Stop the HURT

Why is it so hard to find a good job? Here’s a big part of it: based on U.S. productivity since 1980, every year a trillion dollars that should go to the middle-class (more than we spend on the entire military) goes to the richest 1% of Americans.

Young people especially are feeling the ‘HURT.’

Health risks

“Almost every modern social problem – poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness – is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.”

— Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, “The Spirit Level – Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger”

Unethical behavior

It’s ‘legal’ to call hedge fund income “carried interest” instead of income. And it’s ‘legal’ for CEOs to backdate their stock options to a time in the past when the price was higher. And it’s ‘legal’ for failed companies to award billions of dollars in bonuses with taxpayer money.

And who goes to jail? Studies by the ACLU and New York University reveal “a troubling pattern of incarceration in at least 16 states, where even minor, nonviolent offenses such as SPEEDING and LOITERING result in prison time for the poor.”

Redistribution of income to the rich:

In 1980 the richest 1% of Americans got one out of every fifteen income dollars. Thanks to tax cuts and deregulation, they now get THREE out of every fifteen dollars.

Some individuals make enough money in one year to pay the salaries of every police officer, firefighter, and public school teacher in Chicago.

Trillions of dollars lost by middle-class America

If the poorest 90% of America had simply maintained their share of income held in 1980, they would be making a trillion dollars more per year (about $10,000 per family).

The middle class deserves this income, because our country’s productivity has risen steadily over the past 30 years, and we all contributed.

So what to do? Vote for candidates who will fight to repeal the tax cuts and keep the estate tax. Both of these will result in higher taxes only for a very few people, those responsible for the hurt that most of us feel.

PAUL BUCHHEIT teaches in the School for New Learning at DePaul University.