If you give billionaires more money, Rashid argues, they’ll just keep it.
Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And while many rightly acclaim him for his work on racial justice, he was also an economic revolutionary. He fought to end the so-called “right to work” ideology, recognizing it was grounded in white supremacy and oppression of the labor class. He advocated for universal basic income to uplift society out of poverty. And he also demanded economic justice for all people. In that spirit we ask today, what would you do if someone stole $14,000 from you, every single year of your life? Well, someone did, and here’s what we can do about it.
Post Great-Depression America enjoyed one of the greatest economic boosts in American history. We had low taxes on lower income people and higher taxes on the uber wealthy. As a result Americans saw an economic boom and a thriving and growing middle class.
But entering into the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new “trickle down” economic theory came to fruition. The idea that if you give billionaires more money, it’ll eventually trickle down to lower income people.
This was, in short, a lie. And it has devastated our middle class and catapulted the number of Americans living in poverty. As if the growing wealth and income gap wasn’t clear enough evidence, a recent thorough study confirmed that ‘trickle down’ economics simply doesn’t work and demonstrably leaves us worse off.
GOP Myths and Accusations
Now most recently, the GOP cut $1.7T in taxes for billionaires on the promise that it would pay for itself. Instead, the GOP tax cut for billionaires spectacularly failed, just as non partisan orgs warned it would. Study after study has shown that far from paying for itself, it increased the debt and deficit by trillions. Since 2017 the national debt has increased by $8T and the annual deficit has increased to nearly $1T a year. But rather than take ownership over their fiscal catastrophes, the GOP are now outraged over President Joe Biden’s $15 min wage push.
One of the most repugnant GOP myths is we must give money to billionaires to make them work harder but we must restrict money to poor people b/c it makes them lazy. This is what a war on the poor looks like. The reality is that if minimum wage increased from 1968 at the same rate as corporate profits and worker productivity, then that minimum wage should be around $21.16/hour.
Instead, since the ‘trickle down’ scam began, America’s top 1% has taken $50 Trillion in wealth from the bottom 90%. Yeah, Trillion with a T. Now, 50M Americans live in poverty & the United States has a rapidly shrinking middle class. Had the 1945-1974 income distributions & tax rates merely held steady, Americans in the bottom 90% would’ve earned $2.5 Trillion more annually. That’s enough to pay every single working American in the bottom 90% an additional $13,728 per year—every single year.
All that is stolen wealth.
It’s wealth the bottom 90% of Americans worked for, fought for, and earned, but was denied to them. Bringing up this fact isn’t ‘class warfare’ as some like to allege. It isn’t ‘hating the rich.’ It is pointing out that working Americans have worked hard to make this nation’s economy the most prosperous in the world, and justice dictates that working Americans receive fair compensation for the economy they created.
Whether they live in rural America, urban America, or suburban America—America’s working families deserve just compensation for their work. What does that look like? It starts by raising the living wage to at least $15/hour, but it doesn’t stop there. We must also revive a fairer tax system that ensures billionaires pay their fair share. We do not need more tax cuts for billionaires, we need tax cuts for middle class and lower income communities and small businesses. Likewise, we must end corporate welfare. The average American family pays $6000 a year in taxes that is allocated to billionaires companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon for corporate subsidies and welfare.
During his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech in 1964, Dr. King remarked, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”
The aforementioned are just three of the many steps the Biden administration can take to strengthen our economy, revive small businesses, grow the middle class, ensure long term economic and national security, and ultimately eradicate poverty. We may not be able to recover the nearly $14,000 a year denied to America’s bottom 90% for the last 50 years, but we can surely unite as a country and stop this financial desecration of working Americans going forward.
Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, and former candidate for US Congress. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid.