Should there be a maximum income?

What, after all, is the guiding light of society?

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We read about the enormous incomes that some people make in the United States.  But we rarely ask whether the system should be revised to put a maximum limit on such earnings. Yet this is supposedly a democracy, and in a democracy the society can decide if earnings are too high to be justified.

Take Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America.  According to some reports, “Bezos has earned $6.54 billion a month, more than $1.5 billion a week, and more than $215 million a day in the last 12 months.”  This works out to $78.5 billion annually. And the average amount he pays his Amazon employees is $28,466. In other words, he earns enough to pay 2.757 million employees their annual salary.

So let’s say we limit his income to that of 1,000 of his employees each year.  That would limit his income to $28.466 million a year.  The balance ($78.471 billion) could be used to increase the employees’ salary or be paid as taxes to the government.

Certainly, Mr. Bezos wouldn’t suffer if he “only” earned $28.466 million each year.  And the rest of society would be better off if it received an extra $78.471 billion with which to fund programs which supposedly it cannot fund.

“The wealthiest 10% of the country holds 70% of the total wealth.  If they gave up half their wealth (35% of the total wealth), $34.3 trillion would go into the public coffers.  They would keep $34.3 trillion. That’s $2,688,298.46 per family, which isn’t chicken feed. So, on the whole, that seems a better solution.  $2.688 million seems a perfectly reasonable amount to have, especially when the nation can probably solve a good many problems with a donation (or tax, if you prefer) of $34.3 trillion.

“Elizabeth Warren says that Medicare for All would cost $20.5 trillion.  That would leave $13.8 trillion from the wealthiests’ donation.  Outstanding student debt runs at $1.5 trillion. We could get rid of that problem and have $12.3 trillion left.   We could use that money to pay off half of our national debt and be back to where we were in 2008.” 

The question one might ask is what the $34.3 trillion is presently being spent on.  No doubt on real estate, bonds and stocks, expensive artwork and jewelry, automobiles that sit around most of the time doing nothing.  I think it would be fair to say that the money is “invested” in goods that are rarely used and only are markers of wealth without being a betterment of society.

If it were possible to turn some of these goods into services that would improve society, I think our society would be better for it.  For example, nearly 250,000 rental apartments sit vacant in New York City. And yet there are 63,000 homeless men, women and children in New York City.  If the society were truly paying attention, those vacant apartments could be used to end homelessness.  

What, after all, is the guiding light of society?  What should we want it to be?  Compassion is one of the core values of our society.  “Most of us value compassion and agree that it is important both in our own lives as well as in society more generally. Undeniably, compassion is also part of our everyday experience of being human. We love and care for our children; confronted with someone in pain, we instinctively feel for that person; when someone reaches out to us in a time of distress we feel touched. Most of us would also agree that compassion has something to do with what it means to lead a good life. So it’s no small coincidence that compassion turns out to be the common ground where the ethical teachings of all major traditions, religious and humanistic, come together.”  

And if compassion is so important, then how can we have homelessness?  How can we have such extremes of poverty when we have extremes of wealth?  How can we say that we believe in charity and yet sit in an extremely wealthy society which suffers from poverty?

I think that the answer is that while we promote charity and compassion, we do not do it enough.  In the root of our souls, we want personal power and wealth.  We deride socialism, even though such a system could be used to promote charity and compassion.

Our society would be so much better if the concepts and feelings of love, compassion, and charity were the guiding lights.  I truly believe that we should rethink our society and make these concepts, these feelings, central to our lives and the way we function as human beings.

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