Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Setting Up a Fair System

Entrenched, generational poverty results when a nation's economic system is unfair.

Most of us don't like to think in systemic terms.

We prefer stories about individual achievement and the "self-made" man or woman. Most of us don't even recognize how systems affect individual and group outcomes.

We ignore the systemic to our peril.

The manner in which wealth is created and distributed in the United States makes it imperative that we continually look at the systemic forces at work in our economy. Any serious concern about overcoming poverty will lead us to analyze these forces and attempt to develop responses that bring more fairness to our national economy.

Consider this fact. In 2004 the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay in large American companies was 431 to 1.

If the national minimum wage had grown at the same pace as executive pay since 1990, the legal minimum hourly wage would be $23.03 instead of the current anemic rate of $5.15 per hour.

No one is suggesting that minimum wage be set that high. Our federal leaders have been so slow to adjust the wage level that several states are now doing so on their own.

However, it does make sense for everyone when state and national governments take steps to compensate low-income working Americans in other ways through fair and sound public policy decisions. Such policy moves (including fair tax policy, Earned Income Tax Credits, child care subsidies, educational funding and assistance with decent housing) result in changes to our system that benefit those at or near the bottom of our economy.

Why do critics object to redistribution of assets to benefit the bottom, but never complain about systemic policy decisions that redistribute wealth for the benefit of those at the top?

Critics always object that those at the top are earning their way, while those at the bottom pay little no federal taxes and thus, deserve no consideration.

Few ask questions about the systemic advantages built into our economy that are enjoyed by the rich and that promote the inordinate growth of their wealth.

We need to take our eyes off individuals and pay more attention to how the system works for some and fails for others.

Faith and fairness demand no less.


Jeremy Gregg said...

Here is an excerpt from a related Web site, which we will discuss at tomorrow's Urban Engagement Book Club.

According to this site, the basic family budget for a 2 parent/2 child household in Dallas, Texas is $42,048.

Monthly housing $868
Monthly food $587
Monthly child care $720
Monthly transportation $321
Monthly health care $430
Monthly other necessities $393
Monthly taxes $185
Monthly total $3,504
Annual total $42,048

If both parents worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, they would need to earn $10.11 each in order to afford this most BASIC lifestyle. Note that vacations, Christmas presents, education and other "amenities" are not in there.

According to the site, 35% of the people in Texas are below this level.

The system needs to change.

Drew Battistelli said...


Do you currently know anywhre in the DFW area that has housing that is mixed-income levels on a sliding scale like CDM is planning in Downtown Dallas or the apartments that are being built.

I am looking to move to Dallas.

Larry James said...

We have some units like this that are about 1 year old. There are other units in the East Dallas area that also are as you describe--market mixed with voucher housing. If you are interested in one of our units, call 214.827.1000 and go to ext 11 or 12 and ask for info about our housing options. This is good news Drew!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I like the idea of pegging minimum wage hikes to the average increase in executive pay at, say, the 1,000 largest companies. That seems like a very sensible, moderating approach.