Why Is Income Inequality So High In the United States?: (An Essay)

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Hi ChristinS! How's it going?

Thank you for the question: Why is income inequality so high in the US? And how do we fix it?

1. The first thing to say about all of this, is that the reason income inequality is so high in the United States of America is because we are a culture in which the scales are tipped more heavily in favor of economic freedom as opposed to economic justice. In other advanced capitalist countries like ours, the balance is different, it is in fact tipped more toward justice over freedom.

a. Of course, I'm talking about Western Europe. One thing we can say is that a key difference between American capitalism and European capitalism is that the latter emerges from the old feudalism. Say what you want about feudalism, but at least within it the lord and the peasant were bound together by reciprocal duties and obligations. The lord and the peasant had duties to one another. American capitalism has no such roots.

2. In a culture such as ours, in which the scales are tipped in favor of economic freedom as opposed to economic justice, the ones who are bound to benefit the most are the ones with the vast majority of wealth and income share.

a. The people we are talking about over the past 30-40 years are the top one-tenth of the top one percent (1).

3. The reason for the cultural disposition of the United States regarding economic freedom and the people who have the most of it, is the fact that the corporate community, in the United States is more powerful than it is in other advanced capitalist societies similar to ours. The reason for this is something sociologist call the Four Networks Theory of Power. It just so happens that business has never faced competition from any other sector for pride of place in the American power structure. There is no one big church as there had been in many European countries. There is no big government, as it took to survive as a nation-state in Europe. And there was no big military until after 1940, which isn't very long ago, which could threaten to take over the government (2).

4. We must also note that there is severe income inequality between the white collar professional class (doctors, lawyers, journalists, accountants, college professors, etc.) and ordinary, non-supervisory manual workers. The reason for this is the fact that the latter are subjected to rules of supply and demand of labor supply; they face circumstances of competing with an abundance of manual laborers, thus their incomes remain flat to trending downward decade after decade.

This is emphatically not the case with the white collar professional class. The federal government protects them from supply and demand. They government has barriers to foreign workers in those fields, who would do those white collar jobs for less money. For example, if we in the United States were to pay doctors what they are paid in Western Europe---never mind a developing country---this would amount to a savings of eighty billion dollar a year (3).

Dean Baker, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote this: "In 1997 Congress tightened the licensing rules for foreign doctors entering the country because of concerns by the American Medical Association and other doctors' organizations that the inflow of foreign doctors was driving down their salaries. As a result, the number of foreign medical residents allowed to enter the country each year was cut in half" (4).

What is the reason for this disparity of treatment between the white collar professional class and manual, non-supervisory workers by the federal government?

Again, Dean Baker wrote: "While doctors, lawyers, and accountants don't pull down the same money as corporate CEOs or the Bill Gates types, their success is hugely important in sustaining the conservative nanny state. If the only people doing well in the current economy were a tiny strata super-rich corporate heads and high-tech entrepreneurs, there would be little political support for sustaining the system. Since the list of winners also includes the most educated segment of society, it creates a much more sustainable system. In addition to being a much broader segment of the population (5-10 percent as opposed to 0.5 percent), this group of highly educated workers includes the people who write the news stories and editorial columns, teach college classes, and shape much of what passes for political debate in the country. The fact that these people benefit from the conservative nanny state vastly strengthens its hold" (5).

5. It was not always the case that the income disparity was so severe in the United States. American capitalism had experienced a sweet spot in the period of the mid-1940s to about the mid-1970s. The situation was like this: At the end of WWII in 1945, America stood alone as the only capitalist power that remained intact.

a. Europe and Japan were smashed and needed to rebuild by buying American stuff. What's more, they had to borrow American money to buy the American stuff with (Number One Creditor Country status). America had no competitors.

b. Immigration restrictions from 1920s-era legislation

c. These things taken together created a situation of a scarcity of labor in the United States. There was more work to do than there were hands to do it; and so employers needed to pay their hands well to do it.

d. In this environment, unions could thrive and keep employers honest. Wages for workers rose right along with productivity, also keeping pace with inflation. (6).


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6. The situation started to change in the 1970s because:

a. In the 1960s Congress passed immigration reform, the result of this was to overturn immigration-restrictive 1920s legislation (7).

b. Women were starting to go into the workforce, in some numbers.

c. Because of changing technologies of production and transportation, manufacturing began to be relocated out of the urban industrial districts to the American South; as a result of this, jobs became scarce in the inner cities where African-Americans lived (8).

d. Europe and Japan recovered in the 1970s, subjecting the United States economy to competition for the first time in thirty years.

e. All of these things together created a surplus of labor. There were now too many hands looking for too little work to be done.

f. Employers simply took advantage of this state of affairs.

g. All of this, in turn, put tremdous pressure on unions to capitulate and give way, to compromise more and more to the advantage of the employers.

During the late-1970s and early-1980s at least one-in-twenty workers who voted for a union to be set up in their workplace, was illegally fired. Some estimates put the number at one-in-eight. This collapse in unionization has no counterpart anywhere in the industrialized world (9).

7. And so, starting at around the 1970s, the rate of productivity continued to rise and inflation continued to rise, and worker pay remained flate, so that today, the real wage of workers remains where it was around 1978-1982, something like that.

8. So far, given what we've pointed out, ruthless logic would seem to dictate that the way to fix the income inequality problem in the United States is to, somehow, find a way to restore the previously beneficial situation of scarcity of labor.

However, the very idea---quite aside from its physical impossibility---is distasteful, to say the least, from the standpoint of human rights.

9. Inflation is a force that deserves separate consideration for its ravenous, sudden-strike savage bestiality, and arbitrary wealth-depleting and neighborhood gentrifying aftermath wrought upon the middle and working classes.

a. For example, in 1986 the Mitsui Corporation bought the Exxon building in Manhattan for $610 million dollars. This was $260 million above the asking price. It was widely reported that Mitsui did this because the company's president wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records (10).

  • What comes next from something like this?
  • Well, what comes next is the realization that a new "standard" has been set, the "bar' has been "raised," as it were. Owners and managers of commercial and residential property will surely take that opportunity to raise their prices; owners of apartment buildings might take the opportunity of this increase in local real estate "values" to convert their buildings into a high-priced condominiums, and find ways to force out the hold outs, people with rent control agreements, and so forth.
  • Suddenly middle and low-income people are priced out of their old neighborhoods due to the pressure of gentrification.
  • People who sell things like cars, appliances, and other things might decide that such a "prosperous" and "growing" neighborhood should pay higher, that is to say, prosperous and growing prices for their, suddenly, enhanced-quality goods.
  • Other businesses that cater to the public will surely not want to be caught without their hands out to catch the manna falling from the sky.
  • Suddenly, one day, a paramedic, say, a married father of two with one on the way, comes home exhausted from working double shifts because his paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to...


King Midas, he with the golden touch.
King Midas, he with the golden touch. | Source

10. Questions arise from a situation like this.

  • Is this deal a triumph of the "market," or failure of the "market"?
  • If this is a triumph of the market, does that mean that no action should be taken, nevertheless, by restraining and correcting forces?
  • Should potentially millions of people---who will be affected and yet had nothing to do with the deal---be allowed to suffer the consequences of inflationary pressure on their paychecks, their income and wealth, ability to live in their homes, and even put money away in the bank for their futures, because some guy from a corporation wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for his, or his company's, purchase of commercial property?
  • Where should the rights and freedoms of the owners of capital end and those of ordinary, working taxpayers begin?
  • If this deal represents a failure of the market, then what should be the response from the public sector, that is to say, the government, given the very well known history of government intervention in market failures in the United States (bailouts of financial institutions, temporary government takeovers, government-assisted buyouts, and so forth)?
  • If this is a failure of the market, and government intervention is indeed called for, what should it look like and on whose behalf should it occur?

11. It is well known that when rich people find themselves with more money than they can reinvest profitably, they find other things to invest in. They put money into them not by a measure of what these assets are worth, but depending on how much money they want to put away, perhaps out of sight from the curious eyes of federal tax authorities. They might invest in art, real estate, stamps; it can be absolutely anything at all (11).

12. Yet another reason for the severe income disparity in the United States is monopoly. The most recent figures I have at my fingertips are these: The largest 1,000 companies in the United States, account for over 60 percent of the gross national product, leaving the balance to about 11 million small businesses (12). US public policy has never been wild about enforcing antitrust legislation. The feeling was that this would compromise the efficiencies of large-scale production; and judges did not really want to break up well-established businesses (13).

13. Still another reason for the income disparity in the United States of America has to do with the way CEOs are paid. It is well known that it is not correlated with performance. Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman cites, in his book, an article from a 2001 issue of Fortune magazine called 'The Great CEO Pay Heist.'

Krugman wrote: "You might have expected it to go like this this: The stock isn't moving, so the CEO shouldn't be rewarded. But it was actually the opposite: The stock isn't moving, so we've got to find some other basis for rewarding the CEO." This, too, has no counterpart anywhere in the world (14).

14. The principal mechanism by which this is brought about is called the stock option. An option is the right to buy corporation stock at below market prices, so that when the value of the stock rises, your profit will be greater than those who paid full market prices will enjoy (15).

Conclusion

I'm going to leave it there. I doubt there are any easy answers; I know I certainly don't have any. I hope that I have given a fairly comprehensive, three-dimensional view of the problem. I do believe that a cultural shift has to occur in the United States, one that puts more weight on economic justice over economic freedom. I believe that when that most vital first step is taken, the details of policy correction will present themselves quite clearly.

Thank you so much for reading.

References and Notes

1. Phillips, Kevin. American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, And The Politics of Deceit In The House of Bush. Viking Penguin, 2004. 67

2. Domhoff, G. (2005, April 1). The Class-Domination Theory of Power. Retrieved January 13, 2015. paragraph 2.

3. Baker, D. (2006). Doctors and Dishwashers: How the Nanny State Creates Good Jobs for Those at the Top. Retrieved January 13, 2015. paragraphs 5 & 12

4. ibid, paragraph 11

5. ibid, paragraph 3

6. Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. W.W. Norton, 2007. 48-49

7. Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capitalism And The Crises of Capitalism. Oxford University Press, 2010. 14

8. Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. W.W. Norton, 2007. 88-89

9. ibid, 150

10. Chancellor, Edward. Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1999. 263

11. For a whole litany of tax evasion schemes see: Johnston, David Cay. Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign To Rig Our Tax System To Benefit The Super Rich---And Cheat Everybody Else. Portfolio, 2003.

Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. Kumarian Press & Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995. 94-95

David C. Korten wrote about Sweden in the early 1980s, which was undergoing a similar transformation as the United States, at about the same time.

"Maintaining a belief in Sweden meant increasing the share of the national product going to profits compared with wages so that Sweden's industrialists would find it worthwhile to invest at home. This was accepted as the price of maintaining full employment at a time when unemployment elsewhere in Europe was running at 8 to 9 percent or higher." page 94

This policy pushed profits for Swedish companies to previously unheard of levels. page 94

He went on: "With so much more money in their pockets than could be absorbed by productive investments, Swedish investors turned to speculation, driving up prices of real estate, art, stamps, and other speculative goods." page 95.

12. Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. Kumarian Press & Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995. 217-218

13. Reich, Robert B. Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 23

14. Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. W.W. Norton, 2007. 148

15. Johnston, David Cay. Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill). Portfolio, 2007. 261; Stiglitz, Joseph E. The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade. W.W. Norton, 2007. 115-116.

* Let me add this: Stock options are a boon in themselves. This is to say nothing of the innumerable stock option scandals there have been, since, say, 1980. For example, I don't like to speak ill of the dead but Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer was awarded millions of dollars in stock options at a board of directors meeting that never took place. Instead of fixing the mistake, he arranged to have the options converted into restrictive stock, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The government brought civil charges against Apple's general counsel and its chief financial officer. The latter admitted to wrongdoing, gave up $3.5 million and said that he had warned Jobs about the improper pay.

David C. Johnston wrote: "Still, by late Summer 2007 the government had taken no action against Jobs. The Apple board, which included Al Gore, portrayed Jobs as an unknowing victim of complicated rules even though they have been in effect since before Apple went public decades ago."

Source: Johnston, David Cay. Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves At Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill). Portfolio, 2007. 16

*Let me add one other item I did not touch on in the body of the essay. But another mechanism for excessive elite income is pay deferral schemes. It goes roughly like this:

1. Executive declines to take delivery of a big chunk of his pay, instead deferring payment until some future year.

2. No taxes are taken out, because, technically, the executive has not been paid yet.

3. The executive gets to invest the full amount that is deferred.

4. The company invests the deferred amount. The money could be put back into the company; most often its put into a separate account and cannot be used to finance the company's operations.

5. Money set aside in such separate trusts are often invested in life insurance, mutual funds, or company stock.

6. The dividends and interest earned in the deferral account usually keep building inside the account, untaxed. A few executives do choose to have the dividends paid out, in which case they become immediately taxable.

7. When the executive cashes out (usually at retirement) the company withholds the income taxes and pays the executive the balance, usually in installments over a period of years.

8. Executives, senior sales agents, movie stars, and pro athletes get such deferral deals.

Source: Johnston, David Cay. Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign To Rig Our Tax System To Benefit The Super Rich---And Cheat Everybody Else. Portfolio, 2003. 47-49

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22 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 23 months ago from Midwest

Wow, let me say bravo for such a well-researched and truly well-rounded hub. I've learned a great deal more about the situation and its many facets. I think everyone should read this and I am definitely sharing. I love how you compare our history with that of Western Europe and the reasons things here have been skewed more towards economic freedom over economic justice. Like you, I believe there needs to be balance between both for our country to thrive. Definitely voted up and sharing!


Fred Arnold profile image

Fred Arnold 23 months ago from Clearwater, FL

Awesome Hub! I love how you employ our past into how it has affected our present and future. I wrote a Hub on the issue as well if you'd like to take a look:

http://hubpages.com/politics/would-increasing-mini...

The only issue with economic justice is that the government will have to play a bigger role in economy, and, as it stands, people are not about big government. Of course, if the government worked at tax reform and job creation, we could see a rise in economic justice, but every bill proposed for this type of legislation gets kicked immediately to the curb.

Again, great Hub. Keep up the awesome work!

-Fred


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 23 months ago from Orange County California

I am sorry, but I don't believe that this hub reflects the real economic disparity in the US.

First, the professionals like doctors and lawyers are not protected by the federal government, they are protected by their own licensing organizations which exist under the state, not the federal government.

They have a closed environment due to the state licensing practices.

All people shouldn't be given the same pay because they don't contribute equally. This is a democratic republic, and not a commune.

The real disparity is due to the income tax systems. The poor don't pay taxes, but they get welfare, and other benefits. The rich don't pay as much taxes as they should but not because of the marginal tax rates for the wealthy. They can avoid, defer, transfer, and otherwise get a lot of their tax liability shunted by the Internal Revenue Code.

This code cannot be effectively used by wage earners, they just don't have enough wealth to utilize these codes. In 1986, the Income Tax was changed and that change affects the middle class. It removed many of the tax deductions of interest, and other offsets that were common to the middle class. They were told that this change would also reduce their tax rates, which it did for a few years. Then the tax rates went up, but their deductions were gone.

Billionaires are made today because of investments, and the Internal Revenue Code. Many of the billionaires can buy huge amounts of stocks and make a fortune from them while not having to pay a lot in taxes. Sure we hear that the one percent pay as much in taxes as the other ninety nine taxpayers, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't have paid more in taxes if the Internal Revenue Code didn't help them.

Thanks


Fred Arnold profile image

Fred Arnold 23 months ago from Clearwater, FL

@Brad:

I definitely agree with your points. Tax reform is needed and, yes, the federal government has little to do with those professions. But majority of his points here are accurate.

Take care!

-Fred


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 23 months ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Corruption in business and government plays a part as well as a lack of care ,respect or compassion for those less able. Money isn't an end in itself. Money is the instrument that helps bring ones desires to fruition for better or for worse.

Education and knowledge that leads to wisdom is what will free the minds of the masses.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@ChristinS: Thank you for your kind compliments. I see we are of a common accord. I do believe everything starts with the direction of culture. We have to decide that we value economic justice over economic "freedom." I put freedom in quotes because, as I hope I have shown a little bit, the darn-dest thing is that such freedom is never "free" of injustice done to others.

Take it easy. :)


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Fred Arnold: Thank you so much for the kind word, Fred. You and ChristinS were both perceptive to specifically refer to the historical approach I used. People and societies become the way they are by walking down certain paths and not walking down certain other paths, for whatever the reasons. People and societies become what they are as the result of a journey; and, of course, the journey is never ending ("The journey is the destination").

Caution: When you say that the government will have to take a bigger role in the economy, the question is: What kind of government under what political philosophy? And on whose behalf will they intervene? And how does that bring about greater justice?

You know, I once heard something to the effect (from Indian legal philosophy): There is no justice when a big fish can swallow a small fish at will.

Thanks again, Fred. I will check out your article soon!

Take care.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@someonewhoknows: Good Day to you, fellow hubber! Thank you so much for your very kind attention to my little collision of words I have presented here.

You say: ("Education and knowledge that leads to wisdom is what will free the minds of the masses.")

I couldn't agree more. Not only do I endorse the sentiment but include myself, among the masses, in need of more knowledge and education, which, hopefully, endows me with enhanced wisdom, leading to the liberation of my mind. :)

One very slight caution: Yes, there is most certainly corruption in business and government. There is no accounting for the black hearts of sociopaths, nor those black-hearted moments that can afflict even relatively decent folk. I suppose what I am saying is that I would like to see structures in place which can automatically dampen the effects of corruption.

For example, take stock options. I added some material in the notes. They are a scandal in themselves, even when properly used within the rules. When there is actual, objective scandal is employed in their use---on top of the tremendous boon the are in themselves---it seems to me that the damage done is increased by exponential proportions.

That's all I'm saying. :)

Take care, dude!


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@bradmasterOCcal: Good Day to you! Thank you so much for your very kind attention to my humble presentation! I see that what I wrote has exercised your passions considerably. I am always gratified by passionate responses, even when, and especially when they are in disagreement with my argument.

However, if you will permit me, I will reply to your points one-by-one.

1. First, let me say that this essay is in response to a question posed by ChristinS: Why is income inequality so high in the United States and what can we do about it?

2. This essay is basically a diagnostic exercise: How did we get here? I did my best to supply that.

3. You say that my essay is not an accurate reflection of the economic disparity in the US. But then you say that people should not be paid equally because they do not contribute equally.

4. If you'll forgive me for contradicting you, it rather sounds like you are acknowledging an "economic disparity," but that it is justified based on varying levels of contribution.

5. I thank you for correcting me about the mechanism by which doctors and lawyers are protected by STATES, as opposed to the federal government, strictly speaking---as it pertains to direct foreign labor competition. However, as you seem to acknowledge, the larger point stands: The income of white collar professionals is protected from supply and demand in a way that is not afforded to blue collar, manual workers. Also, I must reiterate, that in 1997 the United States Congress did take action on behalf of doctors, in response to complaints from the American Medical Association and other doctors' organization, to tighten licensing requirements so that the inflow of foreign doctors would slow down drastically. My source on that is the online book by economist Dean Baker, as I referenced.

6. You say that this is a democratic republic and not a commune; and for that reason people should be paid according to the level of contribution they make to the society; and that, in this regard, all workers are not created equal, so to speak. I wasn't arguing for strict equality of pay across all the boards. Actually, I wasn't recommending anything. I was responding to the original question about why there is such income inequality in the United States, to a degree which is unknown in other advanced capitalist countries like ours. I have tried to point to specific features of economic injustice, things that cannot be attributed to "market forces," necessarily.

7. You say that the real disparity is due to income tax systems. I have no quarrel with that; I'm sure that's true, as far as it goes. There are many diagnosable factors, in my opinion, that have resulted in the severe inequality we experience in the United States of America.

8. You say that the tax code cannot be used effectively by wage earners because they simply don't have enough wealth to utilize it. If we accept that direction of argument the question it raises is: Just why is it that wage earners do not have the sufficient wealth to utilize the tax code?

9. You say that billionaires are made because of investments and the Internal Revenue Code; here I think it would be slightly more accurate to say how their tax attorneys manipulate the tax code. You talk about how they can buy up piles of stock without paying very much tax on it.

I think you should understand, bradmasterOCcal, that I am not proposing a politics of envy. Again, when I speak of "injustice," I am talking about how ordinary working people are being deprived of what they have coming to them, in a way that working people are not impeded from getting their due in any other advanced capitalist country like ours.

Consider this. I have heard it said that the United States looks pretty much like any other advanced capitalist country like ours when you look at simple market outcomes. You have a job, you get paid, you use the money to buy stuff, fueling somebody else's employment, and so on... But where the United States takes off radically from other countries like ours, is in the area of social policy.

One of the things I pointed to, for example, is the lax enforcement of antitrust laws that prevail in the United States. This is a matter of valuing economic freedom over economic justice because this state of affairs endows the big players with more than they deserve and withholds from the little guy a good part of his due.

And so on and so forth.

Listen, take care of yourself, and thank you so much for reading and remarking! :)


Rui Carreira profile image

Rui Carreira 23 months ago from Torres Novas

I like the way the Hub is written and the problem you raise awareness about, but the income disparity is not as high in the USA as in a looot of other countries.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Rui Carreira: Thank you so much for the compliment. I was emphasizing a comparison between the United States and other advanced industrialized countries like ours, with similar political systems, rule of law, concepts of private property, rights, and so forth. I was not making a comparison between the United States and, say, a developing country, where, I'm sure, things are a good deal worse for the populations, from a Western perspective.


Fred Arnold profile image

Fred Arnold 23 months ago from Clearwater, FL

Rui Carreira:

Most countries do not even come close to the GDP we put out...


TheBizWhiz 23 months ago

Wingedcentaur,

Although I do not agree with everything you wrote, I have to say this was a well written and well thought out Hub. Thumbs up!


TheBizWhiz 23 months ago

Brad,

You have made some great points and I hope you elaborate more on them in a Hub.


TheBizWhiz 23 months ago

Fred,

We do have a high GDP, so we must be doing something right.


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 23 months ago from Orange County California

Fred

you wrote

@Brad:

I definitely agree with your points. Tax reform is needed and, yes, the federal government has little to do with those professions. But majority of his points here are accurate.

Take care!

-Fred

------------

Thanks for your comment, and I didn't make my comment to offend the author. I simply think that the focus of the question differed from my opinion.

The answer is political, as opposed to rights and fair play.

Thanks


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 23 months ago from Orange County California

WingedCentaur

Thanks for the detailed response to my comment. The question of inequity of wealth has to be politics, and that was my point in my previous comment. I will address your response, which I appreciate that you provided for me.

You wrote

@bradmasterOCcal: .

1. First, let me say that this essay is in response to a question posed by ChristinS: Why is income inequality so high in the United States and what can we do about it?

bmOC

That was the premise of my comment

-----------------------------------

you wrote

2. This essay is basically a diagnostic exercise: How did we get here? I did my best to supply that.

bmOC

We just differ on the root cause, and my focus was on the 1913 amendment that created the Income Tax.

-------------------\

you wrote

3. You say that my essay is not an accurate reflection of the economic disparity in the US. But then you say that people should not be paid equally because they do not contribute equally.

bmOC

I believe my statement is a truism.

-----------------------------------

4. If you'll forgive me for contradicting you, it rather sounds like you are acknowledging an "economic disparity," but that it is justified based on varying levels of contribution.

bmOC

That is the basis of the blue and white collar, but it doesn't reflect the wealthy. The wealthy don't work, they plot.

----------------------------

you wrote

5. I thank you for correcting me about the mechanism by which doctors and lawyers are protected by STATES, as opposed to the federal government, strictly speaking---as it pertains to direct foreign labor competition. However, as you seem to acknowledge, the larger point stands: The income of white collar professionals is protected from supply and demand in a way that is not afforded to blue collar, manual workers.

bmOC

Not all white collar workers are professionals licensed by the state. Many of the people that work in the high tech field, if not most of them are not licensed period. There are certifications within their industry, but they are not dependent on the government for their existence.

-----------------------

you wrote

Also, I must reiterate, that in 1997 the United States Congress did take action on behalf of doctors, in response to complaints from the American Medical Association and other doctors' organization, to tighten licensing requirements so that the inflow of foreign doctors would slow down drastically. My source on that is the online book by economist Dean Baker, as I referenced.

bmOC

This were the doctors competition, and they asked the federal government to protect their elite status. I don't find that doctors from foreign countries has lowered the medical quality standards. They are pretty low in the first place.

The basis of the doctors to their plea to the federal government had little to do with the quality or qualifications of foreign doctors, it was supply and demand. If there was a qualification issue, then it should have been broached in the state government. Each state has their own licensing agency.

-------------------

you wrote

6. You say that this is a democratic republic and not a commune; and for that reason people should be paid according to the level of contribution they make to the society; and that, in this regard, all workers are not created equal, so to speak. I wasn't arguing for strict equality of pay across all the boards. Actually, I wasn't recommending anything. I was responding to the original question about why there is such income inequality in the United States, to a degree which is unknown in other advanced capitalist countries like ours. I have tried to point to specific features of economic injustice, things that cannot be attributed to "market forces," necessarily.

bmOC

I believe that my statement is correct, and I don't understand your statement here. Maybe you can clarify how their is an economic injustice for different pay for different work.

-------------------

you wrote

7. You say that the real disparity is due to income tax systems. I have no quarrel with that; I'm sure that's true, as far as it goes. There are many diagnosable factors, in my opinion, that have resulted in the severe inequality we experience in the United States of America.

bmOC

At what level would they compare with Income Tax and politics?

Apparently, I don't understand your use of the word Diagnosis.

----------------------

you wrote

8. You say that the tax code cannot be used effectively by wage earners because they simply don't have enough wealth to utilize it. If we accept that direction of argument the question it raises is: Just why is it that wage earners do not have the sufficient wealth to utilize the tax code?

bmOC

The Internal Revenue Code was written by congress to allow the taxes to be avoided, deferred, or lessened, but it is only applicable if you have the kind of investments that they enumerate. This target group don't pay FICA because they don't earn wages, and those like upper management get wages, but they also get stock at below market price, and they get bonuses, and other perks that the average wage earner just doesn't get. Take a look at the IRC, and find where you can use these to reduce your tax liability.

In 1986, congress created another tax reform act, and that act took away most of the deductions that could be used by the blue collar, and the middle class white collar worker.

-----------------

you wrote

9. You say that billionaires are made because of investments and the Internal Revenue Code; here I think it would be slightly more accurate to say how their tax attorneys manipulate the tax code. You talk about how they can buy up piles of stock without paying very much tax on it.

bmOC

The Internal Revenue Code doesn't need manipulation, it has been geared to the rich, it only needs to be cited to get the tax advantage.

It is the middle class that needs the tax attorneys, and the clever CPA to reduce their taxes.

--------------------------------

you wrote

I think you should understand, bradmasterOCcal, that I am not proposing a politics of envy. Again, when I speak of "injustice," I am talking about how ordinary working people are being deprived of what they have coming to them, in a way that working people are not impeded from getting their due in any other advanced capitalist country like ours.

bmOC

And you reject my premise that the problem and the solution rely on the inequity of the Income Tax. What the wage earners of the middle class and below derive are from their employers. The employer sets there worth based on the need, and the supply and demand for these workers.

Unions get their members more pay for the same job as done by non union workers. In essence, the union workers are getting more pay and more benefits for the same non union jobs, because of the bargaining power of the unions with the employer. In this sense, the union workers are federally protected entities like those protected by state licensing agencies.

BTW, many trade workers make more that white collar workers, and even the licensed professional. Many of these trade have to be licensed by the state.

The inequity results because the federal, state, and local income tax reduces the amount of discretionary money of the workers.

--------------------------------------

you wrote

I have heard it said the US looks pretty much like any other advanced capitalist country like ours when you look at simple market outcomes. You have a job, you get paid, you use the money to buy stuff, fueling somebody else's employment, and so on... But where the US takes off radically from other countries like ours, is in the area of social policy.

bmOC

I disagree, and I don't know how social policy affects income taxes. Or what social policy.

One of the things I pointed to, for example, is the lax enforcement of antitrust laws that prevail in the United States. This is a matter of valuing economic freedom over economic justice because this state of affairs endows the big players with more than they deserve and withholds from the little guy a good part of his due.

And so on and so forth.

Listen, take care of yourself, and thank you so much for reading and remarking! :)


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 23 months ago from Orange County California

WingedCentaur

Thanks for the detailed response to my comment. The question of inequity of wealth has to be politics, and that was my point in my previous comment. I will address your response, which I appreciate that you provided for me.

You wrote

@bradmasterOCcal: .

1. First, let me say that this essay is in response to a question posed by ChristinS: Why is income inequality so high in the United States and what can we do about it?

bmOC

That was the premise of my comment

-----------------------------------

you wrote

2. This essay is basically a diagnostic exercise: How did we get here? I did my best to supply that.

bmOC

We just differ on the root cause, and my focus was on the 1913 amendment that created the Income Tax.

-------------------\

you wrote

3. You say that my essay is not an accurate reflection of the economic disparity in the US. But then you say that people should not be paid equally because they do not contribute equally.

bmOC

I believe my statement is a truism.

-----------------------------------

4. If you'll forgive me for contradicting you, it rather sounds like you are acknowledging an "economic disparity," but that it is justified based on varying levels of contribution.

bmOC

That is the basis of the blue and white collar, but it doesn't reflect the wealthy. The wealthy don't work, they plot.

----------------------------

you wrote

5. I thank you for correcting me about the mechanism by which doctors and lawyers are protected by STATES, as opposed to the federal government, strictly speaking---as it pertains to direct foreign labor competition. However, as you seem to acknowledge, the larger point stands: The income of white collar professionals is protected from supply and demand in a way that is not afforded to blue collar, manual workers.

bmOC

Not all white collar workers are professionals licensed by the state. Many of the people that work in the high tech field, if not most of them are not licensed period. There are certifications within their industry, but they are not dependent on the government for their existence.

-----------------------

you wrote

Also, I must reiterate, that in 1997 the United States Congress did take action on behalf of doctors, in response to complaints from the American Medical Association and other doctors' organization, to tighten licensing requirements so that the inflow of foreign doctors would slow down drastically. My source on that is the online book by economist Dean Baker, as I referenced.

bmOC

This were the doctors competition, and they asked the federal government to protect their elite status. I don't find that doctors from foreign countries has lowered the medical quality standards. They are pretty low in the first place.

The basis of the doctors to their plea to the federal government had little to do with the quality or qualifications of foreign doctors, it was supply and demand. If there was a qualification issue, then it should have been broached in the state government. Each state has their own licensing agency.

-------------------

you wrote

6. You say that this is a democratic republic and not a commune; and for that reason people should be paid according to the level of contribution they make to the society; and that, in this regard, all workers are not created equal, so to speak. I wasn't arguing for strict equality of pay across all the boards. Actually, I wasn't recommending anything. I was responding to the original question about why there is such income inequality in the United States, to a degree which is unknown in other advanced capitalist countries like ours. I have tried to point to specific features of economic injustice, things that cannot be attributed to "market forces," necessarily.

bmOC

I believe that my statement is correct, and I don't understand your statement here. Maybe you can clarify how there is an economic injustice for different pay for different work.

-------------------

you wrote

7. You say that the real disparity is due to income tax systems. I have no quarrel with that; I'm sure that's true, as far as it goes. There are many diagnosable factors, in my opinion, that have resulted in the severe inequality we experience in the United States of America.

bmOC

At what level would they compare with Income Tax and politics?

Apparently, I don't understand your use of the word Diagnosis.

----------------------

you wrote

8. You say that the tax code cannot be used effectively by wage earners because they simply don't have enough wealth to utilize it. If we accept that direction of argument the question it raises is: Just why is it that wage earners do not have the sufficient wealth to utilize the tax code?

bmOC

The Internal Revenue Code was written by congress to allow the taxes to be avoided, deferred, or lessened, but it is only applicable if you have the kind of investments that they enumerate. This target group don't pay FICA because they don't earn wages, and those like upper management get wages, but they also get stock at below market price, and they get bonuses, and other perks that the average wage earner just doesn't get. Take a look at the IRC, and find where you can use these to reduce your tax liability.

In 1986, congress created another tax reform act, and that act took away most of the deductions that could be used by the blue collar, and the middle class white collar worker.

-----------------

you wrote

9. You say that billionaires are made because of investments and the Internal Revenue Code; here I think it would be slightly more accurate to say how their tax attorneys manipulate the tax code. You talk about how they can buy up piles of stock without paying very much tax on it.

bmOC

The Internal Revenue Code doesn't need manipulation, it has been geared to the rich, it only needs to be cited to get the tax advantage.

It is the middle class that needs the tax attorneys, and the clever CPA to reduce their taxes.

--------------------------------

you wrote

I think you should understand, bradmasterOCcal, that I am not proposing a politics of envy. Again, when I speak of "injustice," I am talking about how ordinary working people are being deprived of what they have coming to them, in a way that working people are not impeded from getting their due in any other advanced capitalist country like ours.

bmOC

And you reject my premise that the problem and the solution rely on the inequity of the Income Tax. What the wage earners of the middle class and below derive are from their employers. The employer sets there worth based on the need, and the supply and demand for these workers.

Unions get their members more pay for the same job as done by non union workers. In essence, the union workers are getting more pay and more benefits for the same non union jobs, because of the bargaining power of the unions with the employer. In this sense, the union workers are federally protected entities like those protected by state licensing agencies.

BTW, many trade workers make more that white collar workers, and even the licensed professional. Many of these trade have to be licensed by the state.

The inequity results because the federal, state, and local income tax reduces the amount of discretionary money of the workers.

--------------------------------------

you wrote

I have heard it said the US looks pretty much like any other advanced capitalist country like ours when you look at simple market outcomes. You have a job, you get paid, you use the money to buy stuff, fueling somebody else's employment, and so on... But where the US takes off radically from other countries like ours, is in the area of social policy.

bmOC

I disagree, and I don't know how social policy affects income taxes. Or what social policy.

One of the things I pointed to, for example, is the lax enforcement of antitrust laws that prevail in the United States. This is a matter of valuing economic freedom over economic justice because this state of affairs endows the big players with more than they deserve and withholds from the little guy a good part of his due.

And so on and so forth.

Listen, take care of yourself, and thank you so much for reading and remarking! :)


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@TheBizWhiz: Thank you so much for the kind compliment. I take a sort of double inspiration from it because you say that you do not agree with everything I wrote, yet you were generous enough to say that the essay was well written and well thought out.

Thank you so much. :)


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@bradmasterOCcal: Good Day to you and thank you for responding back. Let me have a day or two to think about what you've written and formulate a response, won't you? I'll get back to you ASAP.

Thanks.


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 23 months ago from Orange County California

WingedCentaur

That is a great idea, and this is an exchange of ideas. So I appreciate this extra effort on your part to continue the exchange.

Thanks


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@bradmasterOCcal: Cool! I'll get back to you.

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