There’s been a lot of talk over Martin Luther King day about equality. While we may be unable to really define what we mean by equality fully, I think we all have a sense that some situations are more equal than other. My personal belief is that, outside of a Ayn Rand fans, most people actually think equality is something to aim for. Where I think we disagree is over the question of force to bring it about and the question of what is the best way to actually improve the equality of our nation.
In the BCC discussion one thing I pointed out is that many on all sides tend to adopt rather superficial approaches to the problem. It is one thing to raise awareness about inequality. Yet it is quite an other to actually successfully change the situation.
So how do we change things?
I think it quite clear that conservative thinkers and liberal thinkers differ quite a bit here. And honestly the reasons for inequity are complex. One must be careful not to decrease inequity within the US by making the rest of the world worse off, as some have suggested. If we are talking in a gospel context the person in Mexico is just as valuable as the person in Detroit. While many attack immigration and outsourcing such attacks have always been distasteful to me since it suggests that the quality of life in the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
My personal feeling is that taxes ought be changed and simplified with fewer tax breaks as “incentives” within the US government. (These often end up not having the desired effects but worse allow the system to be gamed by the powerful and rich) I’d also increase personal taxes while decreasing corporate taxes. I’d significantly decrease depreciation schedules for capital investment within corporations. That simply hurts small businesses – especially startups in the very areas that would spur job growth.
Finally I’d increase taxes on externalities that society as a whole has to pay for. If some companies are “too big to fail” that implies the government is acting as an insurance company for them. It follows that such companies ought pay higher rates to cover that service. (This would also incentivize small business – adding some additional stability to the system)
All of this would increase the opportunities for business.
As I’d do this I’d make up for the lost revenue by increasing the taxes on individuals – primarily the marginal rates on high income earners. Yes there are some studies that this might stop some investment as individuals attempt to avoid the point where taxes go up. But I think this will be offset by the corporate taxes. Not I’d increase personal taxes across the board – making your tax base depend only upon the rich is a guarantee of volatility of taxes. Plus I strongly feel everyone should pay some taxes so as to be a part of the system. So I’d have some consumption taxes as well.
Finally I think there are societal costs to not having better education. I think that the US really needs to engage on a heavy training system with more vocational training and getting away from the current university system. (Which in a way has been gamed by the universities to take advantage of student loans but not necessarily prepare students for the workplace)
I also think that some sort of universal health care is necessary. I oppose the Democratic plan, but rather liked some of the policy proposals of McCain from the last election. I think we have to at a minimum separate out health care from ones job. This will spur entrepreneurship but also allow a more fluid work force – and that will help the poor. Not only will it help the poor but will help the rest of us.
I could go on but I figured I’d throw that out for the rest of you. I know this tends to be a conservative blog so I’m interested in what the conservative solutions to inequality are as you see them. (Note: if your answer is just that we should simply accept inequality then I think that very hard to reconcile to the gospel)