Re-imagining a Better Future
In order to re-imagine a better future, we first have to dismantle myths that end discussions about solutions before we can even begin them.
I read that thread in full. It lists what the tax laws were from 1940s through 1980s, and the impact that had on America, such as the immense amount of infrastructure and programs we were able to fund, public education, universities, healthcare programs.
A lot of that same infrastructure that was built during those times of surplus, where we didn’t have massive governmental debt, is now crumbling due to lack of funding. The reason income inequality is as enormous as it is today is because Reagan (in the 80s) and Bush and Trump tore apart taxes on the rich — those laws described in the thread.
What Reagan did was unjust, and it hit the poor the hardest, making it harder for them to access basic survival stuff. I’m baffled when folks make a claim of people concerned about the impact of these tax cuts are just “envious of the rich.” That is a derailment and a dismissal of a very real problem. This entire topic is about economic justice. That thread about the math of taxes was pointing out how people engage in misinformation campaigns on what those post WWII taxes actually did, and it provided actual information on how the taxes were implemented and enforced.
The thread then goes into detail about what several billion dollars actually means — a way for us to get our minds around how enormous this amount of money is. It also shows the math behind this, and digs into what we could fund if we had this tax rate again.
Honestly, in my eyes, it is more just and economical to have those who earn more pay more in taxes. Those that earn less cannot be the ones to handle that burden, but if you examine the tax laws today, an unjust burden has been placed on the working poor, while those who earn millions in a week have less of a tax burden. (Some get away with paying nothing in taxes.) This is not just nor is it economically sound. This unjust tax laws is what is fueling income inequality, and income inequality in turn fuels wage stagnation and financial crises.
We have already done the “trickle down” economics experiment. It did not work. Wages are stagnated for those below specific income levels, the unemployed surplus labor (those who are unemployed due to lack of job availability, automation, the inability to access education to retrain themselves, etc) has soared, and the income inequality between the very rich and the poor is absolutely staggering. Money is being funneled to the top 9% of our entire world population. This is unsustainable; it’s unjust; it’s outright greed.
We ask for a more just and equitable tax reform be implemented, so that everyone is paying their fair share based on how much they earn (which influences what bracket of taxes parts of their income fall into as discussed in the twitter thread above). Studies have examined higher tax proposals on the higher income brackets and have shown that they will actually grow our economy and not cause harm to small businesses, middle class, and lower income folks.
The income from these equitable tax reforms will then allow us to properly fund public education, roads, bridges, water access, healthcare, public programs, public parks, departments that enforce regulation to avoid exploitation of the public and our world, various infrastructure, etc. All of these government programs, infrastructure, education, etc, is taken advantage of today by all people, especially those most wealthy, but much of it is in disrepair, or poorly (if funded at all) in lower income areas due to the austerity measures of today. Higher taxes on huge incomes is an economically sound and just argument, and these past few decades have shown us that austerity programs and tax cuts for the super-rich pushes us toward crises rather than stops them.
Yet these same people, who call folks like me “envious of the rich,” seem to be very unwilling to examine that the rich are inherent greedy. It feels like they engage in this cult worship of the super-rich, where greed is seen as a virtue. Yet they do not seem willing to examine how the wealth that the super-rich hold cannot be obtained without policies that funnel that money to them. Without the tax cuts, the corporate bailouts, the subsidies to their pet projects, the tax loopholes, exploitation of populations in developing countries or in penal populations — all of these embolden the greed and give them ways to funnel more money away from the poor and middle class. It’s a class war.
Even Warren Buffet, a billionaire, has pointed out that this is indeed a class war that his people are winning. Should we not discuss this? Indeed we should, and call it out as such.
Examine our core beliefs
Anyone who claims that we are “envious of the rich” has not only bought the myth and lies the super-rich want us to believe, but they are perpetuating falsehoods that are incredibly harmful.
Some people simply do not have the access others have, and may rely on programs that give them a basic subsidy so that they aren’t homeless and starving. These programs are necessary to try to even the field for those that simply do not have the same access as those who have more money and more ability to “shop around.” Those folks that need access to the public programs shouldn’t have to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” with this ridiculously high standard of work ethic — many working two to three jobs — just for survival.
There are some parts of America where basic needs are almost inaccessible to specific demographics, because of the inequality that got built into our system after Reagan tore apart the tax laws that had kept income inequality at bay.
There is also racist structures within our society that create food deserts, unclean water, oppressive policies, school-to-prison pipeline, unemployment and lack of access to resources and jobs which exacerbate catastrophes in these communities. This history of racism and its impact on our society has yet to be dealt with either.
We can do better than this.
A hard work ethic and working numerous jobs to try to make ends meet isn’t what we should strive for. This isn’t the solution to the grave and devastating impact of income inequality, poverty, degrading infrastructure, climate change, and classicist/racist/transphobic/homophobic policies that devastate communities. The hard work ethic is based upon this idea of suffering leads to reward, but this idea is inherently unhealthy.
There are more just and caring solutions than telling folks that are in vulnerable positions that they should not rely on a “nanny state” or to stop being “envious of the rich” and work themselves to the bone. We need to examine these societal core beliefs critically and determine whether it is healthy for us to keep them.
I truly believe the work ethic that our society upholds as “virtuous,” where we must suffer to achieve our reward, is harmful for all of us. It is not virtuous, but a way to penalize and destroy those that do not abide by the capitalist systems our society currently utilizes. Work and any suffering tied to it shouldn’t be glorified and worshiped as it currently is in our society. We should instead change the ethics toward caring for one another as a community of people.
Part of living in a society means agreeing to a social contract to care for one another. All of our words, what stories we perpetuate, what ideas we uphold, who we vote for — all of that impacts one another’s views, the policies created by those in power, and what gets voted into law and enforced. We all hold power to change things, even if it is a step at a time.
I’ll be vulnerable and use myself as an example, having been homeless in my life, if it weren’t for the programs the state had, I would have starved. If it weren’t for unemployment programs — funded by the state, I would have been on the streets, my cat given up. If it weren’t for Medicaid — a government run healthcare — I would never been able to access healthcare I needed for survival. To want to have those programs funded for folks in need is about caring and justice. It wasn’t my “work ethic” that got me through this hard time. It was the care and support of people around me and the public programs that helped me back on my feet, so that I could find a niche where I can survive in our oppressive capitalist society.
Now all of these programs that helped me in a time of need is under fire, where many are threatened to be eliminated or converted into private markets that make it harder for those with less money to access basic resources we need for survival. Private markets focus on profits rather than people, as the history of capitalism has shown us again and again. (See resources below for books about this history.)
Re-Imagining Our Future
We can’t build a more just, equitable, and equal world unless folks are willing to have hard conversations about these topics. Our goal is about seeking justice and equity for those harmed by the greed the super-rich has inflicted on us all, the greed that has fueled climate change and the devastation that has wrought on cities and populations across the planet.
In order to obtain justice and equity, we could try these solutions:
- Implement the tax brackets described in the thread I quoted above, using tax brackets as well as closing all loopholes, ending corporate bailouts and subsidies to the richest companies. This will help us fund programs that all can access.
- Provide a Universal basic wage for all people that is unconditional, that does not require any sort of penalties or any requirements. Everyone gets the wage to meet their needs for survival, and the allotment is calculated based on the regions in which people live, so that their basic wage is livable.
- Lower the working week to 20 or 30 hours. More free time means more time for people to create, innovate, bolster the culture and economy with their ideas, to be able to study and obtain further education.
- Re-invent our ethics in regards to labor and work. Our current work ethic focuses on “remuneration be tied to suffering,” and a “drive to make people suffer before they can receive a reward.” This mythology is why people demonize the poor and homeless for “not doing enough.” Why there is all these bureaucratic red tape and penalization to get access to basic public programs that can assist those in need. Why we work long hours to get in as much money as we can for survival. We can change this ethic to something that is healthier.
- Provide universal healthcare, so that everyone has access to healthcare without ending up in piles of endless debt.
- Universal utilities: everyone having access to clean water, electricity, internet, sewage, etc..
- Automate more work, which allows people to have a shorter work week and more free time to focus on creation and invention; it also heightens the need for universal basic income, which also expands class power to help end income inequality and poverty.
The tax increases on the super-rich, with the brackets described in the twitter thread above, could easily pay for all the suggestions I’ve said here.
Poverty is not a natural state, but a created state caused by the exploitation of our current oppressive systems. Together we can end that inequality, dismantle the oppressive systems, and create a more just, equitable, equal, and sustainable world for all people.
For more resources and some excellent books on these topics, try:
- Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
- Rebel Cities by David Harvey
- History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey
- Policing the Planet edited by Camp and Heatherton
- Racecraft by Karen and Barbara Fields
- How Will Capitalism End? by Wolfgang Streck
- Resource Rebels by Al Gedicks
- Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of our Planetary Future by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright
- Democracy Against Capitalism by Ellen Woods