Economic Values

I have been doing a lot of reading and talking with folks about our economic future. Two things strike me as crucial to consider as we struggle with a slowed economy and hard times. 1) how important it is to have a clear vision of the future we want to make for ourselves. 2) we can learn from the lessons of the past even though there are circumstances that call for different solutions. The era that produced Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon was an era in which it was believed that by putting forth a vision of the future that benefited society as a whole and drew together management and labor, big and small business, private and public sectors to work together to achieve it.

The experiment with supply side economics of Ronald Reagan gave us policies that deregulated the free market sector and undermined worker rights leading to a situation where the wealthiest Americans are doing very well and the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet. President Bush has continued this trend by putting in place huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The response has been to export manufacturing jobs and increase the number of low wage jobs while refusing to increase the minimum wage. We are told that if we only wait in another generation these economic policies will pay off and new jobs will be created. America already has a huge income gap. I can’t imagine what it will be like for most of us to wait until we get to that ‘promised day of prosperity.’ These policies have more and more pitted those who work for a wage against those who own corporations and either have inherited wealth or successfully play the stock, real estate like these online NYC Apartments, or commodities markets. Most Americans sustain their position by carrying huge debt, hoping they will hold on to their job and that the future will eventually bring prosperity.

These deep societal divisions convince me that it is time to find a different path so that the great benefits of our economy can be spread to more people in our society. We have to find a way to have our robust economy have the capacity to provide at least adequately for all and assure the American taxpayers that their hard-earned tax money is not being spent on frivolous things. I believe we can have and promote a peacetime economy and find dignity for all American workers. Dignity that stems from recognizing the value of all workers and that all jobs are honorable.

Our current administration seems set on cutting back on public investment to solve our economic slow down and is using the unfair tax burden on the middle class to further enrich the wealthy. This is accomplished by ignoring the fact that the taxes contributions the wealthy and corporations have been cut back dramatically.
The economic goals I would set are that:
– We must assure that all Minnesotans have at least a living wage to support their households and that essential needs are affordable.
– We must assure that all Minnesotans have reasonable health coverage at affordable rates and put restrictions on allowable expenses of health care providers, such as CEO salaries and golf fees, which are passed on to insureds.
– We must have a progressive tax system where

– corporations pay their fair share of taxes through elimination of loopholes and benefits of corporate irresponsibility
– individual earned income tax remains low, but taxes on passive income such as investments, inheritance, rent/leases is increased

– We must protect our environment in a cost effective way by focusing on prevention and “polluter pays” rather than the current scheme of after-the-fact mitigation and cleanup on the backs of the taxpayers, which allows polluters to profit from destroying our environment.
– We must secure and regulate our energy system and essential services so they are not put at risk by profit motive and/or priced out of reach of individuals.

Families and individuals that can afford their own home contribute to the stability of communities and create a strong state and nation. Healthcare insurance cost increases drive up the cost of government, drive down all wage increases and deny health care to millions of Americans. It is a problem that must be solved and can’t be trusted to the private sector to solve. Profiteers and energy speculators put vital resources and energy services at risk and only regulation and government intervention will stop it. I think we can afford these goals, but do we have the will to see it through? I am encouraged by a set of new ideas that are beginning to be talked about in organizations like Growth and Justice or The New American Foundation and books like Matthew Miller’s, The 2% Solution, that takes a new look at what he calls the best ideas of conservatives and liberals. They stress importance of real dialogue to solve the serious problems that face us. David Cay Johnson’s Perfectly Legal shows how policies in place benefit the wealthy and burden the middle class.

Hubert Humphrey said we should have the imagination to dream big dreams and then put our immense energy into making them a reality. We have had twenty years now of a distorted vision of America that rewards the rich for their wealth and stagnates the progress and opportunity for working people and robs them of their dignity because the value of their labor has been diminished. Abraham Lincoln said labor is more valuable than capital, because he believed in economy for people. It is my hope that once again we can join together rich and poor, blue collar and white collar to make an America that works for everyone.

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