National Inequality Snapshot (1941–2016) – Chapter 3/3

Virtuous Cycle Metrics Will Combat Today’s Structural Inequalities Once Unleashed

The first two chapters in this three-part series, a National Inequality Snapshot (1941–2016), looked at America’s political, economic, demographic, generational and racial divides over the past 75 years. Clearly, inequality-drenched economic graffiti on America’s main street-commons civic wall is producing rising medical costs for those with no recourse, actuarial tables according to economic caste, inner city civil unrest and unleashing a national political vocabulary marked by demagoguery, negativism and bigotry. Economic class racism in America is no longer just centered on the clash of different skin colors provoking violence and re-marginalization, but now is painfully visible through widespread lifestyle predestination, religious scapegoating and a massive indebting of an entire generation (Y) before it turns 30 (e.g. Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap – Paul Kiel).

Progressive politicians, activist nonprofits, corporations, consultants, churches, unions and governments have not stood by idly. Millions upon untold millions of socially conscious dollars have been raised, budgeted and expended to halt relative poverty in its tracks by placing band-aide formula-dams in the middle of raging inequality oceans. At the very best, some egregious toxic outcomes have been diverted from new victims. Some have not as Katrina in New Orleans and the Flint, Michigan water crisis painfully illustrate. Occasionally, one-off solution sets struggle for take-off to inspire and showcase pathways to prosperity. We rejoice in the story but do not grasp the slog and ecosystem requirements needed to replicate and scale.

At the more normal worst and repetitive status quo, mindlessly echoing the “same-old, same-old” formulas in the face of rising social tension and rejection serves to compound existing inequality deficits. Doubling down on Americans still hoping to rise, “born free yet everywhere in chains” without changing basic power and economic equations is like believing in God because “when we pray to him we find we’re talking to ourselves.”

Stubborn inequality statistics, especially for underserved populations of color throughout the United States (no geography spared) prove this point (e.g. Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing – NYT – Sabrina Tavernise). The unequal tired and poor huddled masses yearning to better themselves, ourselves, are losing ground across the spectrum (mobility, opportunity, income, education and health) and live shorter and more miserable lives.

Through multiple trials, regrettable errors and infrequent sustaining successes, America’s Poverty Elimination Complex (government programs, private foundations and a growing menu of would-be enabling “philanthropic capitalism” practices) has come to appreciate that only organically conceived and nurtured ecosystems can outlast and out-swim changing, rising and falling tides of top-down-delivered good intentions. Underserved populations embedded in stubborn failure metrics struggle against the privileged preconception that “inequality on this scale is an unavoidable condition of the free-market system” (Why Giving Back Isn’t Enough – NYT – Darren Walker,).

Concurrently, neither deliberately underfunded regulatory branches of the U.S. government, a still mostly independent media but one with increased corporatist ownership, determined academic researchers often starved for the statistics that matter, progressive political campaigners nor activist nonprofits can keep pace with what’s about to come, to say nothing of what’s already happened. Entrenched privilege too skillfully funds “dark pool” policy, advocacy, political and social networks to purchase elections, enshrine, embed and enhance the “United States of Oligopoly.” (Here is merely the latest in an unending string, similar to daily bank scandals, of teachable examples: The Koch Brothers’ Dirty War on Solar Power).

Princeton professor, Martin Gilens, and co-author, Benjamin Page, have concluded (summarized here) that “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.” What this means is that the endless voting caucuses, town halls, convention speeches and political retailing represent an unconscious political sham. Everybody gets to meet and press the candidates’ flesh even to the point of media-recorded endless loop hugging. Parables masquerading as authentic stories from the heartland pepper both victory and concession speeches. Meanwhile, America’s public policy meter barely moves in those directions to the point where campaign stories either have to rise to new tragic heights to be deemed newsworthy or become almost predictive and therefore listened to but ignored.

Stated more starkly, policies “supported by economic elites and business lobbies became law between 60 and 70 percent of the time.” Depressingly, policies supported by a majority of all voters such as enhanced background checks for gun sales, climate change, repeal of the unequal carried interest tax advantage, and progressive immigration reform were enacted just 30 percent of the time, if at all. The fundamental American democratic construct of “one worker, one vote” is losing out to the oligarchic construct of “one dollar, one vote” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that has untethered bundling dollars so that American oligarchs can secure a majority of votes by purchasing them (e.g. For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions by Noam Scheiber and Patricia Cohen; The Corporate Tax Dodge Continues  – NYT Editorial Board).

Not at all surprising, 2016 primary campaign results to date suggest that combining sizeable Left-Right majorities of disgruntled, disenfranchised, “throw the bums out” voters represents potential upheaval to established economic and political order. Is it a “political revolution” as Senator Sanders announces from his daily media pulpit or does America possess the tools at hand for an evolution-revolution by doubling down on aspirational “ownership for all” policies where gradual changes produce major impacts?

To prove more of the latter, the 1worker1vote inequality-defeating ecosystem approach converts predatory to virtuous capitalism practices starting first and foremost with proven hybrid models that allow for widespread and deepening one-worker-one-vote ownership backed up by a devotion to single class equity businesses. This, together with the inclusion of a progressive collective bargaining agreement, guarantees workplace and hosting community solidarity practices and culture providing “structures of solutions, like giving itself.” There is a peaceful, inclusive, earned merit, bootstrapping and self-reliant pathway to vastly increased civic equity that can be open to all and which will upwardly transform America’s current inequality-inflicting power equations. Revolutionary in outcome while evolutionary in process.

Emerging “doing well by doing good” marketplace characteristics show that virtuous capitalism requires broad-based ownership to improve local societal realities, to create value and share it differently. Virtuous capitalism is operationally comfortable in and with inherent owner-worker tensions, the fundamental conflict lodged within each worker-owner constantly pursuing today’s wages versus tomorrow’s equity, and can prove that only the right to full ownership immersion produces freedom’s finest reinventing competitive, competent and egalitarian expression.

Virtuous capitalism ensures value through voluntary sharing (as opposed to predatory “gig” economy involuntary sharing) with more limited differences in salaries because it makes economic sense, investing in where corporations operate (cities, regions, countries, people) to equate stakeholders with shareholders through progressive policies that eclectically optimize competitive but also sustainable culture (work ethic, social acceptance and sharing, local capital development and promotion, and full participant democratic institutions, social transformation).

Incentivizing workers as owners in “doing well by doing good” projects and companies reflects core American values of self-reliance, community solidarity and equal opportunity reinforced by ownership principles and practices as ineluctable components of the historical American Dream’s original civic promise. Research has shown that positive employee and company performance over time correlates directly to high impact management participation on all levels by worker owners combined with the broadest possible equity distribution among workers and the largest possible emphasis on worker education and training. Employees with some form of worker ownership accumulate more savings than employees in non-participating firms, firms with some form of capital sharing perform better in the competitive marketplace than those without, and workers with profit sharing or employee stock ownership and stock purchase plans are higher paid and have more benefits than other workers.

It appears that the new formula for American private sector competitiveness is staring the country in its face. Now is the time to transform inequality graffiti into a more equal societal script for an America commensurate with and even exceeding its founding principles starting with full, uplifting assimilation of underserved communities, those left outside of the nation’s ownership quadrant that want and must claim an equal seat at the national table if the country is to rise above the democracy-destroying inequalities of our time.