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Voices / Counterpoint

True equality of income will not be solved by government

We are caving under our tax burden. We need other measures to help make healthy, safe, and vibrant communities.

Toni Powling works as an entrepreneur in her family’s logging company.

Newfane

I read with interest Tim Kipp’s top-of-the-fold Viewpoint on real democracy. There are items, as a conservative, with which I agree or mostly agree — for example, his points that democracy is a participatory process, and that it may need to change as the country evolves regarding demographics, technology, world relationships, education, and social norms.

However, it seems the biggest issue in the article revolves around money and economic opportunity.

While it is a feel-good sentiment, true equality of income will not be solved by government. We have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of laws that address the issue without real progress.

Kipp says that real democracy is equal access to the power that influences economy and politics.

Equal access is there. Every adult citizen has the right to vote. We have coddled them with three different methods — what else should we do? If equal use of that access doesn’t happen, who is responsible?

* * *

“Real democracy happens at work?” Workers get the “fruits of their labor” via their paycheck, and the government (a.k.a. voters) made minimum-wage laws.

In addition, unions protect workers. A vibrant economy gives workers choice in where they work. Retraining is available for displaced workers. Apprenticeships are becoming fashionable again. Skilled positions are often offered with sign-on bonuses or paid education.

The problem is not available opportunity, it is one of two things: lack of motivation, or enslavement by the welfare state.

People who own businesses are not the bad guys. They do not start a business, invest the fruits of their own labor, work long hours, often forego most or all of their own pay, or provide a service and employment so that employees can “share” in their profits, should they be lucky enough to actually have profits.

That would certainly disincentivize entrepreneurship and result in job losses.

* * *

Real democracy is “no inequality with respect to poverty, hunger, race, and class,” Kipp says. Show me one place, just one, where that is happening or ever did happen.

People are not cookie-cutter beings. Some are ambitious; some are lazy. Some are good at math; some are not. Some are outspoken; some are shy. Some are self-aware; some are not. Some seek knowledge; some are not curious. Some make bad decisions; some not so much. Just how do you think we can make and keep everyone equal?

We would agree on a public education system that advances critical thinking and media literacy, but only if both sides of the political aisle are represented. Higher education is, by one measure, about 90 percent liberal professors. So, in the name of equality, level those scales.

* * *

Working people are taxed and regulated literally to death. Here in Vermont, we pay federal and state income tax, property tax, sales tax, food and beverage tax, gas tax, cell phone taxes, etc.

That money is used to benefit everyone — mainly for education, roads, and the cost of running the government. A great deal is given to social services which, in large part, benefit those who are struggling. We are caving under the load we are carrying.

Government redistribution and regulation isn’t the answer. Local action, church involvement, compassionate but tough programs to give a leg up, community standards and, dare I say, community policing programs and simple neighborliness all help make healthy, safe, and vibrant communities.

As the saying goes: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #588 (Wednesday, November 18, 2020). This story appeared on page C3.

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