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Sun Feb 17, 2019, 10:15 PM

*Economic Fairness*: To Get Any We Need To Be Demanding It, By Name

"To Get Any Economic Fairness, We Need To Be Demanding It—By Name." With increasing income inequality now a national crisis, the American people need an appropriate banner to march behind. By Tom Huckin, Common Dreams, Feb. 17, 2019. *Excerpts:

The United States has the most inequitable distribution of wealth of any developed country in the world. The top 1% own 40% of the nation’s wealth. The US has 26% of the world’s 2208 billionaires, including 12 of the top 15.
The three wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the US population.
Meanwhile, those in that bottom half struggle to get by. 39.7 million (or 12.3% of) Americans live below the poverty line, including 17.5% of all children under 18. Tens of millions of others live barely above it.
78.8% percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 71% are in debt. On any given night an estimated 554,00 Americans are homeless. *https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/08/21/1706253114.abstract

This maldistribution of national wealth has major societal consequences. Studies by British researchers have found strong correlations between economic inequality and a variety of social ills including obesity, heavy drug use, shorter life expectancy, high rate of teen births, high rates of violent crime, poor educational performance, high rates of incarceration, less social mobility, fewer job opportunities, etc.
Compared to other developed countries, the US performs badly on all these measures, suggesting that our high degree of economic inequality is a prime cause. It is also a major factor in the US’s ranking of 108th out of 140 countries in the Happy Planet Index *http://happyplanetindex.org/

Yet almost nothing is done to address the problem. That’s because the American political system tilts heavily in favor of big corporations and rich individuals. Research by noted economists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, analyzing 1779 public policy issues addressed by the US government during a 21-year period found that economic elites and organized interest groups dominate policymaking at the expense of ordinary citizens. In short, it’s the wealthiest stratum of US society, not the populace as a whole, that owns the politicians who run the federal government.
In the 2014 election, the wealthiest .01% of taxpayers contributed 29% of all campaign dollars. In 2018, one donor alone gave $122,250,000 (and was rewarded by his wife being given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor). *https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?disp=D

What can be done about this? Various remedies have been proposed, but none of them will work unless large numbers of citizens get behind them. This is where public discourse comes in. The problem needs to be communicated to as many citizens as possible, using language and images they understand and are energized by. For a movement to succeed, however, it needs not just an issue but a solution, not just a negative slogan but a positive one as well. Just think of how certain labels have become powerful catchwords in American political discourse over the years: emancipation, civil rights, peace movement, women’s liberation, pro-life, pro-choice, reproductive freedom, gun control, gay rights, etc.

In like fashion, America’s income inequality crisis needs to have a positive counterpart, needs to be embedded in our collective search for the common good. The best candidate, to my mind, is “economic fairness.” It’s not inequality per se that bothers people, it’s the general unfairness of the system. MORE...

"To Get Any Economic Fairness, We Need To Be Demanding It- By Name," Common Dreams, Feb. 17, 2019.
More, https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/02/17/get-any-economic-fairness-we-need-be-demanding-it-name

->Tom Huckin is a professor emeritus of English and Writing at the University of Utah, specializing in the study of modern propaganda. He is a founding member of Move to Amend- Utah, a blogger at DailyDoublespeak.com, and a slave to his dog, Deena. He welcomes feedback at tomhuckin@comcast.net

CNBC, "US Income Inequality Continues To Grow," July 19, 2018. •In 2015, the top 1 percent of families in the United States made more than 25 times what families in the bottom 99 percent did, according to a paper from the Economic Policy Institute. •This trend, which has picked up post Great Recession, is a reversal of what was seen during and after the Great Depression, where the gap between rich and poor narrowed. •“Rising inequality affects virtually every part of the country, not just large urban areas or financial centers,” said co-author Estelle Sommeiller. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/19/income-inequality-continues-to-grow-in-the-united-states.html

PNAS, "Exposure to Rising Inequality Shapes Americans’ Opportunity Beliefs and Policy Support." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, 2017. Economic inequality has been on the rise in the United States since the 1980s and by some measures stands at levels not seen since before the Great Depression. Although the strikingly high and rising level of economic inequality in the nation has alarmed scholars, pundits, and elected officials alike, research across the social sciences repeatedly concludes that Americans are largely unconcerned about it. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/08/21/1706253114.abstract

*The 3 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the US population.


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