For more insights from Dale, check out his personal blog WalkerViewPoints.
I spent most of my life avoiding politics, happily focusing on my family and my career in financial services. But after an early retirement, I went back to school for a Master’s degree in Global Development, and as I studied, I realized just how important it was for me to be politically engaged. When I saw just how devastating our current levels of inequality have been for working class populations, I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer.
Technology and globalization have increased inequality and eroded the power of workers in our modern economy, and these are real obstacles to overcome. But more than anything else, it is economic policy favoring wealthy individuals and businesses over workers that has contributed to the staggeringly unsustainable levels of inequality we now face. In the years since Reagan and Thatcher, working class populations in the US and in many developing and developed countries have suffered as a result of the steady advance of neoliberal economic policies. In 1965, the average CEO made about 20 times what the average worker earned. Today, the average CEO makes 276 times what a typical worker makes. This is ridiculous, and is not the natural and inevitable consequence of liberal democracy and capitalism.
By passing legislation that is intended to help everyone, not just the wealthy, we can close that gap. And that’s why I’m a member of the Patriotic Millionaires. I think it’s incredibly important that we have a group of wealthy Americans, people who have “made it,” say that we need to lend a helping hand to others who want to succeed like we have, but face increasing obstacles.
I’ve been very successful in my life, and some of that may have come from my own inherited talent and hard work, but it would be ludicrous for me to claim that I made it by myself. I had so many advantages that contributed to my success, from growing up a male WASP in a great economic era to having help from supportive parents, relatives, and professors. This baseline, in many ways insured by any number of government-funded programs and infrastructure, played a huge role in where I ended up.
As Patriotic Millionaires, we know we didn’t do it alone, and we know that people without our advantages need a helping hand. My wealthy conservative friends ask me all the time whether I’m in favor of socialism, and I say of course not – I just want to find ways to enable everyone to succeed. We had help along the way, so now it’s our responsibility to provide help to those coming along now.
I’ve seen the effect that helping hand can have. I know several successful people who have gone into a low-income neighborhood near mine and given disadvantaged children the resources they need, and those kids have flourished. For years every single one has graduated from high school, and nearly all finish college. They were capable all along, they just needed the opportunity, and the means, to succeed. I want every child in America to have that opportunity.
But we can’t rely on a few benevolent do-gooders – we need a government that is committed to achieving shared prosperity and opportunity for all. Without a government that is supported and financed, that provides health care, and that ensures economic mobility remains a real possibility, the American dream will be out of reach for far too many.
Where we are right now isn’t the way it has to be. We can do better.