Greetings and Salutations…
Today, on Facebook, a fellow asked an interesting question “Is there a future for Humanity?”
When I got to thinking about it, this question ended up being far more complicated than I had originally thought. So, instead of a reply on FaceBook, I decided to create an essay on my Blog. Following are my musings on the issues, and some possible ways to ensure that humanity both persists and ends up on a far more positive path, after this shut-down caused by Covid-19 ends.
I believe that, if we allow the reactionary, Right-Wing to regain power after this crisis, as they had before…The sojourn of humanity on this planet will end soon. By soon, I mean within the next thousand years. ALL around the world, we are seeing these folks grabbing power, and exploiting nature for profit, with no thought for the damage to the ecology they are doing…and certainly no consideration of how that will affect all of us in the future. This is NOT a sustainable path. In addition, we are seeing more and more people driven by hate, and intolerance, not love and tolerance. This can only re-enforce the Culture of Violence that humanity slips into, and will not end well for us.
If, though, the oppressed and disadvantaged people in the world take this period as a time to really look at how reality has changed, and, in the process ask the vital question “Is this the world we want to live in?” perhaps there is a chance that we will band together to radically change the path we are on.
I cannot speak for anyone but myself, as an American. However, I would like to see some significant changes happen in this country over the next couple of decades. I would like to see such programs as a living wage, universal healthcare, and the UBI implemented. While these programs were decried by the Republicans and other right-wing reactionaries as being insane and destructive, this crisis has shown us that they are, rather, both an achievable goal, and a vital part of America moving back to a path to rebuild that strong, middle class that allowed us to become a Superpower in the world.
I want to see the issue of the massive and increasing wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans addressed. In the 1900s, the Robber Barons had about a 50 to 1 advantage, and they lived lives of such unimaginable wealth and privilege that it is amazing to see. However, while they were often thieving, oppressive bastards, exploiting the workers, they also USED their wealth to improve the country. Andrew Carnegie, for example, took his wealth, and built fully stocked libraries all over the United States. He also funded universities. Carnegie knew that the best workers were the ones that could focus on a task, and follow complex instructions accurately. Where does that come from? Education. He knew that for America to succeed, we needed innovation and an increase in technology. Again…without education, that will not happen. Henry Ford paid his workers an unimaginably high salary for the time. Why? First off, he knew that he could be the best car manufacturer in the world, but with no one able to buy his product, it was a waste of time, so, not only did he build cars, he built a population that could afford those cars. Secondly, he knew that a well paid employee is a happy, dedicated employee who does a better job. This cut down on a LOT of expenses and kicked up quality production. The actions of these men are an example of why America, nearly unique in the world, developed a huge, prosperous, middle class. I recall, vaguely, a French philosopher saying that what makes America so strong is its middle class…and that was an accurate observation. If we look at history, we see that the most prosperous time for a majority of Americans was that period when the middle class was large, and, the income of a single wage-earner was enough to provide financial, housing and food security. The income was sufficient to support a savings account, and even allow for the occasional luxury. I believe that it was this financial security that helped support the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Having that security allowed whites to really look at the plight of people of color in America, and slowly, start to join them in their struggle for equality. (This is a complex enough topic that it likely should be another essay, though)
Why did the Robber Barons, such as, Carnegie and Ford, as well as others like them, share the wealth with all Americans? They were investing in the future. They, while far from perfect, had the view that a bigger, better, stronger America was a very good thing.
Today, the reality is very different. The wealth gap is upwards of 400 to 1. A tiny subset of people hold more wealth than 90% of Americans. What happens to that money the very wealthy accumulate? It generally goes into stocks and bonds, which produce nothing but more wealth for the very well off. It is almost never used to improve the plight of the majority of citizens. Currently, by the way, at most, 25% of the stocks in the market are held by individual investors. A vast majority of them are held by funds, investment corporations, and the like. There are a few exceptions to the rule that the wealthy do not use their money to improve the world…Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are two notable members of a small club of the very rich that are using their wealth to make the lives of people all around the world better. The Gates foundation has a history of supporting such causes as universal vaccination. However, today, there are trillions of dollars tied up in the hands of a few people.
The result of this accumulation of wealth by the few? Workers today have not seen a significant wage increase in years. The typical 2% or 3% they might get barely covers increased costs from Inflation. Employers are cutting benefits, such as health insurance, often either removing it completely, or, at best, deducting part of the costs from the employee’s paycheck. When companies get tax windfalls, such as the Republicans love handing out, they do not use that money to pay their employees a higher wage, or give them bonuses. Rather they use the money to buy back their own stocks…thereby enriching the owner, stockholders, and upper level management.
America’s middle class is shrinking. A small percentage of the members of the class are achieving the lofty heights of great wealth. A vast majority are sinking down into poverty, though. This is a terrible path, for it leads to despair, and barriers to escaping that pit of poverty, that can make it impossible to achieve their previous economic status.
What could we do about this? Well, Senator Elizabeth Warren, during her recent campaign for the Presidency, had a plan for that. She would have implemented a flat, 2% tax on ALL assets owned by the very rich – and by that, she meant people with a yearly income of more than several million dollars. This small percentage would have produced billions of dollars in revenue, which could be distributed to such programs as improving the quality of schools in America, increasing Teacher’s salaries, helping get the homeless into living quarters, and the like. Today, I recall that the top tax bracket is 37%. Of course the people that would hit that have bought lawyers and politicians, to provide loopholes, to avoid paying any taxes at all! Look at the current Occupier of the Oval Office, who bragged that he had not paid a penny in income tax in a decade, and that proved he was smarter than anyone else! Up to the Reagan era, the top tax rate varied up to 90%, and even then, the very rich lived lives of luxury (partially because they still had so much money, and partially because of those damn loopholes). I would go further than Sen Warren. I would call for a flat tax rate on the upper 0.01% of 50%, with no loopholes or special benefits allowed. I do not think that is unfair, or excessive, as it would still leave them with enough money that they, and several generations of their spawn could live in extreme comfort without lifting a finger. I would like to see that money go to a couple of major causes.
1) I would like to see it used to provide a Universal Basic Income for all Americans who make less than $1 million a year, of the current, Middle Class income. This should allow many of the people living in poverty to improve their situation, and give them the freedom to improve their skill-set, and get into even better paying jobs.
2) Hopefully, this would be enough cash to move us to a surplus budget, instead of a deficit budget. I would like to see this happen, and the debt start to shrink.
I would like to see some changes to the political game in America. For example, such changes as automatic voter registration, mail in ballots, a revamping of the Electoral College (which I may speak about elsewhere), term limits for Federal representatives, the restoring of the Fairness Doctrine as legislation, not simply a rule by the FCC, and a requirement that at least 15 years of complete tax information be made public by any candidates. On a state and local level, I want to see the process of laying out districts removed from the party in power. I would prefer that these districts be laid out by computer mapping programs, and approved by a vote. The current system is ripe for abuse…allowing candidates to choose their voters…instead of the voters choosing their candidate.
As for society, I would like to see parents becoming a more active part of their kid’s education. I think that this shelter at home period is going to ensure that many more parents come to realize how difficult the role of the teacher is. Perhaps that will cause them to be more supportive of those teachers…and less contemptuous of the idea of education. I would like to see those parents also teaching their kids the rules of tolerance, patience and empathy for others (however, that may be a pipe dream for most, it seems)
On an ecological front…we have seen how resilient Nature is. Once the unending dump of waste gasses into the atmosphere stopped, we have seen the air clear amazingly quickly. I was reading an article just the other day, that was reporting, with some surprise, that after a month or so of shut down, Mt. Fuji was visible from Tokyo for the first time in 30 plus years. In Tibet, the Himalaya Mountains are visible from 100 miles away, again for the first time in decades. I hope that seeing what a clean environment is like, will encourage more people to support a program of generating power from renewable sources, instead of fouling the air with burning coal and natural gas. I would even support the idea of increasing the amount of power generated from nuclear energy. However, I would not want American plants and designers to be in control of that. They have proven, over the past half century, that they have no clue how to design and build smaller, safer reactors and deal with radioactive waste in a better fashion. The last time I checked, the Canadians had an excellent design, that was almost bullet proof, and used pelleted fuel, instead of the huge, difficult to create, and fragile fuel rods favored by American designers.
In the long run, I believe that humanity has GOT to make these and other changes, or that thousand year lifetime will be gone in a flash. Perhaps, if America, with actual leadership (instead of an administration focused on pandering to the lowest common denominator) makes these changes, and demonstrates they do work to improve the lot of all, we can act as a catalyst for world change. We are far behind right now, as many European countries have implemented many of these changes…but even if we just catch up, that will improve the chances for everyone in the world. America does not HAVE to be “#1″…it is just as valid to walk, shoulder to shoulder, with the other, free nations in the world.
God Help Us All
Bee Man Dave