Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sharing and Bearing the Economic Burden

What is economic security?
What is economic insecurity?
What causes both?
Do we understand these issues and the causations behind them?

We are living, as Americans, as well as citizens of other country's, in an environment of economic instability which pits one against another like we've seen all too many times before. Left against right, religious against irreligious, white versus black, or any other ethnicity, and of course, the rich versus the poor. But these various partisan contrasts are all too convenient distractions and diversions from deeper issues driving our economic lives.

If we stand still for a moment (admittedly very difficult to do in this hyperactive internet culture we live in) and look for a moment at some wise voices from our past, just as our former President Dwight David Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the nation in 1961, where he spoke of the danger of the Military Industrial Complex, we'll hear a deeply needed wisdom we desperately need today.

But while he spoke of a military/economic threat from within in this speech, he also was working from a framework that assumed a certain baseline that we now no longer see assumed. For instance, in Ike's day, the income tax was extremely graduated. The top earners paid over 90% of their income to the feds, and as the income went down, the tax rate also went down. And yet, strangely enough, this was for many considered to be a "golden era" of America's economic prowess.

Was this era as "golden" as some would have it be? No. As in anything the picture is of course more complicated. But we should remember that this "golden" period was also the time when unions were also at their strongest, both public and private. At that decisive time, both corporations, government, and the power of workers through their unions were much more evenly divided. This division of power exemplified perfectly the political philosophy so well expressed by our founders in the Federalist Papers which I so highly regard.

But an issue which the American founders didn't fully consider (understandably so) was the full expression of the industrial revolution combined with legal corporatism as understood by the US Supreme Court. This legal issue of corporate "personhood" (please check out the amazing DVD "The Corporation") is, to this day, an unresolved question of what it means to be a "person" under the US Constitution.

Till we deal with this issue both politically and legally and constitutionally, the problem of sharing and bearing the economic burden will not be dealt with adequately. Either we are all equal under the law or we are living under a Huxleyan world where some are more equal than others.

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