-by Shervin Aazami
In a just and equitable society, there is no room for extreme wealth inequality. Over the last several decades-- while most working Americans have endured stagnant wages and skyrocketing cost of living, healthcare, and education expenses-- we’ve witnessed immense wealth and political power concentrate in the hands of the very few. Year after year, corporations like Amazon, Netflix, IBM, Chevron and countless others pay zero federal income tax, while multi-millionaires and billionaires take advantage of loopholes and gimmicks in our tax code.
In 2017, Congress passed a $2 trillion deficit-financed tax cuts package for corporations and the ultra wealthy without batting an eye, yet those same lawmakers always worry about the debt and deficit whenever discussing bailouts of working people. The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the most devastating case study in just how rigged our economy is. Amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic, as millions of Americans lost their jobs, wages, homes, healthcare, and other basic needs; the United States minted 46 new billionaires. Since March 2020, U.S. billionaires collectively raised their wealth by an eye-popping $1.1 trillion. That’s higher than the total cost of the December 2020 stimulus package (~$900 billion) that left working people with a paltry and insulting $600 one-time payment.
Extreme wealth inequality is corrosive to democracy and antithetical to justice. In the United States, white supremacy and unfettered capitalism have worked hand in glove to try and inhibit economic growth within Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color. No developed nation on the planet compares to the massive socioeconomic inequities we have here in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, from 2001 to 2016, upper-income families saw their wealth increase by a median 33% while middle-income families lost 20% of their wealth, and low-income families lost a whopping 45%. As we all know, the widening wealth gap was supercharged by the 2008 economic crash that was catalyzed by decades of financial deregulation and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (allowing commercial and investment banks to consolidate for the first time in roughly 50 years).
But as is the case with each national crisis, its impact falls disproportionately on the most marginalized and vulnerable. By 2013 - five years after the crash - the net worth of white households was estimated to be 13 times greater than Black households. Black Americans lost 40% of their wealth as a result of the 2008 economic crash, and continue to be targeted by predatory lenders who are further driving debt in Black and brown communities.
Even now, the total percentage of qualified Black and Latinx mortgage applications falls far below that of white Americans. A 2019 Lending Tree report found that mortgage applications from Black Americans are denied at almost twice the rate of Whites - 17.4% versus 7.9%. In short-- this is what economic racism looks like. Our financial system has never truly worked to build racial and economic equity; instead, it’s led to enormous pain and suffering. And as I’ve discussed under my Housing for All and other platforms, there remain larger racial and economic disparities that we must abolish in order to establish a true system of justice and equity.
In our congressional district (CA-30), which encompasses the West San Fernando Valley, we have extreme poverty and houselessness overwhelmingly experienced by Black and Latinx Angelenos rubbing shoulders on the same city block with some of the richest Americans living in multi-million dollar homes. So many Angelenos are living paycheck to paycheck because of the city’s astronomical cost of living. You’d have to be making $38 an hour to avoid paying more than a third of your income to rent in Los Angeles - that’s 2.5 times our minimum wage! Further, our inefficient and underfunded public transit system combined with the gentrifying effects of LA’s massive highway system have pushed more and more Black and Latinx Angelonos into poverty. Poverty is a policy decision-- pure and simple. Our economic system has created extreme wealth inequality that isn’t only unsustainable; it is flat-out immoral.
We must stop balancing the budget on the backs of the working class. It is past time that we establish a government that works for all of us, not just those at the top. That is why my Economic Justice platform calls for the following:
Wealth tax on the top 0.1.percent-- generating $4.35 trillion over a decade
Cancel all fossil fuel subsidies
End predatory payday lending
2% tax on Wall Street speculation
Eliminate income cap for Social Security tax
Eliminate perverse tax loopholes for the wealthy (e.g. unrealized capital gains)
Repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Eliminate the corrupt impact of corporate money on politics and overturn Citizens United
Move towards publicly funded elections
We need structural reforms that directly serve working people and rebuild our economy through a system of fairness, equity, and opportunity. We need a single-payer healthcare system under Medicare for All, to legislate on the bold vision of the Green New Deal, to guarantee Housing for All as a human right, to decriminalize our immigration system, and abolish our criminal IN-justice system. Join us at shervin4thevalley.com.
Blue America has endorsed Shervin's campaign for the San Fernando Valley congressional seat held by another all-talk-and-no-action congressman, Brad Sherman. Aazami is a public health professional and a a lifelong activist. Last time he wrote for DWT, he noted that we are coming out from under a racist and xenophobic authoritarian that puts us "at a moral and political crossroads." He wrote that the immense challenges we face as a polity did not start under Trump and will not automatically disappear because of his rejection at the polls. "The injustices in our nation," he wrote, "are the rotten fruits borne out from the generational impacts of institutional racism, classism, and unfettered capitalism-- rotten fruits cultivated by broken leadership in Congress. Our elected leaders-- both Democratic and Republican-- have been financed and controlled by corporations and business executives who lobby for legislation that improves their bottom line at the direct expense of working class people."
Aazami has eschewed contributions from corporate lobbyists and PACs and is running a grassroots campaign. He is turning to his fellow citizens hoping for a more perfect union to help him get out his message. I hope you will consider contributing to his campaign by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer on the left. As his economic justice plank on his campaign website states, "We must end corporate welfare and invest in structural reform to uplift and empower the working class, rebuild our middle class, and ensure economic and racial justice for all. We must create a progressive taxation system that guarantees the wealthy pay their fair share so all of us can reap the benefits of healthcare, education, housing, and a living wage for all. As Angela Davis said, 'As long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality, and economic equality will elude us.'"