Income inequality

English: Income inequality in the US

English: Income inequality in the US (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Income inequality is a danger to democracy and it makes social problems worse. In nations with great disparities in income, social problems, poverty, crime, drug use, etc., are worse than in nations with less income inequality. Great concentrations of wealth are a threat to democracy. Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939, Louis Brandeis, said that you could have democracy or great concentrations of wealth, but not both at the same time. I agree. There are two models for the organization of society, the Democratic model and the Republican model. I support the Democratic model.

Under the Democratic model, income inequality is lessened by taxes and safety net programs. Republicans oppose both. I am not advocating total income equality. I am saying that having millions struggle to survive on or near the minimum wage while a few receive billions of dollars is morally wrong. In my opinion, no one is worth a billion dollars annually or cumulatively over a lifetime.

The Republican model is a patriarch one buttressed by religion. Not every Republican embraces this model, but the leadership of the party do as they channel the wishes of the 1%. Under the patriarch model, father knows best, children speak only when spoken to, women are silent and minorities know their place. Democracy is given only lip service at home and is used as a cover abroad to support the establishment of unregulated free market capitalism. Nominally Christian, the patriarch model worships profit, no matter how it is denominated, dollars, rubles, pesos or yen.

Abolish the IRS?

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some are calling for the abolishment of the IRS and replacing the graduated income tax with a flat tax or some variant of it such as the so-called Fair tax. In my opinion, the graduated, progressive income tax is the fairest tax we have or can have. It taxes income fairly; the more income you have, the more tax you can and should pay. A flat tax or Fair tax is a regressive tax, hitting  poor and middle incomes more heavily than the wealthy who are allowed to keep most of their income. I hate paying taxes as much as anyone, but the government requires income and it is best to collect it from those who afford to pay. Even if we abolished the income tax, the IRS would be necessary to administer whatever tax we replace it with.

Some conservatives want to go even further and abolish the so-called death tax, the inheritance tax. That would be a grave mistake. Our democracy depends on preventing the formation of dynasties, such as in Pakistan, where great wealth is permitted to perpetuate itself and the wealthy dominate politics. Louis Brandeis was an associate justice of the US Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939. He wrote that we could have democracy or great concentrations of wealth, but not both at the same time. I agree with that assessment.  The US is well on its way to becoming a third world nation of a few rich, many poor and decaying infrastructure. Abolishing the IRS and the graduated income tax would speed that process.

Yardstick

In the days and months ahead as the lame duck Congress and then the new Congress debate measures to grow the economy and shrink the national debt, I recommend measuring progress by how the measures, proposed or enacted, will affect the middle class. It was Justice of the Supreme Court Louis Brandeis who said that you can have democracy or great wealth concentrated in a few hands, but not both at the same time. I support democracy, and I will support all measures that strengthen the middle class and decrease the concentration of great wealth.

Why I support unions

Brandeisa

Brandeisa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was young and naive, I supported the arguments of those who criticized unions. I think that I have heard every possible argument against unions and I bought into them wholeheartedly at one time. At some point in my life, I was exposed to the thought of Louis Brandeis, who was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939. He argued that a healthy and vibrant middle class was essential to a well-functioning democracy, which I support.

Now there are those who contend that the US is a republic, not a democracy. In my opinion, that is a distinction without a difference. It is a guiding principle around the world in democracies of universal suffrage, one man, one vote. Those who raise the difference between a republic and a democracy are the people, in my opinion, who support a property qualification for the right to vote. It is an argument that has simmered since the founding of democracy in ancient Greece.

Therefore, a healthy democracy requires a healthy middle class and the middle class in the US is under attack and fast disappearing. The US had a healthy and growing middle class in the 1950s and subsequent decades when we had strong unions. As union membership declined and unions came under sustained attack from the 1%, the middle class started to shrink. Both a shrinking middle class and shrinking union membership continue to this day. Therefore to preserve our democracy, we must encourage union membership which in turn will preserve and enlarge the middle class.

Brandeis argued, and I agree, that we can have a great concentration of wealth or democracy, but both at the same time. In theory, it is possible to have economic opportunity without unions. However, in practice individual workers must band together in order to withstand the economic might of concentrated wealth, either in corporate or private hands. It is possible to list union abuses at length, but that is not sufficient reason for limiting or abolishing unions. It is sufficient reason for reform, but the preservation of the middle class and the rescue of our democracy from the 1% are of paramount importance.

Think about it this way as a pyramid. At the base are the citizens with the right to vote and a need to work. Some are organized into unions which negotiate certain rights for their members which influence rights for all workers. Above them is a layer, the middle class, supported by the health and strength of the workers beneath them. Above the middle class is the 1%. And above all of them is an umbrella representing our democracy shielding all of them from the slings and arrows of fate.

P. S. Age discrimination, although illegal, is widespread in the US. In my opinion, unionization is the best protection that anyone can have against age discrimination.

Please see Unions are good for democracy | Supreme Court | Freedom | Dynasty

Unions are good for democracy

Color logo of the National Labor Relations Boa...

Color logo of the National Labor Relations Board, an independent agency of the United States federal government. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As union membership in the US has declined, so have the fortunes of the middle class. And a vibrant middle class is the measure of how well democracy is functioning. As US Supreme Court Associate Justice (1916-1939) Louis Brandeis said, you can have democracy or you can have great concentrations of wealth, but not both at the same time. I cannot prove that unions are good for the middle class and democracy, but there is empirical evidence that it is true. Rather than argue about it until our democracy is moribund, I think that we should act to increase union membership by any and all reasonable means and worry about the finer points later.

Enact card check to make union organizing easier. Repeal Taft-Hartley and encourage the states to recognize public employee unions. Repeal right to work laws. Enforce the laws already on the books to require employers to bargain in good faith and fully fund the NLRB, National Labor Relations Board. The time to act is now while we still can. The GOP is doing everything in their power to destroy all things union. In fact, if there is anything you wish to see damaged or destroyed, just put a union label on it.