Economic Inequality

  • Key to any discussion of living wages and the social safety net (embracing such programs as the Earned Income Tax Credit, minimum wage laws, social security or child care subsidies) is a knowledge of how much money a person or family needs to maintain an acceptable standard of living. The Economic Policy Institute has issued an updated version of their wonderful tool for gaining insight into this critical question. The Cost-of-Living calculator will tell you how much income is needed to support anywhere from a single person to a family of 6, in any city or county in the country. Two major take-aways will occur to anyone who spends some time with the calculator: (1) the cost of living varies tremendously between different areas (mainly rural vs urban) and (2) in urban areas, current minimum wage laws and the EITC fall far short of providing a basic living for workers at the low end of the wage spectrum.

  • It may seem axiomatic that so-called "right to work" laws (union leaders like to call them "right to work for less" laws) would be bad for both workers and for the party that chiefly champions workers' concerns—Democrats. After all, the driving force behind these laws is the disempowerment of non-management labor. Now we have proof, in a study conducted by Boston and Columbia universities and the Brookings Institute, that when states pass "right to work" (for less) laws, Democratic voting share diminishes, as do the number of elected officials hailing from working-class backgrounds. Unions are a foundation of any working social democracy: those of us who want a fairer, saner, and more compassionate society must stand unequivocably for the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively.

  • In this thoughtful op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune, former education secretary Arne Duncan (2009-2015) argues that the challenges of all Americans who are economically, socially and politically marginalized, whether they live in inner-city neighborhoods or in the nation's rural hinterland, share a common interest in a strong social democratic program built on educational opportunity, decent jobs at living wages, affordable housing and universal healthcare.

  • Just how lopsided is the American economy? This L.A. Times column helps answer the question with one simple factoid. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investment manager Warren Buffet own more wealth, between the three of them, than the least well-off 160 million Americans combined. (The wealth of Jeff Bezos increased $10 billion in the month of October alone.) The Social Democrat can conceive of no justification, whether pragmatic or in justice, for any individual to monopolize such astonishing proportions of our nation's economic production—or anything close to it. New structures of wages, taxes and ownership rights must be established to make the nation's economy work for all citizens.

  • Target to Raise Wages to $15 per Hour

    October 27, 2017—Will higher wages for service workers scuttle business viability? Apparently Target Corporation doesn't think so. Last month the retail behemoth announced that its wage floor will rise in increments to $15 by 2020, with the first phase,  from $10 to $11, going into effect immediately.

  • A Third of Market Gains Go Overseas

    The Accidental President will point to the surging stock market as progress for the American economy. Aside from the fact that the vast majority of such gains go to the wealthy, this Washington Post analysis finds that one-third of stock market profits accrue to foreign investors.

    Story at Washington Post
  • Eduardo Porter, in this New York Times "Economic Scene" piece, offers critical insights into how Democrats can take back the nation. He argues for a focus on policies, like apprenticeships for high schools grads, living wages tied to regional cost-of-living indexes, and aid to small business formation, that will open doors of opportunity and rebuild a thriving middle class.

  • August 11, 2017—To those who celebrate increasingly human-like machines, columnist Alissa Quart, writing in The Guardian, say "slow down." Noting the loss of "human infrastructure," Quart questions the value of a future without the need for human effort and suggests needed measures to protect human workers.

  • Graphics supplied by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, with commentary, provide stark evidence of the ever-increasing share of national wealth coming under the control of fewer and fewer people.

  • Are you one of those people who shake your head in puzzlement when policy-makers refer to citizens with annual incomes of $250,000 as “middle-class?” If so, you’ll appreciate this NewYork Times column by Richard Reeves, who writes that “the rhetoric of ‘We are the 99 percent’ has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans.”

  • August 3, 2017—Trump will ballyhoo recent stock market highs as evidence of a strong Trump economy. As this Washington Post "Wonkblog" analysis explains, stock market gains do little for the average American.

  • Dynasties of wealth are repugnant to democracy, equal opportunity and the meritocratic ideal which supposedly stands at the heart of the American social contract. As such, The Social Democrat believes that wealth should not be passed on between generations. In this Guardian article, journalist Abi Wilkinson makes the case for a 100% inheritance tax to fund social needs.

  • A recently released study, reported here in the Chicago Tribune, details the problem of the shrinking middle class in Illinois: a trend that is mirrored around the country.

  • Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes apart the fallacy that lowering taxes on the rich will stimulate growth and bring prosperity. How many times does a policy need to fail before the American people catch on?

  • This New York Times story looks at how the federal tax deduction for home mortgage interest, which chiefly benefits the middle and upper classes, has been a chief driver of economic inequality in the U.S.