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Our Sinful Economy
Published on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 by The Progressive
Our Sinful Economy
by Matthew Rothschild
 

George Bush likes to tout the success of the economy, citing recent job growth, and until Monday, the climbing stock market.

But most Americans can see through that mirage.

You know you’re wallet isn’t any fatter, and your bank account’s no healthier.

We cannot call ourselves a moral people and let this kind of maldistribution continue, particularly when it brings suffering to millions and millions of people.

A story on the front page of The New York Times business section on November 28 spells out the problems.

Average real incomes fell by 3 percent between 2000 and 2004.

Most Americans actually lost more than 5 percent.

But not those who were on the top 95th to top 99th rungs of the income ladder. Their income went up 53 percent. And check this out: Those on the top 0.1 percent rung saw their incomes more than triple between 2000 and 2004.

That is obscene.

We have a plutocracy in this country, not just of the rich or the very rich but of the unbelievably rich. This 0.1 percent are the ones who benefit most from the George Bush economy.

As he once put it, “Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”

Meanwhile, the poorest 60 million Americans “reported average incomes of less than $7 a day.”

Seven bucks a day! That barely gets one meal at McDonald’s.

Our economy is a sin.

We cannot call ourselves a moral people and let this kind of maldistribution continue, particularly when it brings suffering to millions and millions of people.

I do believe we should have higher taxes on that top 5 percent, and especially on that top 0.1 percent.

I do believe in preserving, or even increasing, the estate tax.

But I’d settle simply for a floor of decency, so that no one has to go hungry or survive on only that one McDonald’s meal a day, no one has to go without health care coverage, no one has to cut prescription pills in half to make the medicine stretch, no one has to work 50 or 60 or 80 hours a week just to take care of family.

To build this floor of decency, we need to guarantee every American health care, every American the right to a free college education, every American an annual income of, say, about $20,000 or $25,000.

This guaranteed annual income, an idea espoused by people stretching from Martin Luther King Jr. to Milton Friedman, would remove the cruel coercion of the marketplace and outlaw the immorality of letting tens of millions of people suffer.

In some ways, our economy would still be grossly unfair, with that top 5 percent and that top 0.1 percent raking in enormously disproportionate amounts.

But at this stage, the greater sin is not gluttony. It is poverty. It is hunger. It is economic uncertainty. It is lack of opportunity.

So I don’t care as much about there being no ceiling for Paris Hilton.

I care more about there being no floor for tens of millions of people.

We need to start building that floor of decency today.

© 2006 The Progressive

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