To the editor: President Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative was originally proposed for $3.5 trillion. Why is such a large sum needed? To be clear, this money is spread over 10 years. That means $350 billion per year. By way of comparison, Congress passed the Defense Department budget of $768 billion per year a few weeks ago. The nation spends more than the next eight countries combined in military expenditures. Build Back Better is less than half of the annual military budget.
During the Gold Rush, 2% of the U.S. population controlled 60% of the wealth. The country consisted of a small very wealthy class and the majority who were poor.
The Roaring Twenties led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. A vastly different economy emerged from the New Deal, massive government spending during WW II and the rise of the Union movement. From 1949 until 1979, two-thirds of the income growth was in the bottom 90%. From 1980 until the present, two-thirds of the income growth has taken place in the top 1%. The top 1% currently owns 35% of the wealth.
Meanwhile, the upper income tax rate dropped from a high of 91% when Kennedy was president to 37% for a couple earning over $628,300 today. The last four decades has been a windfall in tax cuts for the upper income levels and a huge transfer of wealth from the lower and middle class to the wealthy.
Exacerbating the wealth inequality is the decline in Union membership from 40% in 1970 to 6% today. Coupled with declining benefit packages negotiated by unions has been the cutting of social programs that built the middle class and lifted millions out of poverty.
The U.S. lags the western democracies in childcare and is losing valuable time in not addressing the climate crisis. Educational opportunities lift low-income populations out of poverty. We are way overdue to make these investments to protect our environment, transition to a more sustainable and equitable economy and provide for a healthy and fulfilling life for our citizens.