April 24, 2017
Bernie Sanders on Rising Wealth Inequality
In nearly every speech presented by Senator Bernie Sanders in the past thirty years, he has mentioned the shame of growing wealth inequality. Here is why it has been central to his sense of fairness and justice.
Let us start by understanding what wealth is. Popular definitions usually refer to a large accumulation of money as wealth. This definition makes clear how wealth is measured but does not really go far enough. The early economist Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations defined wealth as "the annual produce of the land and labour of the society". This "produce" is, at its simplest, that which satisfies human needs and wants of utility.
Wealth is what our society, and every other society, produces when it creates the things that are needed and wanted by the people.
Here is the critical question: “Who creates the things that we need and want to use, who creates the wealth?” If you get up and go to work on a regular basis, all you need to do is look around at your co-workers. You can see the wealth of the nation being created before you very eyes. Clearly, people who work create all wealth.
Under the capitalist economic system, the producer of wealth, the worker, does not have the right to retain the full value of his labor. The capitalist class gets to keep the lion’s share of the wealth produced. Forty years ago, workers could keep the wealth that they produced in first four to six hours of their day. Today, they only get to keep the wealth that they produce in the first two to three hours of work. So, in forty years, the share taken by the super-rich capitalists has almost doubled. How can that be? Modern technology has double the productivity of the American worker. In the years before that, workers shared in their rising productivity with rising incomes and happier, healthier lives.
Wealth inequality is at the basis for the inherent unfairness of the capitalist system. Rising wealth inequality is a symptom of growing unfairness in our economic system. Bernie Sanders would like to see the growing inequality end. Had the share that the capitalist class takes remained constant over the past forty years, real wages would have nearly doubled. How much better off would Americans be today if that were the case?
There are many ways to begin reversing growing wealth inequality. None will be simple institute. Nearly every program called for by Senator Sanders would start to shift the balance back toward the average working person.
In summary, wealth is created by working people. The super-rich capitalists take the lion’s share of the wealth and leaving the working people poorer for their effort. Wealth inequality is an inherent to capitalist economic system, and it is the basis for system’s unfairness.