AMAZING article from Common Dreams. Click the link!
..It depends, for instance, on worker organization. When workers are organized, they’re better able to fight for higher wages and to represent their interests in the political sphere. When workers are disorganized, capitalists can easily “capture the state” and use it to make laws that rig the game in their favor. The more control over government that capitalists achieve, the worse the rigging and the greater the inequality that results.
Inequality also depends on capitalist organization. An internally cohesive capitalist class is more powerful than a factionalized one. The worst situation is when capitalists are united and workers are divided. That’s when we’re likely to see runaway inequality.
In the United States, inequality has waxed and waned as a result of these factors. When the working class has been well organized, when the demand for skilled labor has been high, when the economy has been expanding, and when immigration policy and trade laws protected U.S. workers from exploitation on a Third-World scale, inequality has decreased. The period from about 1945 to 1970 fits this pattern. Because less inequality means less wealth for capitalists, capitalists fight back. That’s what we’ve seen in the period from about 1970 to today.
Extreme economic inequality in U.S. society is indeed beginning to generate widespread discontent. But some economists and sociologists have argued that the last 30 years of capitalist ascendancy have brought us to something other than a routine tide-turning moment. What these last decades have brought us to, or rather gotten us into, they say, is an inequality trap — a situation in which capitalists are so far ahead that it may be nearly impossible to turn things around without fundamental change.
The kind of inequality trap in which we find ourselves has a number of parts. One is the nearly complete capitalist capture of the state. As capitalists and their elite agents — think here of the richest 1% — have accumulated more and more wealth, their ability to control elections and policy-making has grown enormously. This has yielded not only an economic game hugely rigged in favor of capitalists, but the squeezing-out of populist opposition in government. It’s no surprise, then, that many people have lost hope in mainstream electoral politics, and thus refuse to participate in what seems like a sham. Under these conditions, capitalist dominance is more or less ensured and inequality is locked in.
A second part of the inequality trap is the destruction or co-optation of institutions that once inspired dissent and built solidarity among the working class. I am referring principally to unions. Despite their all-too-human failings, unions once brought working people together to fight for their interests. Capitalists know this, which is why they have devoted so much effort over the last 30 years to crushing unions in the private sector and are now doing it in the public sector. As unions have been weakened, the inequality trap has closed all the more tightly.
Another part of the inequality trap, alluded to earlier, is the ability of capitalists in the U.S. to draw on a worldwide labor pool. The international “free trade” laws that make this possible undercut the ability of workers in the U.S. to demand better wages. Which means that many workers in the U.S. feel that resisting capitalist demands is pointless, because if these demands aren’t met, capitalists will just move overseas. Workers here are thus stuck in a situation of worsening inequality, while capitalists enjoy a new freedom to roam the globe in search of cheaper labor and higher profits.
We need to tax financial transactions and wealth itself. We need to tax income and capital gains over $400,000 a year at a 90% rate. We need to use the money to create a democratically controlled central bank to fund cooperative work enterprises. We need to create a public jobs program so that everyone who is willing and able to work can have a meaningful job at a living wage. We need to at least double the minimum wage and set a maximum wage.
And, while we’re at it, we need to establish a national health service, so no one goes broke trying to pay for medical care. We also need to abolish tuition at public universities, so that every qualified student can get as much education as he or she wants.
In the meantime, finding that peaceful way will depend on facing the gloomy reality of our current predicament. To get out of the inequality trap, we must first see that we’re in it. If there is a solution, perhaps it will be found by refusing to believe that what is necessary is impossible. That refusal will also be a step toward escaping the larger inequality trap called capitalism.