government should be regarded as a healthy society's means of promoting the well-being of all of its citizens and not the curse many Americans despise. Government can be run efficiently and effectively if the people who work for government believe they are truly working for the betterment of society.
Sure it would be wonderful if the well to do would this on their own accord but there have never been enough of these types to fix these deficits I speak of. One Christian woman told me that it is the churches that should be funding these solutions. I told her that there are not enough churches to do that - never has and never will. Nor will there ever be enough NGOs to do this. It will be up to all the wealthy people who can afford to pay more and it would have to be in the form of increased taxes which of course is not voluntary. However it should be regarded as patriotic to pay taxes which will make the country again strong.
Most of the wealthy say "I already pay enough taxes". I have paid enough tax liabilities in my day to know that the rate of paying taxes today is less than it was when I was making good incomes. Sure I complained at the time but I also felt it was my duty to pay these taxes so my country could pay for the things we all need. Today we are not paying enough for the things we need, especially infrastructure where there is now a huge deficit, which is getting worse by the day. We are not paying enough to help our fellow Americans whom are wishing for a better life, especially in the area of education. We are however paying way too much for some things on which I disagree such as war and unchecked military expenditures. That is an issue I will leave for another discussion but that is where we could find a lot of money without raising any taxes.
The very wealthy always argue "I earned that money with hard work and perseverance". I am sure that is true but do not forget that they all benefited to some degree from the advantages of living in a prosperous society and with some degree of good luck. If you want to keep America strong should there not be some kind of payback so those next generations benefit from the same things the today's wealthy did? The wealthy might also say "I will not give up the nest egg I earned, it's my money and no one else's". Maybe so but consider what your huge nest egg is. It is money you will never spend. You became wealthy because you could not spend it fast enough. I would ask them "of what good is it then"? Is it money for a rainy day that never comes when millions and millions of Americans have rainy days every day!
I ask the wealthy of America, who are very patriotic, to consider the present health of our society. We all know things must change if we are to remain a strong country. If only one percent of Americans prosper what kind of world will that be? I don't want to live in a world like that and I do not think you do either.
Invest in America, keep your money working onshore by providing jobs here in America. Educate Americans so they can fulfill the jobs you create. Help them to meet their basic needs to live a better life. Prove to me that compassionate conservatism still lives on. Your investment will pay big dividends, trust me.