I gave my first public speech today. I gave one to a small group of supporters last month, but this was a "street speech" at a protest of the proposed cuts to safety net programs, contrasted with the continued failure to address the fact that many large corporations are finding ways to pay no taxes (usuncut.org). Here is a copy of the speech:
While Congress has been debating budget policy, transnational corporations and plutocrats are winning. Conservatives assume that every person is a self-sufficient island, each of whom starts life on a level playing field with everybody else, therefore in the game of economics, everybody is entitled to keep all that they win. However, they forget that we are all born into differently endowed families, and our life chances are tied to those resources (or lack thereof). The vast majority of poor remain poor, and the rich get richer, while our rates of poverty and social inequality in the United States are greater than in any other industrialized country and reached crisis levels decades ago.
Conservatives assume that safety net programs increase poverty by incentivizing laziness and slow economic growth by draining resources from productive workers, thus taxes are better left in the hands of mega-businesses and the new U.S. aristocracy. However, most people want to work if jobs are available, but when full unemployment and underemployment is at least 17% in Indiana, and a 40-hr week at minimum wage provides poverty line wages ($15k), the assumption of viable work is faulty. The average rate of child poverty in the U.S is 21%, while the combined rate in the rest of the industrialized world is 10%. Cutting safety net programs only creates impoverished families, while those countries that invest in social goods (healthcare, education, jobs retraining, family assistance), tend to rank highest in health, democracy, and economic growth.
Finally, conservatives assume that taxing the wealthy punishes success, which sounds plausible, given that the top 50% of earners pay 93% of U.S. income tax. However, those same earners monopolize 90% of income, while the bottom 40% of families in the United States have an average net wealth of $0. Further, real income for the bottom 60% of workers has stagnated since Nixon, while the income of the top 5% has doubled. Thirty years of the neoliberal experiment has not produced a stronger society. Rather, it has eviscerated the social contract on which our country’s vision was founded. The larger question is whether it reasonable continue supporting a system where half of our citizens have insecure food and housing, while transnational corporations outsource our jobs, disregard the safety and welfare of their employees, and have widely publicized records evading all taxes?