How did America become a nation with 440 billionaires politically concerned mostly with tax cuts allowing them to keep or increase their wealth? What happened to valuing the public good and social responsibility, the principle that all of us, especially the fortunate, should contribute to a society supporting everyone’s possibilities for education, opportunity, access to some kind of health care, a better life for themselves and their families?
Corporate executives were once proud that their enterprises produced jobs and wages for employees as well as products and services. Today, the system seems to consider labor a commodity to be purchased at the lowest price. And whereas CEOs once averaged salaries equal to 60 times what their hourly workers made, today’s CEOs commonly earn 300 to 500 times what hourly workers take home. Many see truth in the Occupy Wall Street assertion, that our economic system pits the interests of the 1 percent against the 99 percent.
How did conservatism come to mean dismantling regulations protecting workers; compromising regulations of banking and finance that prohibited casino risk-taking with other people’s money; reversing regulations suggesting that corporations should be responsible for their hazardous wastes and pollution? Corporations seem to oppose any regulations affecting profits.
Henry Ford knew that workers need income in order to buy the products they make. Franklin Roosevelt knew that federal investment in infrastructure created jobs and built things needed which paid dividends long after the debts incurred had been retired. When the middle class is employed, their spending lifts the whole economy. The billions languishing at the top produce few jobs.
Oklahoma City’s miracle resulted from investment in infrastructure. This is no time to cut taxes but rather to invest in building our society.
Director, The Peace House Oklahoma City