Let’s talk wealth distribution.
Recently, I watched Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream (click to watch), a point-of-view film by Alex Gibney. The description of the film on the PBS website is as follows:
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) presents his take on the gap between rich and poor Americans in Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream. Gibney contends that America’s richest citizens have “rigged the game in their favor,” and created unprecedented inequality in the United States.
I’m still developing my knowledge and forming my thoughts on poverty, politics and economics. I have a lot to learn, so what better way than to start a conversation?
These next days, I want to start searching for answers about the issues surrounding poverty. My goal isn’t to get solutions, though they may be there. It is not to persuade or be persuaded, although that may happen. It’s not to nail down ideology at the expense of gathering knowledge, or vice versa. It is to get understanding and to arrive a place where we can start agreeing on principles, facts and values. Some of this will be subjective and we will disagree, but I hope we end up disagreeing on the things that make us who we are, and not on the things that can be debunked or the things that cause us to react with irrational or unreasonable fear. Any thoughts I arrive at or express are, as my “Posts” page states, subject to change. Views publicized do not necessarily imply endorsement.
As would be fitting a conversation, I want to structure my approach as a response to my pastor’s original post.
Pastor Tim writes that Washington must “… collaboratively attack the deficit and debt problems, as well as work to repair the currently unhealthy wealth imbalance.” He suggests that Washington might pursue actions such as:
- Reduce the size of our Defense spending to no more than 2-3 times that of the second largest defense spender (China).
- Raise tax revenue, primarily from corporations and the very wealthy. While doing this, make the tax code fairer (close lots of loopholes).
- Restructure Medicare.
- Restructure Social Security.
- Continue to strategically invest in future technologies.
He goes on to suggest what policymakers and citizens alike should do.
- Actively encourage teachers and students to higher levels of achievement, especially in STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
- Encourage healthy 2-parent families. This is crucial part to rebuilding the middle class and to improving our students’ academic performance.
- Work to increase the education of males in comparison to females. The politics of the past few decades has successfully improved the education and career status of women, but now the men have fallen behind.
- Encourage our smartest entrepreneurs to develop ways to rebuild middle-class jobs. Several are currently working on this problem, but more is needed until we see a healthy middle-class revival.
Therefore, as follows are the issues I will explore, along with the questions I have to ask.
Defense spending. How much do we need to spend? How much are we spending? Why are we spending what we are spending? Toward what does most of our spending go? In which countries are we intervening militarily? Why? Should we be intervening to the extent that we are? In what ways is intervention appropriate?
Taxation. What’s going wrong with our tax code? What’s going right? Who wins and who loses? Why are people opposed to certain taxes? What taxes do people support? What tax credits are gained at the expense of others? Who are the “others” that lose in order for others to win? How do taxes provide incentive or disincentive for individuals?
Medicare. How should Medicare be restructured? Where is the bulk of the spending in Medicare going? How is the Affordable Care Act already impacting Medicare? What proposals for Medicare reform are on the table? What is worth criticizing in each proposal? Why are we considering Medicare reform? Who are the powerful voices that are influencing Medicare reform? Whose voices are not being heard? How are decisions about Medicare impacting those without voice or with quieter/quieted voice?
Social Security. How should Social Security be restructured? Which populations does Social Security impact the most? On what is Social Security being spent? How are concepts of intergenerational justice/fairness impacting the rhetoric around Social Security? How has thought regarding Social Security shifted over the years? Why have thoughts on Social Security changed? What is working and not working about Social Security today? How does the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) formulation impact Social Security? How does the Federal Poverty Line formulation influence Social Security? How does longevity and retirement age impact Social Security’s sustainability?
Education and STEM curriculum. Why is the US lagging behind other countries? In what areas are we lagging? What states, cities and regions are lagging, and why? What conditions preclude educational success? What are factors that contribute to strong STEM curriculum? What is at work in the gender disparity in STEM achievement? How can we encourage girls to pursue STEM studies and careers? Why should we encourage girls to pursue STEM?
Family. What family structures are conducive to children’s educational attainment, parental saving behaviors and wealth accumulation? Why? How do these structures differ by socioeconomic status? What is the “marriage industrial complex?” How does community play a role in child rearing and education? What is the role of older adults in community and family today? What workplace policies are necessary to support caregivers of dependents, ranging from children to people who are disabled to older adults?
Career and Demographics. What populations are disproportionately impacted by unemployment and underemployment? How do genders differ when it comes to career selection? Are men falling behind women and why? Is gender the primary lens through which we should assess employment and educational success? How does career selection impact regional economies? What is the role of local government in creating incentives for corporations and regulating business activity?
Jobs and entrepreneurship. What are the characteristics of sectors, companies and individuals who create the most jobs? Where do we find the most job satisfaction? What are trends in employee benefits and why do these trends exist now? How are social entrepreneurs meeting the needs of their communities? In what ways are sectors, companies and individuals creating jobs for people who have low to moderate incomes, with lower levels of educational attainment and fewer job skills? In what ways are organizations and individuals preparing individuals for work? How are job readiness programs impacting those who are homeless? Disabled? Older? Former prison inmates? How do visa restrictions and citizenship policies impact immigrant work status?
Phew, that’s a lot! Have questions to add? Have answers to give? Got people you think I should interview, or books and articles I should read? Please post a comment! I would love to hear from you!