A Modest Proposal for Economic Justice

A "modest proposal" to eliminate poverty in the United States. It's radical and would increase taxes, but it would, naturally, increase business.

In the beginning, early 1775 let’s say, our political leaders – white, ruling-class, European Christians, if you don’t count Deists, agnostics, and atheists – hoped to create a nation that offered economic justice for all its citizens. That justice would be reinterpreted in the course of our economic history – including conflicts between rural and citified citizens – changing as the nation changed, to include economic justice for people of color, women, rich and poor, even people of various faiths and beliefs. As life became more complicated, and people became more self-centered, economic justice for everyone became everyone for himself. “What’s mine is mine,” became the mantra of many. “Take what you can get,” became the goal for some. And those of us who still believed in economic justice for all became “Liberals."

Today we define economic justice in terms of the percentage of taxes the government requires each of us to pay for the protection, health, and education of us all. Our government is responsible for drugs (FDA), health (finally), public schools, and more. Our government of the people and for the people hears our various complaints about who gets what, and the majority wins. Well, not always. Too often, our elected representatives buy their way into government with corporate cash, undisclosed contributions, and PACs of special interest groups, then begin to represent their wealthy sponsors. We just stamp our feet and walk out of the voting booth.

Tea Party Republicans don’t believe in the concept of taxation. They want to keep what they earn: all of it. They say taxes are a form of theft, which they reluctantly tolerate, but they hate anyone or any party that tries to tell them how much they “owe” in taxes. They “owe” nothing! They would prefer to rely on charity and the free market to fund hospitals, highways, the electrical grid, global warming, elections, public lands – everything, it seems, except the military – just ask Grover Norquist.

Laissez-faireism – let the free market preside without government interference, restrictions, regulations or even philosophical objections or comments; it’s our way, or no way – is the ultimate goal and operating principal of the Tea Party. Norquist’s party can’t abide any form of government interference. They will, however, rely on our rudimentary knowledge of market economics, and our deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the words “free market,” in order to shoot down any progressive opposition that stands in the road.

Here’s the thing: if we all agree there should be economic justice for all, and our goal is to eliminate poverty, we should aim for a basic minimum, state-mandated income for every adult, not just a minimum hourly wage that is often ignored. This is, admittedly, a radical proposal, but not a new one, and would almost certainly increase taxes. In the philosophical war between socialism and capitalism, there are opportunities for radical thinking.

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Gregory Brittain December 07, 2012 at 10:02 AM
I commend you to Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A
Walter December 07, 2012 at 02:33 PM
This is a perfect example of the General Theory of Liberalism. Liberals don't understand incentives. If everybody gets a guaranteed paycheck, you get a lot more slackers and a lot fewer people working hard. How did that work out for the Soviet Union? How is it working out for Greece? http://www.wcvarones.com/2009/05/general-theory-of-liberalism.html
gordon December 07, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Mr Flanders has conveniently substituted the word Justice for opportunity. Our founders never invisioned equal pay for everyone, just the opportunity to do one's best to succeed. unfortunately, the progressives of today, like the communists of yesterday, want those who squander this opportunity to be supported by those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to achieve economic success. over half of our population has decided to take this immoral path, contributing nothing toward the welfare of the country, including taxes. Mr Flanders, if your vision of America is a state sponsored minimum income for all, regardless of effort, ala communism, our country is doomed to fail. Return to your college roots and rethink history. Let the rest of us wrestle with the task of returning government to its smallest and least intrusive denominator so we can all continue to have the opportunity to succeed without your boot on our necks.
Jay Berman December 07, 2012 at 06:39 PM
JAC !!!! Economic Justice ? Are you rewriting our history ? Where is that in any founding document ? Obviously you know nothing of the TEA Party .. TEA = Taxed Enough Already ... we DO believe in fair and reasonable taxes to support the constitutional requirements of the federal government .... such as national defense, border security, interstate commerce and transportation, treasury and a few more .. but not things the states should do such as health, welfare, education etc. ... Economic justice = you earn it, you keep it ... if you are too lazy to produce, you go hungry ... and we take care of our people with a hand up, not a hand out ...
Jay Berman December 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Every man and woman over 18 gets $50k a year, a $20k voucher for a car every 3 years, $200 in food vouchers a month, healthcare, education, a $1000 housing voucher a month ... is that cool Jac ? Now that everyone is taken care of without lifting a finger, who is going to produce ? This is exactly why all forms of Marxism fails ... human nature ... no incentive, no production ....
Gregory Brittain December 07, 2012 at 07:34 PM
There is no reason to be modest, this is California. Let's give every Californian three wishes. We can just tax the rich to pay for it.
MFriedrich December 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
" we should aim for a basic minimum, state-mandated income for every adult, not just a minimum hourly wage that is often ignored. This is, admittedly, a radical proposal, but not a new one, and would almost certainly increase taxes." Here's a few problems that I have with it: First, GMI (Guaranteed Minimum Income) payments would fail absent government price controls and stiff penalties for violations. Given the federal government's track record of sleeping with the greatest endowed businesses and special interest groups, this has failure written all of it before we even begin. Second, GMI is useless without price controls because skyrocketing prices (from inflation) would essentially wipe out all the gains of a GMI back down to parity. Poor people would be richer for a few hours, or at least until they next visited the grocery store or JC Penneys to buy some clothes. Third, we won't solve anything with GMI policy without first stopping the massive hemorrhaging of capital to 3rd world countries from free trade that got us in this mess in the first place. With US savings rate effectively at zero, any economy is doomed. Fourth, GMI would require radical tax reform to fund. And there's always the risk that idiots in Washington will borrow or print money to pay for it.
MFriedrich December 07, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I would suggest the following alternatives first 1. Implement immediate reforms on Free Trade policy by rewarding capital infusion and business development here within the US. 2. Radically change income tax reform by rescinding the 2002 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and removing other loop holes. Also, there's no reason for new homebuyers to receive a mortgage interest tax deduction. That should be removed. This would stabilize home prices to rental parity. Achieving these two things would likely make the GMI unnecessary.
Jac Flanders December 07, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Bret, Jay, Gregory, et al, I can think of several replies to your tirades: First, thank you for your comments. My ex-agent advised, if I were writing a blog, make it controversial. You have contributed to my great success in that regard. Secondly, you obviously missed my central proposition - and/or I utterly failed to communicate it properly - which is: we have failed as a society as long as one American family goes without food, medical care, or an education. We can discuss forever how to meet the objectives. However, I doubt that corporate greed and charity alone will provide. Not finally, I genuinely think that humor, satire, sarcasm, and even "radical thinking" helps to highlight our problems. Bret, the only thing you did not criticize was the title; you must have missed the Swiftian attempt at satire. Unlike Bret, I am not an economist, but I think poverty is one of our most serious problems. And, I surely do not begrudge the rich their success, only the extreme disparity between the salaries of the head of the corporation and the guy on the assembly line. Some discussion on how to eliminate that disparity along with poverty would be welcome. If you just like to rant about the writing, that's okay with me, but, as a friend of mine suggests, "If you don't like soup, try a sandwich."
Jay Berman December 07, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Jac, with the multitudes of welfare programs, how could it be that anyone goes hungry or without medical care or education unless they don't seek help ? For medical care, not only is there Medicaid but also a huge network of non profit community clinics and programs sponsored by cities and counties ... For food you have food stamps, WIC and local non profits like our Community Resource Center and food banks ... public education is free, mandatory and available ... so I'm not sure what you are talking about Jac ...
Jac Flanders December 07, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Oh, Bret, by the way, you obviously like to write, perhaps you'd like to read "The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression" by Angus Burgin (Harvard University Press.) Fascinating book. One you'll enjoy, I'm sure.
MFriedrich December 07, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Jac, you said: "we have failed as a society as long as one American family goes without food, medical care, or an education." I would throw an "affordable" in there. The US has a lot of food. We have the best medical care infrastructure and technological solutions on the planet. And there are good reasons why students of all disciplines from Germany, China and India come to US universities to get degrees. We should look at why things are unaffordable. What we've witnessed in pricing (from houses to food to education) has to do with artificial demand that spurned unsustainable supply. None of it was without misguided government intervention (fiscal policy), greedy banks, stupid Fed monetary policy and a regulatory community asleep at the wheel. One proven way to fight poverty with significant results is to empower women, particularly young girls, through accurate health education and contraception. If there were a ever gold medal for teenage pregnancy rates, then the US would be perpetual undisputed Olympic champions.
MFriedrich December 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Jac, here are some considerations to reduce the disparity in high incomes from CEOs on Wall Street. Most of these excessive CEO pay examples worked for financial institutions: banks or huge hedge fund operations. Idea 1: Restore mark-to-market accounting standards for ALL financial institutions in the USA. Require the same standards for all foreign banks issuing loans or trading loans from institutions serving the US market. I guarantee you a swift and decisive response by investors across the globe and any holders of banks stocks. First of all, this will never happen, but if it did, most banks in America right now would fail within 60 days. Normally banks make loans and earn fees and interest. Normally CEOs of banks have a contract and are paid on specific performance objectives (growth, revenue and profitability, compliance MBOs and liquidity). This is not the case right now because banks are not obligated to show income statements and balance sheets that are accurate. Today most banks hold a warehouse of raw sewage - bad loans and REOs. This is not their business. A lot went wrong from the housing bubble. Everybody, from Option ARM borrowers to Dodd/Frank to cheerleading realtors, share the blame. Bankers were the worst though because they never paid the price for their poor business decisions. They should have gone bankrupt. Bank presidents should have been sued by shareholders and prosecuted by the SEC. Let's first ask why this didn't happen.
Jac Flanders December 07, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Not just because I agree with you, but thanks also for your reasoned approach.
Jac Flanders December 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Exactly my point, Jay. The multitude of welfare programs are in jeopardy.
Jay Berman December 07, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I think there should be no federal welfare programs. It should be left up to cities and counties to take care of those in need as every community is quite different. These programs are rife with fraud and abuse ... HUD section 8 housing ... I have some investment properties in Austin ... my largest, newest house was built in 2005, a KB home, almost 2700SqF 4 bd 2.5 BA corner lot ... tenant pays nothing .. zero, nada ... as long as they show little or no income, they get a free, market rate house ... why work ? Local programs can be designed and enforced locally ... federal programs are simply too big. Less money should leave the states and go to the feds ... should be spent locally ....
American Girl December 08, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Exactly! Who will build the cars and work at the stores where they spend their food vouchers? Un no one! Why not just stay home and collect. DOH!
American Girl December 08, 2012 at 12:24 AM
jay for governor!
Jay Berman December 08, 2012 at 12:32 AM
June - LOL ... not on your life ! I get enough flack on the blogs ... no way I'd ever run for office !
Gregory Brittain December 08, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Don’t say we didn’t warn you, #17 Brown’s and the Dems’ tax increase is retroactive to January 1, 2012. Passage of Proposition 30 set off euphoria and expectations of higher spending for public employees. The California Teachers’ Association (CTA) trumpeted: ‘California students and working families won a clear victory today as voters clearly demonstrated their willingness to invest in our public schools and colleges and also rejected a deceptive ballot measure aimed at silencing educators, other workers and their unions.’” But, don’t spend the money quite yet. “California State Controller John Chiang has announced that total state revenue for the month of November 2012 fell $806.8 million, or 10.8%, below budget.” “Democrats thought they could hammer ‘the rich’ by convincing voters to pass Proposition 30 to create the highest state income tax in the nation. But it now appears that high income earners have already ‘voted with their feet’ by moving themselves and their businesses out of state, resulting in over $1 billion shortfall in corporate and income taxes last month and the beginning of a new financial crisis.” http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/12/07/CALIFORNIA-STATE-BUDGET-GOES-OFF-THE-CLIFF Let’s all watch and learn from the effects of CA having by far the highest state income tax rates in America.
Bret D. Rijke December 08, 2012 at 06:29 PM
@ Gregory Brittain; Too true! There has been for 20+ years a regular evacuation of this state by the "White Middle Class", who are the most affected by incremental tax increases and the growing mess. I suspect it shall only increase. And then who will remain to foot the bill? How many stories like this one; http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-illegal-immigrant-kidney-transplant-20121209,0,3537821.story
Jay Berman December 08, 2012 at 06:36 PM
VLF will triple .... just watch ..... probably already legislation in the works .... Gill Cidillo will finally be able to get drivers licenses to illegal aliens too ... the possibilities are endless .... junk food tax ... plastic bag tax .... restaurant excise tax .... not a damned thing we can do about it anymore
Mel Content December 10, 2012 at 03:50 AM
"Tea Party Republicans don’t believe in the concept of taxation." The fact that you have to outright lie just establishes what a rabid liberal loon you really are, Jac. Tea Party people understand that taxes are necessary. However, unlike you, they also understand that there are certain Constitutional limits who what the federal government should do. Taxation for the purpose of income redistribution is simply unconstitutional, and all the emotive bloviating on your part will not change that fact. You come off like a spoiled little adolescent who has discovered for the first time that he won't get a free ride through life. Try acting your age and you will be less of an embarrassment to the rest of us...
Mel Content December 10, 2012 at 03:53 AM
" The multitude of welfare programs are in jeopardy." As they should be. Decades of liberal social programs have resulted in a large portion of our population incapable of fending for themselves, yet you want to blame the productive for their plight. Liberals are perpetual adolescents incapable of ever admitting that they just might have been wrong on a few things related to basic economic behavior...
Bret D. Rijke December 10, 2012 at 06:02 AM
@ Mel Content; Go easy on Mr. Flanders! Though he is a Progressive/Liberal, he is at least willing to engage in open and honest debate. Though he does not agree with the Conservative perspective, he allows us this forum in which to counter his proposals. Also, as he alluded to earlier, he has to "spice it up" in order to engage our sensibilities and provoke responses. I would not tender to his character the attribute of "liberal loon" or even "rabid". Clever? Yes.
Mel Content December 11, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Bret, it's one thing to debate or disagree with others, but it's another issue to just make things up. I have a problem with 2 areas of liberal spin. One is accusing those who disagree with them on social or immigration issues of being "racists". The other is claiming that conservatives/libertarians/Tea Party people are opposed to paying taxes, which is simply a gross exaggeration. These clowns make these nonsensical arguments and then are allowed to get away with them. I make a point to challenge their nonsense at every opportunity.
Gregory Brittain December 11, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Don’t say we didn’t warn you, #18 More great moments in socialized medicine “U.K. Politician Gives Gut-Wrenching Account of Husband’s Final Treatment by NHS: ‘Normalization of Cruelty’” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/u-k-politician-gives-gut-wrenching-account-of-husbands-final-treatment-by-nhs-normalization-of-cruelty/ But as they explain, socialized medicine is free at point of service. Coming soon to a country near you.
Michelle Mowad (Editor) December 11, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Here's a good read from a new blogger Mike S: http://patch.com/B-cFNv It's titled "The Art of Fiscal Cliff-Diving"
Watts December 11, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Where do you copy and paste your posts from and why do they rarely have anything at all to do with the articles?
TVOR December 11, 2012 at 05:03 PM
The best bway of regulating a species is natural selection. Unfortunately this species has used its intelligence to defeat natural selection. This will ensure the species will not survive in the long run unless natural selection again takes hold.


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