As many of us know from the countless ads on TV, sound bites on the news, and articles on the internet, we live in a time of record wealth and income inequality.
What is not commonly known is that the reality of income inequality is far worse than our perception of the problem. The bottom forty percent of Americans have a negative net worth, which means their debts outweigh their assets, and most of them do not have enough money for an emergency costing more than $500.
While we all recognize the gravity of wealth inequality and we all would like the United States to be a more wealth equitable place, most of us have adverse feelings to explicit wealth redistribution policy. That is a perfectly valid response in a society like ours that is built on self-reliance and personal responsibility.
It is my belief that the next president must pass comprehensive tax reform so that the rich pay their fair share. I would like to see all income, no matter the source, be taxed on a progressive scale, and see capital gains taxed exactly the same as earned income.
To me, income is income no matter the source. This would raise revenue for the federal government and help balance the budget.
People in the middle and working class typically do not derive their incomes from capital gains have a higher propensity to spend.
Of those in the upper class, they typically do derive the majority of their income from capital gains, pay a lower, flat tax rate, and have a higher propensity to save. Taxing capital gains as earned income would capture some of the “frozen” money, allowing it to be spent on public services that can stimulate the economy.
The country went through a contentious debate in 2010 over healthcare with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. Obamacare’s intention was to make insurance available to more people for a lower price on open, competitive marketplaces, and expand Medicaid to cover the uninsured.
While Obamacare was largely successful in accomplishing its goals, it failed to control the behavior of healthcare companies. Ninety percent of all Americans now have some form of healthcare coverage, however, around 23% of Americans are underinsured.
This means that while they do have healthcare coverage, their out-of-pocket expenses are prohibitively larger than they can afford. The purpose of insurance is to catch you when anything bad happens; it is not supposed to bankrupt you. In fact, a significant number of medical bankruptcies happen to people who had health insurance but were effectively underinsured. While healthcare costs have reached their slowest growth rate in recent times, the cost is still at an all-time high and is becoming a problem for most Americans.
Healthcare in America costs so much partly because of high prescription drug prices and administrative overhead. The next president would be wise to propose a healthcare system where everyone is still required to have health insurance, but a government agency sets the prices for medical procedures.
This would cut the administrative costs and reduce the actual healthcare costs. Another alternative would be to go to a Medicare-for-All single-payer system where the government pays the cost of healthcare directly. This would crowd out private health insurers, cut down on administrative costs, and cover everyone in America.
The American government could also use its negotiating power to lower the price of branded prescription to what other countries pay. In addition, detaching healthcare from careers and providing to every tax-paying citizen allows for more people to leave their corporate jobs without losing benefits in pursuit of starting a small business.
This would actually promote entrepreneurship and encourage more economic growth. Obamacare was a decent step towards fixing the problems with American healthcare, but it does not go far enough, and the next president needs to propose a more comprehensive solution.
In the end, all of these things and all of this progress is dependent on people like you and me getting involved in the process, voting in the primaries for candidates we believe in, showing up in the general to actually elect those people, and keeping in touch with our elected representatives so they do not lose touch with their constituencies.
To me, the bare minimum civic duty you have as a citizen of the United States is to vote. Voting for an elected official’s opponent in a primary, or even being that opponent, are effective means of protesting. Only when we get involved can we guarantee that we are being properly represented.
The next president will need a robust grassroots movement by our generation to help sell his or her legislative agenda to Congress. We are the future of this country and I believe we must demand progress and we must strive to make life better for all Americans.