FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fighting an Unfair System

The gap between the rich and poor has been growing for decades. Some claim this growing gap is the natural result of smart, hard workers getting what they deserve (fabulous wealth) and lazy, mediocre workers getting what they deserve, too (poverty).

This framing is fundamentally wrong.

Consider, as Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck points out, that Bill Gates’ net worth exceeds 30 years’ worth of the entire collective output of Haiti. Consider further that Gates’ full time job right now is to give away his money. All day, every day — through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation — the Microsoft founder seeks ways to give away his enormous fortune.

Despite his best efforts, Gates’ treasure continues to rise, not shrink, year after year by more than 10 percent — meaning his $80 billion could become $1 trillion before his 90th birthday. That’s trillion with a T.

This is obviously an extreme example, but it’s illustrative.

Today’s inequality isn’t driven by individual choices, but by an unfair system that enables a few (mostly white) people to become wealthy, while many (mostly non-white) families are unable to build wealth.

The racial component of our growing divide is often overlooked, but it’s a critical part of just how unfair our economic system is. If current trends persist, it would take the average black family 228 years to reach the level of wealth the average white family already has today.

For comparison, George Washington started his presidency 228 years ago. It’s a long time.

If you think the main driver of poverty is lazy takers sitting around rather than working, the solutions to poverty are pretty straightforward: Eliminate public programs that help the poor, so they have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That’s essentially the doctrine of the modern Republican Party.

But imploring people to simply work harder ignores the fact that most jobs don’t pay enough to get ahead. The federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, isn’t enough to live on in any major city in the country. And half the jobs in the United States pay less than $15 an hour.

Getting an education isn’t a guaranteed pathway out of poverty either. Consider, as New School professor Darrick Hamilton points out, that black college graduates only own about two-thirds the wealth of white high school dropouts.

Creating a more fair and just economy will require solutions at the systemic level, not the individual level. That means acknowledging the unfair starting points we all begin with and taking steps to level the playing field.

One idea for how to do this is through baby bonds, also known as child savings accounts. This would basically start every child with a small savings account at birth, which would appreciate over time and could be used for getting an education or starting a business later on.

A 1992 bill called KidSave, for example, would’ve given $1,000 to each of the 4 million babies born in the United States. That would’ve grown to an estimated $700,000 each by age 65 thanks to the wonder of compounding interest.

Had child savings accounts been established in 1979, the racial wealth gap would be 82 percent lower than it currently is, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The gap within racial groups would likely be smaller, too.

Other systemic ideas include including instituting single-payer healthcare, ending mass incarceration, investing in debt-free higher education, and much more.

To create a more fair and just economy, one first must recognize that the current economic system is deeply unfair and unjust. Then the work to change the system can begin.

More articles by:

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS-dc.org).

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail