Bill Schubart: Economic growth or strong families and communities?

Rural Development Caucus House members listen to tehn-Lt. Governor David Zuckerman speaks during a rural economy hearing at the Statehouse in December 2019. Photo by Justin Trombly / VTDigger

Robert Kennedy said in a 1968 speech at the University of Kansas: “Yet gross national product does not support the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of playing. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

“He does not measure our spirit or our courage, nor our wisdom nor our knowledge, nor our compassion nor our devotion to our country. He measures everything, in short, except what makes life worthwhile.

Is economic growth in and of itself the only answer to all of our problems, or is it time to forge equitable economic policies that allow everyone to access the opportunities offered by economic growth?

We know that the world’s natural resources are finite. We can keep increasing the money supply – “monetary easing” to be polite, or “printing money” to be blunt – but is increasing the money supply an appropriate solution to the well-being of people and communities if the resources themselves are limited? What is all this money going to buy?

The chasm of the world’s wealth comes back to our families often, for example, when the BBC Evening News reported that the former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul with some $ 150 million in cash while children starved to death in nearby field hospitals.

The combined assets of Jeff Bezos, Elon musk, Bernard Arnault, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg exceed $ 1,000 billion. Ten percent of that amount could avert famine in the Middle East for a year as the world rearranges its priorities to value human life.

Most conservative economists finally recognize that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher “spillover economyThe 1980s failed in a world where wealth disparity is at an all time high, when at least 10 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $ 2 a day and 1.3 billion (out of 7.8 billion) people in the world are multidimensionally poor, according to the United Nations Development Program. During this time, the world’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people.

Here at home, over half a million Americans, including children, were homeless Last year, a tenth of Americans have experienced a food shortage, and 3.3 million lived in poverty.

What metrics really matter?

So when does the accumulation of wealth shift from an innate responsibility for the well-being of family, friends, and community to a boundless, manic (largely male) obsession (with apologies? To Josh hawley)?

Is there a point beyond which the accumulation of wealth deprives others of opportunities or even the ability to survive? If the world’s wealth is limited, how do you ensure equality of opportunity or survival in a winner-takes-all game?

We are at a point in our history when we need to reassess the relevance of economic indicators like stock market figures and change real measures of human well-being. There are alternative and more specific measures, such as home ownership; low student debt; decrease in suicide, drug overdoses, obesity and incarceration; and similar measures for access to affordable food, education, child care and health care.

Imagine on the evening news if the major stock indexes – Dow Jones, S&P and NASDAQ – were replaced by human wellbeing indicators and local news reported the Vermont Results as Defined by Law 186 in real time.

What if we measured the well-being of people instead of showing the ups and downs of the fortunes of the lucky few?

Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative focuses on human infrastructure, such as minimum paid family leave, full-time childcare, support for higher education and retraining costs, and higher education costs. ubiquitous flow. These measures are a step in the right direction, but will they be undone by the very people they are meant to benefit from?

What would $ 400 billion finance?

As long as the infinite accumulation of wealth is permitted, if not encouraged, by both political parties, the taxation of such wealth will continue to be discouraged or camouflaged in the 2,650 page US tax code which, under pressure from lobbyists, changed 4,680 times between 2001 and 2012 – an average of once a day.

By far the most effective anti-tax strategy has been to “starve the beast” by simply not funding the Internal Revenue Service to enable it to hire the accountants and auditors it needs to assess and collect. the part of the government as defined by the existing code. .

In a recent Washington Post Editorial, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, advocated for just resources to collect existing taxes due and payable. With fewer auditors than at any time since World War II, the agency now audits 60% fewer taxpayers with annual income over $ 1 million and leaves 15% of taxes owed uncollected.

An adequately resourced IRS, without changes to the tax code, would allow the agency to collect an additional $ 400 billion each year, in taxes due but not collected.

How many proposed indicators of social welfare would fund $ 400 billion? Proposal Billionaires tax The proposal would almost entirely fund the “human infrastructure” proposal that seems doomed to fail in this Congress.

Under the plan, companies making at least $ 1 billion in profits – around 200 publicly traded companies – would no longer be able to completely escape income tax. The 15% minimum tax would also bring the United States into line with the standard recently set by the International Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to try to eradicate tax havens.

At the national and local levels, we need to seriously consider revising the conservative tax and regulatory bobos. Both are an integral part of a functioning society and of shared economic opportunities.

I have spent most of my life building businesses. I chaired the Vermont Business Roundtable, and I have rightly complained about anomalies, vagueness and inequalities in the tax code and the tendency of certain regulations to micromanage my business rather than helping me run it towards positive socio-economic outcomes.

As a former founder and corporate champion, I can tell you stories, but that doesn’t mean I’m against taxation or regulation. Businesses need clear rules of the road. We also need the government to do work that we cannot do on our own.

We also need to be clear about philanthropy. It can be a godsend or a manipulative strategy of the global elite to bring down government.

Racial supremacists scoff at the theory of “displacement”, that is, the integration of other races and religions into our molten society.

The other meaning of “displacement” refers to the use of selfish philanthropic initiatives to shift and reduce the government’s focus – the idea that businesses can do a better job at managing national defense, mail delivery, interstate travel, energy and telecommunications networks, and schools.

If only massively wealthy philanthropists managed our national resources, they would achieve their goal of withering government, replacing the interests and needs of the many with the will of the few.

In his bestselling book “The winners win it all: the elite charade to change the world,”American author and journalist Anand Giridharadas writes that members of the global elite camouflage their efforts by being donors to many charities and cultural institutions precisely to preserve the very systems that keep them rich.

Let us perpetuate fair trade opportunities, but also recognize that the concentration of wealth among less and less and the commensurate increase in abject poverty and the middle class will be the downfall of our country.

The relative well-being of all Americans is integral to the well-being of our republic.

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