A social storm is heading toward these rural clear skies that will inevitably wash away the growing economic inequality here and around the world. We should act now to make it easier on ourselves.
Sea Tac’s vote to approve a $15 per hour minimum wage has energized strikes and protests around the country. Seattle voters also elected a socialist to the city council.
“It’s beginning to dawn on people that [growing inequality] is neither sustainable nor morally acceptable,” said Jerry Large, a columnist in the Seattle Times.
I’ve heard people talk about the inequality.
“If they pass a $15-per-hour minimum wage, I’ll get a raise,” said a church employee who’s close to retirement after devoting her working life to her church.
Pope Francis has written an encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel, attacking ‘trickle down economics’ after he served people at the bottom of Latin American society where wealth never arrived.
The “trickle down” theory of economics “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power,” he said.
Naïve trust is obvious in Boeing’s decision making process to build new facilities for the 777x airliner. Their executive’s primary responsibility is to get maximum shareholder value by minimizing taxes and labor expenses.
Executives began by working diligently and quietly with Washington’s governor, elected officials and community development organizations to win legislative approval for major tax reforms and worker training. The legislature reasonably passed tax breaks and training subsidies given the public economic benefits of the investments for the state.
Precisely timed to follow passage of the legislation, executives gave Seattle machinists short notice to accept a difficult contract extension or Boeing would choose another state.
The machinists angrily rejected the proposal, believing their skills will eventually win the production.
With national publicity focusing blame on machinists for Boeing’s search for an out-of-state location, Boeing executives have pitted 15 eager states against each other to present the best deal.
Give Boeing executives credit for masterful bargaining. And follow Pope Francis’ advicie to discard ‘a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.’
With growing dissatisfaction about growing inequality, who has ideas to reduce inequities? Ideas to donate money to homeless shelters through fun fundraising promotions like public officials and police officers shivering in cardboard boxes raise awareness of local poverty. But do they permanently reduce inequities?
Raising minimum wage laws led to another ballot initiative underway in California to reach $12 by 2016. Ron Unz, a conservative/libertarian Silicon Valley multi-millionaire, is promoting the initiative as a way to reduce government spending.
“There are so many very low-wage workers, and we pay for huge social welfare programs for them,” he said in an interview reported by the New York Times. “This would save something on the order of tens of billions of dollars.”
A suggestion in USA Today is for people to increase tips because they directly raise service workers’ earnings. My wife likes that idea as a former waitress and mother of three children who all served food.
China has been subsidizing rural farmers since 2004 to increase food production and raise rural incomes. Productivity has increased, although rural incomes have not, and officials have vowed to try more approaches.
Economists and business leaders in the U.S. and Europe are recommending improving roads, rail systems, traffic conditions and basic research to improve competitiveness and create jobs. U.S. liberals call for subsidies for childcare like most developed nations to increase the labor pool by reducing costs to work. Immigration reform would benefit industries and entrepreneurship. Closing tax loopholes would raise revenues. Cutting costs of education would help people rise above poverty.
Growing awareness of growing inequality demands action. We should commit to increase awareness, demand action in the political process and find individual ways to act.