March 2016: Does Income Inequality Threaten Democracy?

March 2016 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

Does Income Inequality Threaten Democracy?

Monday, March 21, 2016
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

According to economists since the 1970s incomes have become less equal. In the world 70% of the countries have a more balanced distribution of wealth than America does. Are the poor and middle class working long hours to ensure the prosperity of the 1%? Will this prompt a revolt or sink the have-nots into apathy and despair? Do we need money to be democratic or does freedom come from our worldview not our pocket book? Does the change come from global economic forces beyond government control or does it reflect a failure of our leaders to make fairness a priority? And for those who feel that they are doing OK, is it such a bad thing?

The 1% were the target of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The elite still seem to have their money and the Occupy encampments seem to be gone. Does this show no one really cares? Is illegal immigration the problem or are the border hoppers doing jobs U.S. citizens disdain? Is the problem a global economy where capitalists search for the countries which pay workers least and ship production and even customer service call centers there? Can American business survive without access to cheaper labor? Is the answer in Bernie Sanders’ Wall Street tax or in Donald Trump’s wall? Is politics the solution or a big part of the problem?

Canada and European countries have more income equality but much higher taxes. Would we be happy with Nova Scotia’s 15% sales tax? Since many of our ancestors left Europe and other more equal countries to come here, is this really what Americans want? Is “rags to riches” a real possibility or just a myth to pacify the masses and keep them from overthrowing a rotten system? Who is hurt by income inequality and do they vote? Is present political polarization a reflection of anger at politics as usual which lets problems fester amid over the top rhetoric?

Does income inequality promote a corrupt political process where Super-PACs funnel vast sums into the campaign chests of protectors of the status quo? If the Citizens United case were set aside would democracy flourish? Or have all efforts at campaign finance reform weakened political parties, put more money into politics, and done more harm than good? If Super-PACs ruled why isn’t Jeb Bush running for president anymore? Why is the self-financed Donald Trump leading the Republican field and Bernie Sanders who depends on small contributions even from the unemployed such a threat to Hilary Clinton? Is it all about the money?

Communism exalts in theory an egalitarian economic system. Does that look like China now? How much democracy do they have? In another unequal time Social Darwinists claimed economic riches flowed to the fittest and that it would be financial disaster for the state to redistribute wealth. Do some still secretly think that? Is wealth softened by philanthropy and rich people running for office as egalitarians? If we receive a sufficient “bribe” from the system, do we care?

On Monday, March 21 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will seek a fair and balanced answer to the question just without the yelling that mars some commentary of the fair and balanced. All will equally agree to open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality. Possibly we will make America great again or maybe not. But we will have treats! Attendance is free (donations deeply appreciated) and open to all.