Assuming that Joe Biden wins the Presidential election upcoming — and all signs point to him winning big — what ought his policy priorities be ? Everyone has his or her own favor, and certainly the Biden administration and its friends in Congress will need address many matters at the same time. That said, it’s hard for me not to insist that economic reform is the number one.
If the past decade of American economic life has taught us anything, it’s that our nation’s money is unsustainably misdirected. Most of us have or earn far too little, while a small few of us take in enormously unusable amounts. Money exists to be used, not parked; yet a very few have been parking trillions of dollars for years, dollars that, going unused, might as well not exist at all. An economy is trade; A buys, B sells, C produces, D brokers the transaction. Money in action moves rapidly from hand to hand and back again. The more money acts, the more vivid the economy. The economic genius of democracy is to fund the participation in it of all; and when all participate, the economy fulfills its theoretic potential. All that remains is to insure that ll who participate have enough money to make their participation maximal.
So much for the theory. The reforms needed, and which I hope that the Biden administration will work to enact, must guarantee every resident adult a living wage or income — enough for those who can’t work, more for those who can. A Federal minimum wage of $ 15/hour seems a minimum; in prosperous cities, even $ 21/hour is scarcely enough to buy anything more than the basics : rent, utilities, food, clothing, cell phones, child care, transportation. A two-income family earning $ 21/hour takes in $ 6720 a month before taxes — maybe $ 4800- after tax. If this family lives in a city like Boston, rent will take up between $ 2000 and $ 2600 of that money, food another $ 400, utilities another $ 200, clothing about $ 200, and transportation another $ 200 to $ 500. That doesn’t leave very much for discretionary spending, which is the most profitable part of the economy, but it does leave some. Allow such a working family less, and their ability to boost the economy suffers. The spending needs of non-working people are less — as those of us stuck in the house right now can attest — yet they too must make purchases and pay bills, and why should they too not have an entry fee into the most prosperous part of the economy ? A seller of stuff doesn’t bask you, the buyer, whether your money was earned, or merely provided. All he wants to know is, can you pay the price he is asking ? If you can., you’re a customer, and he can prosper his business.
We either want an efficient economy or we don’t. We want it to aspire to its full potential, or we don’t. I happen to think that an economy approaching full potential is stronger and more profitable than one that misses its potential by a lot. So : to recalibrate our economy as we ought, the following reforms seem significant :
( a ) enact a Federal $ 15/hour minimum wage and allow economic hot spots to set a $# 21/hour minimum
( b ) enact a guaranteed $ 4,000 a month living income to every family of two or more and $ 2,000 to a single
( c ) encourage by example and public informercials that all work has social value, so that the sorts of grunt work that we now find so essential is as honorable to do as it is to be paid for, and that there should be no social disfavor levied upon workers who do such work, indeed such workers are to be sought after socially as well as in their employ
( d ) require that all corporations or other economic associations operating in interstate commerce include on their governing boards employees of said organization and at least two members representing the public interest. Require that top executives’ pay or other compensation be approved by a three-quarters vote of the board; enact a penalty tax of 50 percent on executive compensations greater than five percent of the market value of the firm or organization
( e ) eliminate margin allowances that support leveraged stock and other instrument trades, bonds excepted; require an eight year period for holding stock or warrants in publicly traded corporations (money that is actually committed to investment is not merely parked, by the way)
( f ) enact an annual penalty tax on money that is parked for more than one year
( g ) encourage capital investment in innovation and in ordinary production, using Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway methods as a template
( h ) strongly increase funding for NLRB investigations,. supervisions., and prosecutions of corporate violations of labor laws.
( i ) repeal the Citizens United decision; require full and prompt disclosure of all PAC donations
( j ) no money borrowed by a publicly traded corporation can be used to fund stock buybacks; any publicly traded company borrowing money from a Federally chartered bank or directly from the Federal Reserve is barred for five (5) years after borrowing date from doing a general stock buyback
Make clear to the people that the objective of all of these reforms is to get more money into the hands of more ordinary people — including resident non-citizens, because every resident is a customer — and less money in the hands of people who will simply park it or employ it only for speculation. Because how many cars, yachts, bedroom sets, overseas trips, or mansions can a billionaire by ? Not enough to matter, whereas 200 million adults can by a whole lot of everything (except mansions, but who needs those ?)
There is plenty else that a Biden administration and its friends in Congress will want to work on, and should work on. Yet I don’t see how any of it matters much if we can/t get the American economy to work well for everyone. Our Constitution in action cannot win the public’s confidence if it doesn’t make things better for everyone than they would be without the Constitution. If we want Constitutional government — and I sure do; do you ? — then the money part of things has got to come first. The Constitution is and has always been first of all an economic union — a common market agreement, if you will. I think we should embrace that and make it work, starting on January 20, 2021 when Joe Biden takes the oath of office, as he almost certainly will.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere