Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sam Zell has donated $4 million to a PAC that supports the agenda of Governor Bruce Rauner. Columnist Mark Brown sees this donation as part of a movement that he describes this way: "Rich people, no longer satisfied with the privileges of being rich, are going for complete control." This isn't simply a matter of politics. Much of Governor Rauner's agenda targets union employees. Brown quotes Zell as saying, "The 1 percent work harder." That may be true, but in a time when most American face flat wages and poverty is growing, it's hard to see how the hard working 1% are helping the rest of us. Working people need to decide if they support making people like Zell even richer or if they want to have a society where children from the middle class and the working class will have opportunities to be successful. Rich people have always had disproportionate control. Are we moving to a point where their voice is the only one that matters?
According to a report in Huffington Post, 35% of American adults with credit records have had a debt taken to collection. While this is a problem for the economy, it is related to a topic I write about frequently: stagnant wages. Since the crash of 2008, many Americans have seen small or no raises. This article cites an expert from the Urban Institute who makes the same point. It’s not enough to talk about raising the minimum wage. Many middle class workers are struggling to make ends meet. Too many people live from paycheck to paycheck. An unexpected medical emergency or car/house repair can lead straight to collection calls. America needs a raise.
A report in Common Dreams examines a survey of economists about the impact of inequality in the U.S. Economists across all political ideologies agree that pushing money to the top earners limits the ability of those in the middle and working class to spend. The report cites Paul Krugman, who writes: “On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis. For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie.”
Economists agree that inequality is a problem. Too many politicians, however, fear the charge of “class warfare” and ignore this problem. They are also ignoring that wealth has been redistributed for the last three decades. It has been taken from the many and given to the few. This issue should concern everyone who works for a living.
In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Sandra Guy tells the story of a young man who chose to take part-time jobs over the past four years. He did this to write a book. Now he’s found that he’s not able to save or put money aside for retirement. Sadly, this story does not stop with people who have chosen part-time work. Many Americans are stuck in part-time jobs that offer no chance to save for proverbial rainy day.
Even many full-time employees have faced several years of small raises or no raises at all. One of my clients is married to a corporate lawyer. Her husband has not had a raise in 5 years. His company stopped contributing to 401K savings. This example shows that even accomplished professionals are facing an ever tightening noose of insecurity.
What will we do? Too many people are asking that question.