It’s Not Funny–Richie Rich Just Got a Whole Lot Richer

Growing up like a lot of kids I liked to read comic books.  A favorite was Archie.  Who could not like Jughead?  And what red-blooded twelve year old boy’s heart didn’t beat faster looking at the voluptuous Betty and perky Veronica (or was it vice versa?)? 

But my personal favorite was Richie Rich.  The world’s richest kid.  He had two of everything.  I guess like most kids I simply fantasized about being rich and having money to burn.   

But one thing about Richie Rich—he was generous to a fault.  You could even say he was an altruist.  You see, Richie Rich shared his riches and helped those in need.

Not like today’s Wall Street bankers and corporate tycoons.   They’re the new robber barons.  For them, money truly does grow on trees. 

According to recent reports, in 2012 the top 10% of earners took home over 50% of all earnings in the US.  That’s the highest level in over 100 years of keeping statistics.  The top 1% took home over 20%.  Since the recession, the income of top earners has almost fully recovered; 95% of all gains has gone to the top 1%.  No wonder Occupy Wall Street (two years old this week) struck such a chord.  

To see what’s happened in Maine, just click on the link.  As goes Maine…

What’s the answer?  Of course, there isn’t any one answer.  But labor activists have a few ideas.  First of all, the moribund union movement needs to be reinvigorated.  As a recent newspaper editorial and numerous commentators have pointed out, America’s middle class was strongest—and our economy healthiest, when we had strong unions to ensure that Richie Rich shared more of the wealth.   Perhaps the AFL’s recent invitation to permit groups of non-union workers to join and opening membership beyond workplace will strike pay dirt—if not gold. 

Second, union or no union, enact a living wage.  In the last twenty years, hundreds of American municipalities have passed laws requiring businesses to pay not just a minimum wage, but a real wage $5-$7 higher that people can actually live on.  When companies like McDonald’s and Wal-mart make record profits and pay their CEO’s huge salaries, there’s no excuse for paying workers at or near the minimum wage. 

Third, restore the progressive tax.  According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, about 30% of the increase in income inequality is due to tax and budget policies.

I don’t think they draw Richie Rich comics any more.  If they did, he wouldn’t be an altruist any more.  I think he’d be a spoiled brat. 

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