10 Steps to Break Up the Wealth of the Super Rich
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The following is an excerpt from 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It , by Chuck Collins (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).
We must change the rules of the economy so that they serve and lift up the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent. Starting in the mid-1970s, the rules were changed to reorient the economy toward the short-term interests of the 1 percent. We can shift and reverse the rules to work for everyone.
Three Types of Rule Changes
There are three categories of policy changes that we need: rules and policies that raise the floor, those that level the playing field, and those that break up overconcentrations of wealth and corporate power. These are not hard-and-fast categories, but a useful framework for grouping different rule changes.
1.Rule changes that raise the floor
• Ensure the minimum wage is a living wage
• Provide universal health care
• Enforce basic labor standards and protections
2. Rule changes that level the playing field
• Invest in eduction
• Reduce the influence of money in politics
• Implement fair trade rules
3. Rule changes that break up wealth and power
• Tax the 1 percent
• Rein in CEO pay
• Stop corporate tax dodging
• Reclaim our financial system
• Reengineer the corporation
• Redesign the tax revenue system
Rule Changes That Raise the Floor
Policies that raise the floor reduce poverty and establish a fundamental minimum standard of decency that no one will fall below. The Nordic countries—Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland—have very low levels of inequality, and they are also societies with strong social safety nets and policies that raise the floor.
One-third of people in the United States have no paid sick days, and one-half have no paid vacation days. Everyone deserves the right to take time off when sick and have a few weeks of vacation each year. In the rest of the developed world, these are considered basic human rights.
Examples of rule changes include:
Ensure the Minimum Wage Is a Living Wage. The minimum wage has lagged behind rising basic living expenses in housing, health care, transportation, and child care.
Provide Universal Health Care. Expand health coverage so that every child and adult has a minimum level of decent health care. No one should become sick or destitute because of lack of access to health care.
Enforce Basic Labor Standards and Protections. Ensuring basic worker rights and standards can lift up the bottom 20 percent of workers who are particularly exploited and disadvantaged in the current system. These rule changes include the forty-hour workweek, minimum vacation and family medical leave, sick leave, and protections against wage theft. Such rules contribute to a more humane society for everyone.
Rule Changes That Level the Playing Field
Policies and rule changes that level the playing field eliminate the unfair wealth and power advantages that flow to the 1 percent. Examples include:
Invest in Education. In the current global economy, disparities in education reinforce and contribute to inequality trends. Public investment in education is one of the most important interventions we can make to reduce inequality over time. “Widespread education has become the secret to growth,” writes World Bank economist Branko Milanovic. “And broadly accessible education is difficult to achieve unless a society has a relatively even income distribution.”
Reduce the Influence of Money in Politics. Through various campaign finance reforms—including public financing of elections—we can reduce the nexus between gigantic wealth and political influence. Reforms include limits to campaign contributions, a ban on corporate contributions and influence, and a requirement for timely disclosure of donations.