A Worker's Bill of Rights
Now that the U.S. economy verges on recession, if not depression, through the sheer stupidity and greed of a minority with too much influence over international monetary and investment policy, I have proffered a way forward.
Despite what corporate media says, our problem is not foreign competition. It is not anti-competitiveness in developed versus developing nations. It is not excessive taxation. Instead, the real problems are excess concentration of corporate power, secrecy and unjustifiable wage inequity leading to near total worker disenfranchisement.
Thus, in an effort to fix our American economy, as a worker, I submit the following principles essential to remaking the American economy by providing real equity to workers.
It is not the Federal Reserve's responsibility to "insure" wealth by sustaining a floor under the stock market.
In a market economy, equities must be subject to the same ebb and flow that workers encounter in their employment status, wages, benefits and household budgets. When wrong decisions are made and stupid business practices ensue -- e.g. sub-prime lending crisis, bogus debt ratings and absurd underestimation of risk in credit default swaps -- then investors must suffer fairly. This principle includes consistent rates of taxation for all income regardless of its source. How one earns income, actively through wages or passively through investments, is irrelevant. Income should be taxed gradually and consistently to fund basic government services (courts, police, defense, transportation, education and healthcare) deemed essential to enforcement of contracts which promotes new investment that is necessary to raise living standards.
Every salary in America should be public, visible at job sites and available online.
Secrecy is anathema to both Democracy and sound economics. Every worker deserves the right to know explicitly his rank, relevance and contribution to his employer's bottom line. Without openness and honesty, worker mobility is tacitly restricted and disincentivized. Without a public scale to measure upward mobility as a fair reward for effort and merit, our economy has become weak and exploitive.
No "boss" should earn more than 1000 times an average worker's salary.
If a CEO or other leader wishes to earn more, then quite obviously that person must increase profits and payroll collectively in order to deserve more. It is obvious, for example, that the top 1000 corporations in America could lose their CEOs tomorrow, continue to function, and perhaps thrive. By contrast, if those same companies lost their workers overnight, they would immediately cease to exist. Thus, in the larger context, workers are more valuable than leaders and as such more deserving of increased compensation as fair reward for top or bottom line growth.
Stock options should be provided to every employee or not at all.
For at least two decades, excess weighting of compensation at the top through stock options has distorted business practices to emphasize increasing stock prices, in many cases by diverting profits -- that might otherwise raise wages and reward investors -- to buy back company stock to increase or sustain its price. This lack of foresight has lowered living standards for workers relative to inflation even as overall business profits previously soared.
But today it is obvious that such short sighted financial engineering has failed. For example, several renowned Wall Street investment banks, having existed and mostly profited for nearly a century, lost 25% of book value in 2007. Such catastrophic mismanagement and inability to perceive risk would not have occurred had these businesses concentrated less on transaction fees, quarterly profits and annual bonuses and more on prudence, sustainable investments and long term growth -- growth of the kind their advertisements promote to potential investors and clients.
Private funding of political campaigns has corrupted American Democracy.
Under the U.S. Constitution every citizen has a legal right to petition the government. But corporations are not individual citizens. Companies are entitled to certain individualized rights under contract law, but this should not be equated with citizen status. Through private interference, American representative democracy has become too expensive for the average citizen to meaningfully participate or even to be heard. Thus petitioner's rights have essentially been auctioned -- for sale to the highest bidder. This is not Democracy. At this stage of advanced corruption, only public funding of political campaigns with free media access for candidates can insure a fair and democratic hearing of all ideas, ideals and candidates -- not just those deemed acceptable to the rich and the powerful.
Inheritance is un-Democratic.
Inheritance has led to a modern economic equivalent of Feudalism because it creates irrevocable title in much the same way as Feudal titles were once transferred by birth prior to the signing of the Magna Carta. If you are talented, smart or lucky enough to become rich in America, upon your death, your wealth should not be an irrevocable title to your heirs. Entitlements diminish creativity, productivity and desire to work under an economic system built on success through effort not entitlement. In much the same way as private campaign financing, familial wealth transfer unbalances Democracy which in turn undermines confidence and diminishes productivity among the vast disinherited majority. A 100% inheritance tax could supplant many or all essential infrastructure shortfalls in every budget for every Federal, State and Local government agency.
Alternatively, at or before death, individual wealth could be entrusted to the greater public good through not-for-profit entities (e.g. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). But it should no longer be unproductively transferred to heirs having nothing to do with earning it.
Absent a reinvigoration of the American economy through fair, logical and self-evident principles such as these, our Capitalist system is likely to end the way all top-down, Soviet style, spirit and innovation crushing (you pretend to pay us and we'll pretend to work) political-economic systems end -- in chaos, war and collapse.