2016 and the income inequality debate

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

Perhaps the thing that is evolving as the most unusual element at this early stage of the 2016 Presidential race has to do with the central or dominant theme that will be debated with the greatest vigor during the coming campaign. While such issues as which war do we leap into in the Middle East, the immigration debacle, same sex marriage and the future of health care in the United States are sure to soak up ample discussion time, many pundits spread across the liberal to conservative spectrum are increasingly mentioning one issue as having the potential to dominate the debate. That issue has come to be known simply as “income inequality”.
Sit back for a moment and let that thought sink in. From the first time I heard the mention of this term in the context of modern day American politics, it occurred to this writer that perhaps a different choice of words might be in order. Alas, income inequality seems to have burrowed too deeply into the current political lexicon as a topic to be debated and indeed, depending on one’s position, a central reason for one’s voting preference.
The breadth of concern over this topic spread as it is over a goodly number of Democrats and Republicans alike is clear evidence that the once taboo issue of mal distribution of wealth is now fair game for contesting and winning and losing elections. Dare I say it brings to mind the research and writings of the reviled Karl Marx who spent the better part of his career in the library in London pouring over the wage and hour records of the day describing the labor of the industrial revolution. Marx’s single minded mission was to analyze labor and its relationship to the formation of capital. He sought to prove what he viewed as a great imbalance between increasingly wealthy captains of industry and the laborers who created the wealth by the sweat of their brows. While once the stuff of ever more distant history, by virtue of Marx’s writings we are left with reasoning and terminology that is sounding astoundingly familiar today.
Occupy Wall Street brought sentiments to the public stage in the form of mass protests over what supporters described in various terms as financial greed flowing forth from the apex of corporate America. Also, the Democrats are raving over the candidacy of Independent-Socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, Democrats continue to salivate over even the remotest possibility that Massachusetts Senior Senator Elizabeth Warren would join Sanders to challenge Hillary Clinton. Senator Warren gained fame for her insightful and unrelenting attacks on what she labels as Wall Street excesses at the expense of Main Street consumers.
See part two in next week’s edition of the Item.

By Dr. Marty Wiseman

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