Email letters, January 21, 2014

U.S. must change laws, policies that favor wealthiest 5 percent

I am a fan of David Brooks, but I take exception with his column, “Inequality argument attacks the effect, not the causes of income differences,” published in Sunday’s Sentinel.

Brooks distorts the focus of the majority of Americans who are concerned about the small percentage of wealthy Americans growing disproportionately richer at the expense of the middle class and poor Americans whose income shrinks or remains static.

Brooks makes his case based on the assumption that the battle of fighting income inequality is being waged over raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is just a secondary battle to help the working poor who presently, with full-time jobs, qualify for government welfare.

The primary fight, which Brooks never addresses, is how do we change institutions, laws and policies that favor the very wealthy over the 95 percent of the rest of the American public?  Examples include tax policies that favor the rich with obscene tax breaks that allow billionaires to pay lower taxes than their secretaries and the organized effort to destroy the union movement, historically a strong American institution that helped create a reasonable distribution of wealth through the 1970s.

And, I’m sorry, David Brooks; there is growing economic class conflict in America. It will only change with substantial legislation through assertive government that ends corporate welfare, attacks economic distortions like the growing power of bankers that are too “big to fail” and puts an emphasis on businesses that produce something real rather than protecting and expanding the world of finance, in which nothing is produced but financial speculation.

And, for those conservatives who love to quote and talk about the intent of the founders of the Constitution: “The rich will always strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest. They always did … they will have the same effect here as elsewhere, if we do not by (the power of) government keep them in their proper spheres.” Gouverneur Morris, co-author of the U.S. Constitution written in 1787.


Children born to single moms in inner city suffer more than children elsewhere

Where two incomes are available in a family unit, of course, life is financially better. Women today often make as much or more money than their male partners, and the total means bigger homes and nicer cars. That is the most obvious and widespread cause of income inequality. Two-income middle class families can do very well financially.

Divorce is socially acceptable today, and half of all marriages end in divorce. That does sting financially, but middle-class men are forced to paid child support by the courts and often remain in their children’s lives. Many children end up in blended families with in essence two mothers and two fathers. Life in the suburbs can be complex.

In the poor inner cities, often couples never marry and financial responsibility for raising children is not forced on fathers. About 75 percent of all children are born to single mothers. That is a much different world than the world the middle class live in. Government assistance can only dull the pain. It can’t bridge the gap between one and two incomes, and it is worse when the one wage earner is at the low end of the pay scale.

Over the past 50 years, $20 trillion has been spent trying to solve this problem, and still 15 percent of our citizens live in poverty. Children do better in their lives as the result of good parenting. Having both a mom and dad helps. Government is a poor substitute.




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