The Essence of a Democratic Economy

People must earn enough from their work that they can afford to buy all the necessities of modern life. That is the essential element of a democratic economy. Only when that happens will we have a balanced economy and a functioning democracy.

It’s not about the stock market. It’s not about the billionaires. It’s not about big houses, boats, fleets of cars, and vacation homes. It’s about ordinary people having enough money for ordinary things: decent food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care. Essentials.

They do not.

Only when people earn enough for essentials
will we have a balanced economy
and a functioning democracy.

When everyone earns enough to pay for these things, the economy will thrive, because there will be strong markets for all the things that count. That means more jobs to supply those needs. That in turn means more tax revenue, which would provide enough money for education and all the things that are important to us. If large numbers of people have inadequate income, both democracy and the economy decline.

That’s what we have, an economy that is grossly overbalanced at the upper end and still worsening. This in turn has severe negative effects on our democracy.

Because at any moment there is a fixed amount of wealth in the country, when that money goes primarily to the rich, the fortunes of everyone else decline. People at the low end of the income scale lose many important parts of their democracy, and are constrained by the wealth of the rich. Their lives are reduced to a daily high-stress struggle to provide essentials, with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome.

It is not the rich who need more money.

It is not the rich who need more money. They already have more than anyone can reasonably use. How many houses does one family actually need? It is the rest of us, particularly at the low income level, where even basic needs are not being met. Basic needs, not luxuries.

For a real democracy in a country with even modest wealth, there cannot be significant poverty. There must not be significant deprivation, or shrunken opportunity. For a balanced and democratic economy, everyone must earn at least a wage one can live on. Unfortunately, the poor don’t earn enough to live on, and must focus on just getting by each day. Their children do not have the opportunities they should have. Democracy to them sounds like idle talk.

All the pressures from corporations and government push inexorably in the direction of concentration of wealth and diminution of the fortunes of the poor. Ongoing destruction of affordable housing and loss of the public assistance that becomes necessary with substandard wages are exactly the things we can’t have if we are to enjoy a democratic economy.

All the pressures push inexorably
in the direction of
concentration of wealth.

The imperatives of capitalism require businesses to pay the lowest wage they can get away with, because businesses must maximize profit for their owners. Inadequate wage is exacerbated when large numbers of people are unemployed, and are forced to accept whatever work they can find, no matter how bad the pay. This condition in turn is worsened by steadily increasing population with no improvement in equality. Exactly the conditions we have now.

But everything is made much worse by political pressures to do away with the welfare fraud that does not actually exist. This comes from conservative belief that there are large numbers of people of color living the high life on the unearned gifts they get from the government. Hardly the high life, but the actual facts don’t seem to matter to people who believe this. Food assistance, most of which provides essential nutrition to children and poor retirees, is at the moment completely cut off, leaving millions with the choice of crucial medicine or crucial food, not both, and assuring that many more children will be sent to school too hungry to learn anything. These are not the conditions found in a democracy.

These conditions actually lead us away from widespread affluence and a balanced and healthy economy. Underpaid workers cannot afford even necessities, let alone the niceties that make living pleasant. They can’t afford the things that would improve their children’s lives. They slip downward, turn bitter, lose hope. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

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