The United States is indisputably the strongest economy in the world. With the one of highest gross domestic product of any nation, the quality of life for each citizen should be astounding. Why is it then, that there are still people suffering from starvation, poverty and discrimination? The answer lies within the idea of “trickle-down economics,” and the economic policies which have been created tostrengthen it in the United States.
Trickle-down economics is the concept of giving to those at the top, allowing the wealth to make its way further down the class hierarchy until it elevates even those at the bottom. This may seem like a good idea in concept; however, in practice, it has only led to the wedges between the upper class, middle and lower classes. The ideals of trickle down economics are best summed up by Andrew Carnegie in saying, “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” However, in practice, there is a much harsher reality we must face.
For example, a 2014 study by the Economic Policy Institute reveals that CEOs make nearly 300 times more than the average employee. This inequity is generally attributed to the idea that CEOs are then able to then spend this money on other community projects for the betterment of all people. Despite that 300-fold pay differential on average, the US Census Bureau reports 45 million Americans still live below the poverty line.
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The simple fact is that the majority of the rich in the United States have turned their attention away from helping the downtrodden, and instead focus on maintaining their own wealth. Take, for example, the following statistic from the Center for Responsive Politics, which states that of Congress’ 534 members, 268 had an average net worth of over $1 million. It should then be no surprise then that the Senate Joint Committee on Taxation reported president Bush’s tax cuts in 2004 made income taxes the lowest they had been in nearly 60 years.
Even more recently was the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, allowing corporations to donate as much money they’d like to the candidate of their choosing, assumedly one who would help keep economic legislature focused around the nearly ubiquitous benefits oftrickle-down economics. We as a nation have tried the theory of trickle-down economics, and it has not worked for 99% of us. Income inequality in the nation has become so ludicrous that Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in the world, noted that his secretary paid two times more as a percentage of her taxes than Mr. Buffett does himself. He then says in the same interview with ABC, “I have never had it so good. We were told a rising tide would lift all boats, but the rising tide has lifted all yachts.”
I believe that one of the framers of the Constitution put it best. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Joseph Milligan, states “The overgrown wealth of an individual may be deemed dangerous to the state.” Trickle-down legislation and rulings like Citizens United are leading toexactly that. We have reached the point where the overgrown wealth of not one, but many individuals, is no longer a mere threat to the state, but is and has been actively killing American democracy.