Rollie Atkinson Column Photo

Rollie Atkinson

The California Primary, when we make our first votes for the next U.S. president, is still seven months away. But there are real events happening right now that we should remember when we walk into the voting booth in March 2020. Most of these have to do with our economy and how much a single person in the presidential office can influence even some of our most local financial situations. Our paychecks, taxes, retirement plans, school funding, SMART train grants, health care costs, gas prices and even who’s face is on the $20 bill can — and are — being impacted by a stroke of a pen by the man or woman we put in the White House. That is an awesome, as in scary, thought.

Right now, President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs against China, if actually enacted, will cost each of our households $1,000 to $1,500 in added annual expenses, according to JP Morgan Chase. Candidate Bernie Sanders’ $16.3 trillion plan to fight climate change will have to come out of somebody’s pocketbook. And, we already know that the 2017 GOP tax cut didn’t pay for itself as promised. In fact, it is contributing mightily to our fast-growing national debt that is now over $22 trillion.

All of our presidential candidates come March will be doing lots of talking about the economy. Most Democrats will say the “sky is falling” and a Trump recession is coming our way. The incumbent in the White House will have no choice but to “pump up” the more positive numbers of low unemployment, corporate earnings and Wall Street stock dividends. But campaign season talk is one thing; actually making policy changes or major fixes to our flawed economy is another.

What are the real pocketbook issues of the 2020 presidential election? Besides just money and stock market trends, what are some other fiscal topics we’d like our next president to address? How about income inequality, infrastructure repairs, drug price controls, affordable housing, living wages and a reduction of childhood poverty.

Despite mutters about a pending recession, we are still in the midst of the longest U.S. economic expansion in history. That should be a good thing, right? Well it’s not really so good for the majority of us — and that is something about which only one or two presidential candidates is mentioning.

If we were to underscore the single most important topic on the economy, we would select “wealth inequality.” Our current great economy keeps producing more and more billionaires while more and more U.S. citizens are also lining up for food stamps. Mega-corporations are merging their riches together into even bigger mega-money machines.

Over the past decades, corporate CEO wealth has increased by 940% while the average worker’s compensation improved by only 12%. When the top 1% of Americans own 43% of all wealth the phrase “we the people” is no longer relevant. When the richest people are expected to outlive middle and lower income people by 7 to 13 years, based on actual socioeconomic statistics, our 401k dividends and Social Security checks seem puny at any amounts.

The United States has had a federal tax system that has benefitted the mega rich for a long, long time. CEOs today earn 58 times more than the workers under them, or $278 for every worker’s dollar. This country faced another Gilded Age (1870-1900) when the very few mega-wealthy railroad, oil and banking barons owned 51% of the nation’s wealth. It took a sweeping set of reforms against corruption, unfair labor practices and class-based privileges, led by new presidents like Republican Theodore Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson, to restore a true democracy of  “we the people.”

Here in our small, hometown communities, the ties that bind us, and unite us in seeking the common good for all, depend heavily on economic justice, equal opportunity and limits on too much concentrated power or influence. That’s wealthy guidance.

— Rollie Atkinson

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