Why Democratic Socialism is coming to America, whether you like it or not, and what you can do about it (but won't)
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America is in more trouble than people realize and here's why. The middle class is becoming poor, and as the ranks of the poor grow, our national politics will change.
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist. His movement is popular with millennials who are coming of age.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The United States is changing and many people are having a hard time understanding why. Why is it, for example, that nearly 80 percent of American youth think socialism is a good idea for the country? Why are people working more than ever, yet falling behind? How is it that Wall Street has recovered, but Main Street continues to struggle?
The answers to these questions are economic and they are fairly simple. So too are the time-tested predictions of what will happen next, if we do not change course.
Beginning in the late 1970s, wages uncoupled from productivity. From the end of World War II until the late 70s, workers shared in productivity gains. As productivity rose, so too did their wages. Sometime just before 1980 dawned, owners began keeping a larger share of their profits. Today, the inequality between the incomes of owners versus workers borders on scandalous.
Workers in every category are making what they made just a decade ago, and less if you factor in their share of overall GDP. The rich are realizing all the gains and passing none to the workers.
These statistics don't just apply to minimum wage workers either. They apply to virtually all workers, including the best educated ones. According to federal statistics, even the most educated workers are earning the same as they were nearly ten years ago. In plain language, even the most educated workers haven't been given a raise, relative to inflation, in ten years.
Worker wages continue to decline, to the profit of employers, but the situation has gone too far for too long, and a correction is coming.
In fact, workers are being paid less all the time, as a share of GDP.
And while workers are earning less, prices continue to rise.
Income inequality has become so bad that Main Street was left without the extra income to participate in the Wall Street recovery, hence Wall Street has realized significant gains, but Main Street still struggles.
The result of these influences is a shrinking middle class. Last year, the middle class dropped below 50 percent of the national population, making the poor the largest class. As the ranks of the poor grow, so too will their political power.
The poor have one universal political desire, that is, to eat the rich. The rich have one desire too, that is to get richer by eating the poor. This is why rule by middle class is so essential to a free nation. Middle class voters tend to be conservative, and they resist dangerous, sudden, radical change. But with the decline of the middle class and the rise of the poor, the future becomes obvious.
Unless you are in the top 10 percent of earners, your income has declined.
The millennial generation has been blasted as "lazy" and "wanting free stuff." They are almost universally disaffected and disillusioned. The reason for this isn't their fault. We raised a generation of youth on the promise that if they got good grades and went to college, they would graduate with a degree that would unlock good paying jobs. Jobs good enough to wipe out their student loan debt.
Instead, the opposite has come true. Thanks to changes in the economy and runaway costs of tuition, a failure of congress to pass reform and debt relief, students are graduating with tens of thousands in debt which is bearing high interest and can't be wiped out by a bankruptcy.
This debt puts other milestones out of reach. A new car, a first house, even paying for a wedding becomes prohibitive. As a result, people buy used cars, they rent which dives up the cost of renting often above a mortgage payment, and they live together without ever getting married.
And it's not like people aren't working. Compared to 1979, both men and women work, often two jobs apiece. It is literally true that many households have four separate sources of labor-based income, and yet they are still struggling.
Just before 1980, wages uncoupled from productivity. The best way to return to prosperity is to reattach compensation to productivity.
Millennials, more than any other segment of the population, feel cheated out of the American dream. They have to choose between paying bills and taking a well-deserved needed vacation. They have to choose between keeping up with debt payments and maternity leave. They go to work sick, they forgo doctor visits, even with insurance; an hour at the doctor's office can mean an hour of lost wages.
For hope, they look to the social democracies of Scandinavia and socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders. In those countries, governments have found a way to provide high wages, universal health care, paid leave and vacations, as well as higher education. Their citizens are happier and better off by all indexes. And America's millennials have enough education to understand the data. They aren't afraid of the socialist boogeyman because they understand that socialism is a spectrum of political philosophy. Socialism is not always atheistic, communistic, and oppressive. Socialism can include free-market capitalism and a great degree of individual freedom.
So our future is one of change. In the near-term, things may remain quite the same, but not for long. Democratic socialism is all but inevitable in the United States. Owners will be forced, quite mercilessly, to pay most of these costs. The old canards about layoffs and how owners won't be able to afford to stay in business will not find sympathetic ears. Capitalist bigwigs to small business owners can save their tears. The composition of Congress will shift to the left. Conservatism will change with today's moderate Democrats becoming tomorrow's Republicans. The youth are fed up and if the old capitalists can't adapt, that's all the better. New entrepreneurs with a better sense of social responsibility will replace them, just as they have in Scandinavia.
The only way to stave off this inevitable change will be to give every worker a raise, right now. And that raise will need to be linked to overall worker productivity as it was decades ago. If workers feel their bosses' success is also their own, they will have less appetite to eat their bosses.
However, Wall Street and the bosses have never had it so good. While we may all agree the gravy train is about to run off a cliff, nobody dares to hit the brakes, and that's why we're doomed.
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