by Linda Beale
No matter how much the business lobby complains about the “business costs” of increasing the minimum wage, legislators should look past that self-serving ideology and look at reality. Workers have contributed to increased productivity but received a stagnant to declining share of the income that comes from the increased productivity. IN the meantime, top-echelon managers and shareholders reap larger and larger benefits from the increased productivity provided by the workers. At the same time, much of the tax expenditure provisions in the Internal Revenue Code–from the charitable contribution deduction (and things like contributing appreciated assets from IRAs) to the mortgage interest deduction to the life insurance exclusion to the preferential rate on capital gains and the almost non-taxation of corporate dividends are hugely beneficial to the same top echelon in the income distribution, meaning that those provisions are aiding “redistribution”–just not the kind that is condemned by those on the right as a kind of socialism, since this redistribution is upwards and favors the rich.
The result of the productivity gains going to the top while the Code embeds numerous tax expenditures that redistribute upwards as well is that the rich continue to get richer, while the middle class suffers and the poor lose out altogether in the vaguely disguised, racially tainted condemnation of those in poverty or near poverty for lack of “personal responsibility” or decorum or “entrepreneurial spirit”. Fact is, those who have have been ripping off those who aren’t in their elite social class for decades now, and it is getting worse, as they have recovered and more from theGreat REcession, while those who lost homes and jobs are suffering on. Changing the tax provisions–most importantly by eliminating the capital gains preferential rate and by eliminating or reducing other tax preferences that highly favor the wealthy–and extending unemployment benefits while lifting the minimum wage–ideally to a level that approximates where it would have been if it had been increased regularly over time, but minimally to at least $12 an hour–are three key actions that need to be undertaken to restore a broadly sustainable economy that benefits everyone rather than a select few. Extending unemployment for those out of work for long periods and increasing the minimum wage are real job creators: those payments to the poor and near-poor will be spent as earned, pouring that money back into the economy and creating new jobs for the jobless.
Time to have a frank discussion about the way “free market” ideology has corrupted our sense of social justice and distorted the economic reality by increasing the inequality gap. Time to move towards “democratic egalitarianism”–a recognition that there needs to be affirmative action to redress the tendency for the rich to influence legislators and media to slant bills and stories in their favor.
All this is fairly well depicted in the “nation of moochers” cartoon, below, from http://s3.amazonaws.com/dk-production/images/64993/lightbox/moochers720.png?1389641385.
cross posted with ataxingmatter