Monday, November 10, 2014

Redistributing wealth for fun & profit: a Thought Experiment

Voters in Arkansas seem ... confused?  For lack of a better word?  They just voted to raise the minimum wage in their state, which, fantastic!  Good for them.  The minimum wage is way too low.  They're only raising it to $8.50 an hour but that's probably like $50 an hour here.

Guess how much this 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath with fenced yard and carport in Bella Vista is?

$675.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Anyway, Arkansans seem confused because in addition to the highly progeressive and populist move of voting to raise their minimum wage, they also voted to the Senate a guy named Tom Cotton who is against raising the federal minimum wage but because he is so breathtakingly devoid of principle announced he would vote for the Arkansas minimum wage hike because he knows how to read polls and wanted to win an election.  It worked.  He won.

Arkansas is a good state to use to think about income and wealth disparity in this country because the per capita personal income there is $34,723 which ranks 45th out of 50 states and is also home to the mind-bogglingly wealthy Walton family of Wal-Mart fame who probably drag up the per capita median income a few grand just by being there.  The Waltons are particularly venal and loathsome because they are the richest family in America with a combined net worth of $152 billion and pay their workers so poorly that many of them have to go on food stamps to live.

So here's a Thought Experiment.  In some state with a low per capita income that also has ballot measures - a state like, say, Arkansas - get the following ballot measure before the voters: a 5% surtax on all incomes above $1 million, with the proceeds going to everyone with an income under $34,723.  Now, ideally, I'd like to just distribute it in the form of crisp $20 bills or I guess a personal check but that might even be too Communist or Socialist or Fascist or whatever combination of those that radio hosts would use, so you could cut the state income taxes of everyone who makes $34,723 to a rate that matches the money collected from Richie Rich.  (Looks like the current rates are between 1 and 7% for that bracket - should be a nice savings!)

Isn't this just a naked redistribution of wealth?  FUCK YEAH.  About time we start redistributing it down instead of up, like they're doing in Kansas, where the latest tax cuts benefit the wealthiest people.

What would this accomplish?  Well, for one thing, it would help out the people who need it the most.  For another, it would tell you whether people are so beguiled by Tom Cotton types that they're willing to vote NOT TO ACCEPT FREE MONEY if it means taking a little bit away from people who make more per year than they will in their working lifetimes.  If they won't pass the Free Money For You From Some Caviar Chomping Dbag Act of 2016, then fuck 'em, we tried.

(P.S. Even in dark red states like Georgia a majority of people want to raise the minimum wage.  SOUNDS LIKE A ISSUE THAT MIGHT BE GOOD FOR DEMOCRATS.  If they weren't so good at losing they might want to pick that up.)


inger said...

Not to mention that when poorer people get tax refunds they tend to spend it on useful things like replacing old washing machines and painting their houses that support the overall economy, while richies just sock it away in the bank.

Stephen said...

Dead wrong, Inger, they use it to create jobs. I mean, they're called "job-creators," right? Don't you try to tell me that's just rhetoric!

But seriously, I'm surprised I don't hear people make that eminently reasonable argument more often. And I really do like TK's idea. So goddamn simple, and yet, something IS the matter with Kansas . . .

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