THE BLOG
01/26/2016 05:48 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2017

The Presidential Candidates Flunk On Income Inequality

The greatest issue plaguing our society today is that of income inequality. Yet astonishingly, the current presidential candidates have failed to propose any adequate ideas for solving it.

Income inequality is an enormous problem for America. The richest 0.1 percent now own as much wealth as the entire bottom 90 percent of the nation's population. This is an astounding statistic.

But the worst part about income inequality is the way it is happening. The wealthy few have devised clever and intricate ways and means, that are perfectly legal by the way, of extracting more and more money out of the middle and poorer classes, and redistributing this money up to the very top for themselves.

The consequence is that the top one percent grow richer and richer beyond belief, while at the same time, the vast number of people in our society, the ordinary working people who comprise 99 percent of the population, have less and less income for themselves and thus they fall behind and are forced to struggle ever more just to scrape by.

The way the big scam all works is through the construct of Corporate America. Wealthy corporate shareholders seek greater profits for themselves, so they offer lavish bounties to senior corporate executives for increasing the corporate share price. Well, a nifty way to increase the corporate share price is to cut expenses from the workers, such as wages and benefits.

And voila! This cost savings results in greater corporate profits, which increases the corporate share price, which in turn enriches the shareholders and executives. But this wealth is not magically created out of thin air. Instead, it all comes at the expense of the workers.

Globalization is an enormous factor in all of this, and it illustrates how the game is played. Corporations buy-off politicians to enact sweetheart laws and trade agreements that favor corporate profits over workers. This makes it easier and easier for corporations to eliminate high-paying American jobs and ship them overseas to low-cost foreign countries. This cost savings increases corporate earnings, which then enriches the wealthy shareholders and executives. And again, it all comes at the expense of the workers who are left behind to struggle.

This presents an enormous problem for the future of America. It will quickly hollow-out the great American middle class and leave America as little more than an empty shell of its former self, beset with all of the maladies that plague societies with vast inequality. This is the path we are currently on.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, hold on a second here, America is the greatest democracy in the world, so all we need to do is simply elect politicians who would put an end to this corporate exploitation and instead restore fairness to the 99 percent.

And you're right. This would indeed work. Income inequality and corporate exploitation are not inevitable forces in nature, but rather, they are political choices that we make as a society. So we as a people could choose to end these problems.

And the good news is that we are in a presidential election year, so right now we have the opportunity to elect a president who will end these problems.

The bad news, however, is that none of the presidential candidates is offering any proposals that would realistically solve income inequality.

Of course, all of the candidates claim that they will solve income inequality. But don't be fooled because none of their proposals come even close to actually tackling the problem. Not even close.

The Republican candidates are by far the worst. Their big idea is to cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, slash government programs, and eliminate regulations.

Gee, now there's a real novel idea. This is the same old playbook that has been around for decades. It is not a solution to income inequality. In fact, this approach does even more damage because it just makes inequality even worse.

Cutting taxes for the wealthy is simply an additional give-away to the rich. Not very smart. It does nothing to stop Corporate America from continuing to squeeze more and more money out of the middle and poorer classes and redistribute it up to the top one percent.

Eliminating government programs is just as bad. A couple of favorite targets are to eliminate the entire U.S. Department of Education, or the entire U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But these programs exist for the benefit of precisely what we need to protect the most, namely, the middle and poorer classes, and our society. Wealthy children do not need the Department of Education. Rather, the DoE serves to enhance equality by ensuring that children in the middle and lower classes receive better educations. And the EPA is there to protect ordinary citizens from the abominable history of Corporate America that has polluted our lands, water, and air in order to earn greater profits for itself.

Slashing regulations is more of the same. By and large, regulations exist to protect ordinary citizens against the ravages of the capitalistic profit motive. Our history is replete with examples of the bad behavior of Corporate America in the absence of regulations, such as poisonous foods, dangerous products, false claims, unsafe chemicals, pollution, labor exploitation, monopolies, rigged markets, financial manipulation, and on and on.

So the Republicans are disastrous. Not only do their ideas utterly fail to solve income inequality, but they would make it worse. More goodies for the wealthy and powerful, and less protection for the middle and poorer classes.

The Democrats are better because at least they are aimed in the right direction. Many of their proposals would help. But the problem is that their proposals are only mini bite-size pieces that fail to tackle the overall problem of income inequality.

Both of the leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, offer a number of very similar proposals that would indeed help around the margins. They both advocate for measures such as modestly increasing taxes on the wealthy, closing a few loopholes that benefit Corporate America, raising the minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, and investing in the nation's infrastructure. These initiatives are all good and well. But they are not going to make a difference in the big picture. They are not going to stop this avalanche of Corporate America pushing down costs by squeezing the middle and lower classes.

Bernie is better than Hillary on the issue of income inequality. In fact, Bernie has made income inequality the centerpiece of his entire presidential campaign. This is wonderful. Raising this issue to a place of such prominence is exactly what is needed. And this is the reason that Bernie has received such a strong outpouring of support from voters. Many people recognize that the nation must begin to focus on this crucial issue. So kudos to Bernie. He deserves great credit for this.

Unfortunately, however, it is not enough to just shine a light on the issue. We also need real policy proposals that would solve it. And this is where even Bernie comes up short.

Bernie has called for some actions that are a bit more radical, like breaking-up the big banks. While Bernie's spirit of boldness is terrific, this would not actually solve the problem. We must not only be bold, but we also must be smart. The immediate effect of breaking-up the banks would be to hand over a huge competitive advantage to the foreign banking giants because they would not be broken-up and they would continue to operate as big banks, just without the competition from U.S. banks.

But in a larger sense, breaking-up the banks would not solve income inequality in America. After all, the banks are not single-handedly responsible for income inequality. Banking is only a small sector of the much larger Corporate America, and breaking-up the banks does nothing to address the problems in Corporate America overall. So this is not the answer.

We need something bigger. Something grander. The situation is as if Corporate America has just invented a new giant club and is running wild and imposing its own way by pounding down the rest of society, which is defenseless.

Corporations are now behemoth entities that span the globe with size, wealth, and power like we have never before seen. They use their wealth to influence politics, and then they are able to push down the middle and lower classes and hollow-out society.

We need a grander vision and a grander strategy to counter this enormous force. An increased minimum wage and a few days of paid sick leave are just not going to cut it. We need bigger and better ideas. Corporate America has evolved new techniques for redirecting great wealth away from society and up to the top one percent. Society now needs to evolve new techniques of its own to prevent this, and to cause the creation of wealth to be shared more equally among all of the people in our population.

We need better ideas from our presidential candidates about how to solve this enormous problem of income inequality.

Or else we need better presidential candidates.