Through history there has been advocates for people with less income or opportunities; by the 1930s the western world had adopted programs to help out the less fortunate and strengthen rights for labours. National minimum wage, welfare, unemployment insurance, social security all came into play with the taxing of the wealthy. This made for a lower rate of inequality and made for a healthier democratic society. As decades moved on something began to change. More money was being made by investments for a few people (rather families) as everyone else was still making a living through wages. Then by the late 1990s the control was lost. Taxing of investment income dropped, taxing middle class went up, minimum wages didn’t increase.
Most people in democratic countries believe in some form of capitalism. As the above outlines, they also believe we should give some money back to help social services. But, as the wealthy became wealthier they started to control how democratic countries passed laws, who should run for politics and while doing all this they could keep more and more of their money. One problem with this out of control capitalist approach is that the middle class has to be over taxed to continue social programs and some social programs have been cut.
“Finally, we need to look at the relationship between inequality and politics. In every political system, even a democracy, the rich tend to hold more political power. The danger is that this political power will be used to promote policies that further cement the economic power of the rich. The higher the inequality, the more likely we are to move away from democracy toward plutocracy.” Branko Milanovic, The Guardian, May 2017
Voters feel they are a hamster on a wheel. They vote (some of them), someone gets in and the bleeding starts all over again. The other issues of economic and social inequality will never budge if we can’t control the inequality of wealth in today’s world.
“Already big money exercises illegitimate power over political systems, making a mockery of democracy: the battering ram of campaign finance, which gives billionaires and corporations a huge political advantage over ordinary citizens; the dark money network (a web of lobby groups, funded by billionaires, that disguise themselves as thinktanks); astroturf campaigning (employing people to masquerade as grassroots movements); and botswarming (creating fake online accounts to give the impression that large numbers of people support a political position). All these are current threats to political freedom. Election authorities such as the Electoral Commission in the UK have signally failed to control these abuses or even in most cases, to acknowledge them.” Branko Milanovic, The Guardian, May 2017
How do we protect democracy and assure people that the social programs, laws, policies, etc. that help them will continue to be funded? Where are the politicians that aren’t influenced by corporate campaign funds and how do we elect the right people to take on the people who have created this one sided power?
“The global wealth gap is far worse than previously estimated because until recently economists had really limited information about how much money the super-rich had stashed away in tax havens…because financial globalization makes it increasingly hard to measure wealth at the top…”Forbes: Pedro Nicolaci da Costa Feb 2019
Left wing democrats like Bernie Saunders, who is running for Office for a second time, have been speaking out against wealth inequality. It is a tough sell because the power comes from the people with the money. The only way voters can over power the powerful is if they show up at the polling stations. Then democracy can work its magic.
“democratic socialism means creating “an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy,” reforming the political system (which Sanders says is “grossly unfair” and “in many respects, corrupt”), recognizing health care and education as rights, protecting the environment, and creating a “vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person, one vote. He explained that democratic socialism is not tied to Marxism or the abolition of capitalism but rather describes a program of extensive social benefits, funded by broad-based taxes…
…What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels. This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.”
Bernie Sanders philosophy
But, voters aren’t always consistently attending the polls. They need to hear that there are people advocating for them that have some of that wealth and power.
“A letter signed by nearly 20 of the “richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans” calls for 2020 presidential candidates to create a wealth tax on them and their ultrarich peers. The 18 names on the letter published Monday include investor George Soros, filmmaker Abigail Disney, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, philanthropist Agnes Gund and real estate developer Robert Bowditch, among other members of the ultrawealthy. A 19thsimply signed as “Anonymous.” Many of them have been outspoken before on the issue of wealth taxes. America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more they write in the letter, which was first reported by The New York Times. “A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms.” The letter describes itself as “nonpartisan” and not “an endorsement of any presidential candidate,” though it lists Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg as candidates who have already supported a wealth tax.” Joshua Bote, USA Today, June 2019
The Disney heiress, Abigail Disney, has been very outspoken about the unfairness…
“Nothing in history ever moved forward just because people advocated for their own interests,” Disney tells All Things Considered. “Things really change when people are traitors to their class, and my class needs some really good traitors these days.”
The article goes on to quote Disney…
“We’re not in a democracy all assigned with the task of advocating for ourselves. We’re assigned with the task of trying to create the best and strongest and fairest country we can create. And what I’ve watched over the last 30 years is rich people going from terribly rich to awfully rich to obscenely and insanely rich. And we have to draw a line.
And if I am welcoming to those kinds of perceptions, I also have an obligation to attend to the rest of the ways in which it’s not engaging with the world in a good way, and it’s actively promoting something that’s really deleterious — not just to the low-income people; they’re destroying the middle class and they’re having a go at democracy itself.” NPR Ari Shapiro June 2019, Interview with Walt Disney’s granddaughter, Abigail Disney
There are some arguments that state taxing the very rich will cause less money to trickle down to the masses, but there does not seem to be much money trickling or even dripping! Yet, there seems to be a huge amount of money cascading down to many tax havens. The arguments are no longer solid as the gap between the rich and the not so rich is gaping! With mass wealth comes mass power and the ideology and principles of a democracy fade away.