There’s talk in Congress and in business of shortening the work week from five days to four. Apparently, this is made both possible and necessary by automation, and robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI). As machines replace more and more jobs, the wealth the new system produces must fund whole new methods for supporting human life. We cannot just let the billionaires keep it all, can we?
A shorter work week is a start in this direction. It seems that the whole idea of employment is going to have to be reconceived, and the result seems that that will mean less work and more time for living, and—if you choose—creativity.
In the 2020 Presidential campaign, Andrew Yang got considerable attention for promoting the idea of a floor of personal income. His proposal was for the government to provide $1000 per month for everyone. That would be a good start. Imagine the relief from anxiety and desperation millions would feel!
Liberalism is famous for doing the most to ease the pain and strain in the lives of ordinary people. Add universal health care and free education to a guaranteed minimum income, and we will have a much happier, more relaxed populace.
Doubling that income floor to $2000 per month would provide a basic decent life for everyone. If one wants to do better than that, then one finds a job in area of employment that cannot be automated, perhaps with the help of the government. Imagine millions of us planting trees and building dikes like Holland’s for our low-lying coasts. Rising seas are surely coming, you know.
It would cost trillions, but the money is there. If we want something like this, we simply (not simply—it will be difficult) reimpose marginal tax rates of up to 95% on incomes that exceed a certain amount, let us say $10 million a year. I say ‘reimpose’ because that’s what it was in the prosperous ‘Eisenhower 1950s.’ We would also need to beef up IRS enforcement to make sure everyone is paying their fair share, which the wealthiest are not paying now. At present, Bezos and Musk and Trump pay no income tax. We need to disincentivize greed and cruelty.
Economist Thomas Piketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century arrived in 2014, declares that we the people, in the non-totalitarian world, can end the enormous inequality of income and therefore of life, by one method only, and that is legislative. We have the power of the vote to make it happen. This is another reason to oppose the voter suppression that is running amok in some parts of the country. I believe we can overcome voter suppression efforts, and don’t you? We simply make it a top priority.
Rev. Leland Bond-Upson