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From Chapter 8: Economic Reform
…Kennickell’s research starkly demonstrates the inequities of the modern class system. He found that the top decile of the wealth distribution owns 69.5% of the country’s total aggregate wealth; and that more than a third of the total is owned by the very top percentile alone. The group consisting of the two quintiles between the 90th percentile and the median (arguably the “middle class”) owns just less than 28% of the total. But the bottom half of the wealth distribution (from the median down to zero) have a net worth that is equivalent to 2.5% of the combined net worth of the total population.
The astute reader will note that “percentile” is a ranking, whereas “percentage” is a measure of proportionality. Thus the top percentile of the wealth distribution consists of far less than 1% of the total population.
The Internal Revenue Service makes public certain statistical data which is useful for correlating population demographics with class divisions.
In 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, 49.5% of all income tax filers reported an adjusted gross income of less than $30,000. This would seem to correlate closely with the bottom half of the wealth distribution as calculated by Kennickell. Thus the IRS data supports the hypothesis that the “lower class” does include fully half of the American population. One might further postulate that this group is even larger, for individuals who earned no taxable income are not required to file.
Moving upward, it does not seem logical to lump a person who earns $35,000 a year into the same class as a person who makes $150,000 a year; so, here I have somewhat arbitrarily divided the “middle class” into the lower-middle, with incomes between $30,000 to $75,000, a group which includes 31.9% of all filers; and the upper-middle, with incomes between $75,000 to $200,000, a group which includes 15.8% of all filers.
This leaves an “upper class” with fiscal year 2005 adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000; these filers constitute approximately 2.6% of the total. Within this upper class, most earned less than $1 million. Only 0.2%, two-tenths of a percent of all income tax filers made more than a million dollars; and a tiny 0.01%, one one-hundredth of one percent, of all filers brought in more than $10 million.
From Chapter 7: Government Reform
There are a number of reasons why the present elections system in the United States is undemocratic: it allows certain groups and individuals undue influence over the outcome of elections through campaign financing mechanisms and party politics; Presidential elections are not conducted on the basic democratic principle that each person gets one vote and the majority wins; and unresolved questions remain about the reliability of computerized voting machines.
But the first thing, the most important thing that must be done in order to reform the government, is to get the money out of politics.
Presently, what should be called “bribery” is instead commonly discussed in terms of “campaign contributions by special interest lobbyists.” Government corruption has become an accepted part of the system, freely discussed by the media without a whiff of scandal, because everyone is so used to the idea that this is how things are done.
It is standard practice. Major corporations and industries employ “lobbyists” who work full-time to influence government legislation. They shower politicians with millions of dollars in campaign contributions, and gifts, and dossiers, and free lunches, and airplane tickets, and paid vacations, and propagandist “informational” packets, and back-room requests for certain political favors. Elected politicians, in exchange, do the bidding of the lobbyists, instead of representing the interests of their own constituents.
This is an outrage. No one should be able to purchase political influence. A truly democratic system would prohibit such undemocratic activities.
Our nation’s Supreme Court and political insiders have chosen to put forth the claim that the current political process, whereby campaigns are funded by massive donations from corporations funneled through special interest lobbyists, is a form of free speech, and therefore protected by the Constitution.
Their assertion is spurious, and motivated exclusively by the tacit agenda of empowering the aristocracy at the expense of the principles of democracy.
In a country founded on the principle that all people are equal in the eyes of the law, nothing can be more fundamental than the basic idea that each individual’s influence on the government should likewise be equal.
From Chapter 5: Promoting Health and Prosperity
In current public debate, the opponents of public health care never fail to mention that there are sometimes waiting lists for certain health services in other countries with public health care systems. Never do they mention that trauma patients must already wait several hours for emergency care in many underserved American hospitals. Never do they mention that the economics of health care in America excludes millions from the system.
It is defeatist to say, “We should not try to improve our system because there are problems with someone else’s system.” That is not a positive, winning attitude. Instead we must acknowledge our own faults as well as those of our neighbors, learn from those mistakes, and move on to create a new system, perhaps the best one devised so far.
The insurance system is the problem: it costs too much, and it provides too little care to too few people. The single-payer system, where a portion of all tax revenues is paid into a health care fund which in turn covers the operating costs of the health care system as a whole, is part of the solution. Re-instating the ban on advertising prescription drugs, which was lifted in the mid-1990’s and which is strictly enforced in many other developed nations, would help to decrease pharmaceutical costs and unnecessary prescriptions.
In the 2007-2008 campaign cycle, several Democratic presidential hopefuls floated health care reform proposals which are similar to a new state law in Massachusetts in several important respects. These proposals pretend to look like universal health care, but they are not. The proposed reform makes health insurance mandatory: it would require every American, by law, to give money to insurance companies. Such a disastrous policy would no doubt be extremely popular among insurance executives, who would be generously rewarded for their failures by such a proposal. These are the ideas you get in a country where campaigns are financed by lobbyists.
The idea of mandatory health insurance completely misses the point. Our health care system has been destroyed by the insurance industry. We cannot look to the insurance industry to fix the problems they have caused. Instead we must make a new system.
Health care, including preventative medicine, should be free of charge for all Americans.