BY NATHAN COSBY
Recently there has been much talk about whether the U.S. is still a democracy or whether we have shifted to being an oligarchy. This is an interesting idea because it assumes that at some point the U.S. was a true democracy, a narrative started by America’s first oligarchs.
This issue focuses on wealth inequality. President Obama has declared it time to lessen the gap between America’s haves and have-nots. His way of closing this gap is raising minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for all federally contracted employees.
My perspective on this is relevant because I make 60 cents an hour less than the Obama increase. Maybe if Gov. Mary Fallin were living on my budget she would act differently.
We need a culture change in America if we are going to actually close the gap between the rich and poor. Small businesses claim they will have to close their doors if minimum wage is raised but I am not so quick to believe them.
Small businesses in America today, speaking from personal experience, do everything they can to dodge programs set up to help the lower classes. They call 32 hours a week “full-time,” they keep the perfect number of employees to navigate loopholes and, worst of all, they care more for their wallets than their employees. This is what I see as the epitome of American small business.
This is the problem with wealth inequality in America that raising the minimum wage will not fix. Business owners – those so revered by our politicians – want to keep all of the profit. They are not concerned with their employees paying rent, or being able to afford a doctor’s visit or – god-forbid – being able to save money for tomorrow. [Yes, some of this involves personal fiscal responsibility, but how far can you stretch $600 a month?]
Now let’s get back to the oligarchy question: Sheldon Adelson has never held public office, officially, but this year high-ranking GOP leaders made a pilgrimage to Las Vegas to make their case for his money.
In 2012 Adelson covered his bases after giving millions to Newt Gingrich in primary season; he repeated his efforts with Mitt Romney during the actual race. This was a crucial moment in American history because the American people watched as a billionaire “contributed” to the campaign of a lowly multi-millionaire.
Romney represents exactly what is wrong with America. As has been proved repeatedly, Trickle Down Economics does not work. Other than the loaded Social Darwinian rhetoric, it is a great theory. The problem is wealth trickles more like molasses than rain.
“The Great Compression” was the greatest economic period in American history. LBJ’s policies legitimized the middle class and made it possible for the “American Dream” to flourish. So Americans did just that – flourished.
We made it to the moon and everyone owned a car, we went on vacations and traveled the world. College became a reality for thousands of young Americans. Average people were able to start their own businesses and – for the first time in American history – those at the bottom of the economic spectrum were actually given a fair shake. This middle class allowed men like Barack Obama to have a pathway to the presidency.
Today, without our safety net over half of the American population would be living in poverty – in the richest nation on the planet.
So where are we now?
After the federal government bought the debt of America’s largest industries, many people went back to work and new jobs were created. Then CEO’s gave themselves bonuses – lots of them.
In the past they may have gotten away with this but in the media age, we watched as they prospered. They gave themselves millions of dollars while their workers’ wages stayed the same. The rich continue to prosper, and wages stay the same. If American wages were a body of water, it would not be safe to drink.
The worst part about this is that the wealthy also spin a narrative of work ethic that has torn America in two. “Poor people are lazy” is what they want us to think, and many people were caught hook line and sinker by this idea. Welfare became the new four-letter word and “takers” became an anthem for wealthy Republicans. This is 100% false.
I do not think America needs an economic revolution but I do think that it is time to destroy the 1% narrative. The “takers” in our society are those who dodge taxes; the “takers” in our society are those who fear-monger; the “takers” in our society are those who write their own bonus checks.
Now, this might seem extreme but I assure you, it is not: We – Mitt Romney’s 47% – want to work, we want to be successful, we want to improve, we want to prove our worth. We do not want to be “takers” or moochers.
We do not want to take hand-outs, and we will not be called lazy anymore.
– Nathan Cosby is a recent University of Oklahoma graduate [history] living in Norman