CNN’s Julian Zelizer’s article calls into question President Barack Obama’s commitment to inequality. After calling inequality the defining issue of our time, he’s had surprisingly little to say about it since then. Democrats, as a whole, have had few things to say about this, except for Elizabeth Warren, the only real progressive potential presidential candidate out there.
How do we fight inequality? The ideas most progressives come up with are increases in the minimum wage, higher taxes on the 1%, and support for unions. I say that while we need to raise the minimum wage, support a tax system that taxes the wealthy more than their secretaries, and full support for labor unions, none of them will affect inequality. Raising the minimum wage helps people; support for higher taxes on the wealthy helps pay for infrastructure and school buildings; and support for unions helps individuals with their fight to remain in the middle class or to enter it. What they don’t do is address the fundamental root of inequality. Inequality occurs because of the corporatist system in America. In a corporate system the emphasis is on enriching the shareholders. That’s it. There’s no obligation to see workers as assets. The solution is to raise awareness of cooperatives, and provide support for people trying to develop a cooperative workplace.
Cooperatives erode income inequality because there is no profit to be sucked up by outside interests; no ruler to determine the future of any of its employees; and no exclusion of employees from the decision-making process. Instead, members of the cooperatives not only do the work, but they participate in the decision-making process, and decide how surplus capital is to be used. There is no one sucking up this surplus capital to pay off shareholders and executive management.
Progressives! It is time to think about cooperatives as the real solution to inequality in America. I support a higher income, I support unionization, and I support a progressive income tax, but to grow the middle class we must think cooperatives.