Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling? Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.
America was built on widely held and treasured principles. We value equality of opportunity, individual responsibility, caring about fellow citizens, doing one’s best for family and community. We believe in fair pay for a day’s work. Reality doesn’t reflect those values.
The median income of a full-time male worker is lower today than it was 40 years ago. Wages have declined even while hard work by those wage earners has increased productivity. Full-time workers are only able to meet basic costs through home-equity loans, credit card debt and working extra hours and sometimes second jobs.
Our country has more income inequality than almost any other industrialized nation.
Inherited wealth is taxed at a lower rate than merited pay for a hard day’s work. Sky-rocketing tuition rates erode equal opportunity.
States, including Tennessee, opt out of Medicaid to the detriment of their citizens’ health while our tax dollars prop up big drug companies that contribute to inflated health care costs. We won’t spend money to provide adequate nutrition for poor children but willingly waste tax revenues to subsidize giant agricultural corporations.
Many corporations make most of their profits by reducing wages, outsourcing jobs and shifting to part-time or contract work rather than selling products or services. Corporations use the infrastructure that was built by taxes paid in previous generations but balk when asked to put a dime into rebuilding it. Business profits are often whisked to offshore tax havens, contributing nothing toward decent American jobs or economic growth.
Bankers demand that the government keep its hands off the economy, but greedily take welfare billed as bailouts. Tax cuts that were promised to help everyone went to the rich far more than the middle class.
The "free” market is supposed to function through supply and demand. Yet homes stand empty even though there's a demand for decent housing. The Reaganomics trickle-down fantasy has become a decadent gush-up reality.
Our economy has failed American citizens before (Gilded Age, Roaring Twenties). American people responded, creating policies and tax structures that reflected our American morals and values. Now, corporations with their vast monetary resources are allowed to control elections. We have given corporations the rights of “people” without demanding accompanying responsibilities that the rest of us shoulder. Unlike people, corporations have no morals, no heart nor soul.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our problems weren’t created by an unbiased free market economy, but rather by corporate-funded policies that subvert the free market. Economic inequality brings political inequality, resulting in increased economic inequality. We are spinning out of control. We need the courage to end corruption. When we found that tax havens were subsidizing terrorists, we were able to shut them down. We could do that again.
We have a duty to insure that our tax dollars are used to give citizens good jobs working on much needed repairs to our infrastructure and preserving our environment in long-term sustainable efforts.
We must demand to be heard and agree to speak with one voice that mandates a return to American values. Stop the nightmare. Restore the dream.
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This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. "We the People" is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in "We the People" columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, coordinator, at email@example.com.