The political name of the game now is “economic inequality.” Obama is sort of declaring war on economic inequality, although fortunately he isn’t stupid enough to use that phrase as Johnson did with the “War on Poverty” or Nixon did with the “War on Drugs,” neither of which has worked out very well in the long run.
The undeclared war on inequality won’t turn out very well either, because economic inequality not the problem. It is the result of a whole host of problems which have plagued our nation over a span of several decades. Trying to stamp out inequality is sort of like trying to stamp out death on our highways by making it illegal to die in car crashes, or saying that it’s okay for people to drive drunk as long as they don’t kill anyone in the process. It’s trying to solve the result instead of solving the problem.
Taxing the rich is not going to even make a dent in the actual problems because it doesn’t address the stagnation and decline of working class incomes, and in any case the rich didn’t get that way by having large taxable incomes. Besides which, they are already rich, so how is taxing incomes going to affect existing wealth? A wealth tax? Good luck with that. Forget taxing the rich. Not that it wouldn’t be right; it just won’t do any good toward solving any problems. It might reduce the federal deficit a bit, but we’re talking about economic inequality and it won’t solve any of the problems which have led us to that result.
The labor union movement to some degree signed its own death warrant with the amount of political and economic corruption, both internal and external, which arose within its organizations and its loss was not altogether a bad thing, but the return of the prevalence and power of collective bargaining would go a long way toward restoring economic equality. The balance of power is a beautiful thing, and it works.
Business needs to recognize that short term gain can be long term loss; that when you ship jobs overseas to save production costs, in the long run you wind up with a market which cannot afford to buy your products.
We need a government which no longer pumps an economy based on ever increasing debt and on a negative balance of trade. Both have been pushed beyond their natural self limiting terminus and are diving deeper and deeper into fantasy land. The result is already ugly and will eventually get worse.
We need to dethrone the high priests of deregulation.
And we need to change a national attitude that says, as a sign that Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” speaks of seeing in his high school, that we should “work smart, not hard.” Obama says that every child should have a college education so that he/she can obtain the “jobs of the future,” as if the future will not need welders, or pipefitters, or electricians or any of the other jobs that tire one’s muscles and dirty one’s hands.
We need to make such “blue collar” jobs not only pay a wage with which one can raise a family, but make them as respectable as they once were. We need to make it honorable to work hard; to make these jobs the “jobs that Americans want.” That starts in school, with a curriculum that isn’t merely a preliminary for college, but which introduces children to the trades as it once did.
That starts with a father who takes his son downtown and points. “You see that bridge?” he tells his son. “My two hands helped build that bridge. You play your cards right and you can do something like that.”
We need to restore the march for social justice, which has not just lost momentum since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King, but which has regressed. We still have ghettos. The walls aren’t brick and mortar, but they are walls and we need to tear them down. Economic equality cannot exist with the kind of social inequality which persists in our society today.
There is no magic wand; no easy answer. Do you think we can have economic equality in the face of today’s social injustice, unemployment, “dirty jobs,” unregulated commerce, and the world’s greatest debt load? Sure we can. And we can reduce highway deaths by giving the go ahead to drunk drivers and simply telling them, “just don’t kill anyone.”