As a Social Democrat, my reaction to last Tuesday's election is somewhere between alarm and HARRUMPH! Pundits have explained to the public that the voters were voting their dissatisfaction with the way things are. The consensus seems to be that
- It wasn't that immigration reform wasn't passed;
- It wasn't that gay marriage has not become accepted everywhere;
- It wasn't a matter of "right to life" trumping "right to choose."
It wasn't any of those urgent issues, each of which affects only a small portion of the public. It was an issue that affects almost everybody. Although the economic news looks good, with more new jobs created every month, the average worker does not experience any improvement in his own pay or his standard of living. All of the new prosperity seems to be going to the top one percent or so of the population. Why should Joe the carpenter feel happy that Archibald the rich man is ten percent richer this year than last year? Archibald is getting richer; Joe isn't.
This issue of the increased prosperity benefiting only the wealthy few has been discussed and presented and chewed to death without anyone anyone doing anything to change it. What we hear is that in the good old days when Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy were President we had strong labor unions that saw to it that working people got raises to share in the increased prosperity. Today labor unions are weak or moribund and wages are stagnant. What can be done about this situation?
I don't have an original or clever idea to propose. I suggest that we take a look at an idea that was proposed by a Liberal Republican President about the time that labor unions were losing their power to influence decisions about wages: the Negative Income Tax. If your income is below the poverty line, you get an income tax refund big enough to get you at least up to the line. Of course the whole idea wasn't adopted. What was adopted was a small refund for low-wage workers. Not a complete solution but better than nothing. Also, it was proposed by a Republican President who was able, in spite of his inner liberal feelings, to pass himself off as a dedicated Conservative and earn the hatred of the opposition (Democratic) Party. He was one of the two Liberal Republican Presidents of the twentieth century. The other one was Theodore Roosevelt.
So, as a third generation Democrat, let me state loud and clear that I absolutely hate and despise the Negative Income Tax. It's a Republican trick to confuse the public. It's vile. I shall ask my congressman to vote against it fifty times if it ever becomes law.