The economic team announced by President-elect Joe Biden points to how he intends to fulfill his promise of addressing economic inequality: creating jobs, increasing wages and income and building an economy that works for everyone.
Indeed, each nominee, in contrast to Trump’s economic team of grifters, foreclosure millionaires and stock cheats, brings a life story mimicking the challenges facing most Americans and understands both the struggle and how government policies and the values embedded in the budget should provide a social safety net and a backstop.
Republicans, who have inexplicably managed to capitalize on working-class grievance while gorging on the redistribution of wealth from the poorest and middle class, will shout, “socialism” at every turn – it certainly worked to win over Hispanic voters in Florida. (Republicans are already attacking Biden nominee Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, to head the Office of Management & Budget over her “mean tweets.”) In fact, Biden’s plan is to restore the mechanisms underpinning the American Dream, where anyone regardless of zip code or parentage can fulfill their potential and go as far as talent, grit and hard work take them.
But with cash increasingly equated with political power since the Reagan years, Republicans have worked the system to control cash. Indeed, even while Trump was touting the strongest economy in history and the lowest unemployment in 50 years, wages still had not kept up with inflation.
Stephen Paolini of Civic Action, trumpeting a RAND Corporation report on economic inequality, writes, “For the first time, we know exactly how much money working Americans have lost to the top 1 percent since 1975: 50 TRILLION DOLLARS. (“The Top 1 Percent of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90 percent —And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure”, https://time.com/5888024/50-trillion-income-inequality-america/)
“How did this happen? In the 1970s, trickle-downers committed the greatest heist in American history. They cut taxes on billionaires, deregulated the stock market, and eroded the power of working Americans, stealing an eye-popping $50 trillion from the paychecks of everyday Americans and delivering it to the ultra-rich. Had income distributions remained at 1975 levels, the typical working American would be earning $42,000 more every year.
“So, now what? How do we combat wealth inequality that adds up to $2.5 trillion in lost income a year when most political platforms don’t even recognize inequality as the epidemic it is?
“We need your elected officials to understand that the central goal of our nation’s economic policy must be nothing less than the doubling of median income. We must dramatically narrow inequality between distributions while eliminating racial and gender inequalities within them. This is the standard to which we should hold leaders from both parties. To advocate for anything less would be cowardly or dishonest or both.”
As Sen. Bernie Sanders noted, “Since 1990, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from workers to the people on top.” He added, “While the 1 percent have seen their wealth go up by $22 trillion, the bottom 50 percent of Americans have seen their wealth go down by $776 billion. We need a strong middle class, not an oligarchy.”
Robert Reich, former labor secretary, wrote, “The four richest men in America have now amassed $542 billion in wealth. That’s more than the bottom half of all Americans combined. If this doesn’t convince you wealth inequality is out of control, I don’t know what will.”
“It’s going to be a Billionaire Thanksgiving. The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires surpassed $1 trillion in gains since March 2020 and the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of over 34 percent,” Chuck Collins writes at inequality.org (“Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers”). “Tuesday, Nov. 24, as the Dow crossed the 30,000 mark, the wealth of 650 U.S. billionaires approached a total of $4 trillion, with $1.008 trillion in growth since March 2020.”
In just the first nine months of the coronavirus pandemic, 8 million more Americans descended into poverty; some 40 million fear eviction or foreclosure (108 million live in rentals) with moratoriums on eviction ending; a mind-boggling 26 million – twice the number before COVID – are “food insecure” (hungry) overwhelming food banks which are now having to ration food, while Republicans, picking up on Trump’s cruel orders, move to make it harder to obtain food stamps. Half of all Americans are unemployed, furloughed, or have lost income because of coronavirus, as the number of people applying for unemployment continue to rise by well over 750,000 each week, but because of Republican obstruction, expanded unemployment benefits end this month for 13 million people.
With the coronavirus pandemic taking its toll not just on lives but livelihoods – forcing people to spend down whatever savings they had, eat into college funds and retirement accounts and nest eggs that would have been used to purchase a home, while pushing millions onto food bank lines and fanning anxiety over homelessness – COVID-19 isn’t just a blip in the road, it is a life-altering change.
Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are doing their very best to re-create the society Charles Dickens described in “The Christmas Carol”.
It is truly cynical, as the country waits for the Georgia Senate runoff to decide if the Grim Reaper Moscow Mitch McConnell will continue to rule the country, the Senate majority leader is hinting, teasing at the possibility of some kind of COVID relief package. But in McConnell’s machinations, COVID relief consists of giving employers unlimited protection against liability for lawsuits from workers who get sick due to their failure to provide a safe workplace.
And it’s so misguided, because whether or not McConnell and the Republicans care, America’s economic growth depends on consumers having the wherewithal to buy stuff – 70 percent of the Gross National Product is generated by consumer spending. The economy – and America’s domestic and global political might – can’t recover until and unless the coronavirus pandemic is ended and policies are in place to, as Biden has said, “Build Back Better.” That includes installing a rational, humane health care system and policies because health care is not just 18 percent of the economy but bankrupts families while pain and suffering robs society of an individual’s productivity and premature death robs families of breadwinners.
Biden hopes to institute policies to lift people out of poverty and strengthen the middle class – what used to be known as the “American Dream.”
This is the season of giving, when those who have managed to amass enormous wealth by cheating others out of a decent life, get to redeem themselves with charitable contributions.
But it shouldn’t be that way. People shouldn’t have to beg.