By Richard Lipsitz
For the past 30 years, our country has been victimized by the theory of “trickle-down” economics. While this theory has its roots at the beginning of the Reagan administration, in the past 12 years (since the Bush tax cuts), huge breaks have been given to the wealthiest Americans and to corporations. Along with these changes, we have seen jobs cut, outsourcing, wage and benefit concessions and, of course, a 1929-style crash of Wall Street. The lives of working people have been worsened, while our dangerously destabilized economy has raced to the bottom.
The best example of this mess is the ratio of the compensation of CEOs for large companies to that of the average worker in the same company. In 1980, it was 42 to 1, and by 2011, it had grown to 380 to 1.
The election of 2008 signified the beginning of a great awakening. The election of Barack Obama was not only a blow against the age-old scourge of racial discrimination, it marked a turn away from the worn-out economics of the past 30 years. It was a clear rebuff to the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party. Yet lest any had illusions of a simple path back to economic prosperity for all, the ensuing years have been a rude reminder that much work is yet to be done.
With the election of 2012 now over, we must begin the reversal of 30 years of “trickle-down,” and address the serious problems in our economy. We must:
• Begin to rebuild our deteriorating roads, bridges, schools and energy grid, and do it in a way that recognizes global warming as a scientific fact.
• Continue the work to extend and make affordable health care for all.
• Meet the educational priorities of the 21st century.
• Provide a peace dividend that ends wasteful defense spending. This is a partial list, and these things cost real money. The only way to find this real money is the way proposed by the president in his 2012 election tax program.
The outcome of the election and poll after poll since indicate that the majority of Americans favor tax increases on the top 2 percent in our society. In fact, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC Poll, 60 percent favor raising taxes on those making $250,000 or more.
The same poll showed 67 percent are opposed to raising Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 67.
The working people should not be made to pay for problems they played no part in causing. Proposals to cut benefits and extend age eligibility in Medicare and Social Security are terrible solutions to a deficit caused by bad tax policy. The idea that Medicare and Social Security are “giveaway programs” is absurd. Everyone who works for a living pays for these programs. We say no to cuts in these two vital programs.
Richard Lipsitz is president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.