Source: The Guardian Unlimited
Most of our mainstream political discourse on “fighting inequality” has revolved – for years now – around the more narrow goal of eliminating extreme poverty. Few of our elected leaders ever dare suggest that maybe we ought to think about eliminating extreme wealth as well. Even the mere idea seems a laughing matter.
Congressman Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, knows all this from personal experience. Earlier this year, in a talk to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison suggested that the time has come to start contemplating the notion of a “maximum wage”.
A reporter who heard those comments later asked Ellison about this maximum wage “joke” he had made. “I wasn’t joking,” Ellison replied. We need to get past the idea, he added, that we can leave some people in poverty while we let others “stack up dead presidents like nobody’s business”.
America’s rightwing media promptly swung into mockery mode. “You won’t believe what the progressives want to do next,” the Weekly Standard mockedabove a story that described Ellison’s maximum wage comments as “jaw-dropping”.
“We think,” conservative pundit Laura Ingraham opined, “there should be a maximum term in office for people with ideas as stupid as this one.”
Someone ought to tell Ingraham that the idea of capping income has a long and distinguished history in America. In 1880, Felix Adler, the philosopher who would later lead America’s first national campaign against child labor, proposed a 100% tax rate on income above the point “when a certain high and abundant sum has been reached, amply sufficient for all the comforts and true refinements of life”.
Such a levy, said Adler, would tax away “pomp and pride and power”.