Americans like to believe they live in the greatest country in the world. That may or may not be true, but this country does have many problems -- both economic and social. Those problems are solvable, but sadly, too many of our politicians don't see (or don't want to see) the solutions. They are too invested in keeping things as they are, and protecting the rich and corporations -- and that just insures that the problems continue to grow worse.
Here are a few things that I think need to be done to solve the economic problems:
* We must raise the minimum wage. No one who has to work for a minimum wage can lead a decent life, because the current minimum wage is a poverty wage. And this is a problem that is growing worse. Not only do these workers fall further behind with each passing day, but by 2020 a full quarter of the jobs will be low wage jobs. That is insanity. We cannot have a quarter of all workers living in poverty. Anyone willing to work hard should make a livable wage.
I personally believe the minimum wage should be raised to $15.00 an hour, but under no circumstance should it be less than $10.00 and hour (and it should be tied to the rate of inflation, so it doesn't instantly start losing buying power again).
* We must strengthen our labor unions, and make it easier for workers to create unions and join them. And we must make a higher education more accessible. The two things that created the large middle class in this country are unions and colleges. Now unions are being attacked (through both law and right-wing propaganda) and membership is dropping as a percentage of workers -- and college is being priced out of reach for far too many people. This is causing the middle class to shrink.
We must change this. No capitalist country can survive without a large and prosperous middle class. And it can only be saved by providing an easy and affordable access to higher education, and giving unions the power they need to make sure workers get their fair share in rising productivity.
* We must fix our tax system. Americans decided long ago that a progressive tax system was the fair way to go -- that those who make the most should pay the most. But that is no longer true. Today, the richest people effectively pay a smaller share of their income than many in the middle class pay, and many very profitable corporations pay no taxes at all. We must eliminate the loopholes, subsidies, and other shenanigans that the rich and corporations use to evade paying their fair share of taxes.
* We need to fix Social Security. It is not going broke, and will be around when young people today retire in the future, but it does have a funding problem. Fortunately that is a problem that can easily be fixed -- and can be fixed without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. All that needs to be done is to raise the cap on payroll (FICA) taxes. The cap should be raised significantly, or even eliminated. This would not affect most workers at all (who already pay the full percentage), but would make the rich pay the same percentage as the working pass pays. That is imminently fair, and would fully fund Social Security far into the future.
It would also provide the funding to raise Social Security benefits. Before Social Security was created, about 50% of the senior population lived in poverty. Social Security reduced that to around 10%. But now more seniors are sliding into poverty because Social Security benefits aren't keeping up with the cost of living. For instance, this year there was no benefit raise. That was because the cost of gasoline fell sharply. Unfortunately, seniors don't use gas as much as before they retired, and their real costs (food, medicine, housing, clothes, etc.) have all risen.
* We need to eliminate the tax that rewards corporations for shipping good American jobs to low-wage foreign countries. We may not be able to completely stop corporations from stealing American jobs and giving them to people they can economically abuse in other countries, but it is insane to reward them with tax breaks for doing it. And while we're at it, we should put a fat excise tax on the products of corporations who move to other countries to avoid our taxes.
* We need to institute a tighter rein on Wall Street and the giant banks. They should not be allowed to gamble with the money of consumers, and they should not be allowed to peddle worthless financial products -- and if they do, those that run those corporations should be jailed. And those who make their money playing the stock market should be taxed at the same rate as working Americans -- by eliminating the special capital gains tax, and taxing all income as earned income.
* We should lower the federal deficit and national debt -- and do that without cutting federal programs that help our least fortunate citizens. We could do that by passing a tiny tax on all stocks traded (something like 0.5%). That would bring in an incredible amount to our federal treasury without hurting anyone.
You may notice that I did not say anything about creating new jobs. That's because if all of the above was done, there would be a huge boost to the economy and all the jobs we need would automatically be created.
Let me add one more thing. We must elect a Democratic president and Democratic Congress this year. None of the above can be done as long as the Republicans remain in power -- because they oppose all of those measures.