Table of Contents

The New Enlightenment excerpt, pages 1 – 6

Introduction to The New Enlightenment

Every observer of our society can see we are facing many serious problems. These problems are not isolated; they are connected through political and economic systems serving the majority of Americans increasingly poorly. The New Enlightenment describes some of the ways these systems are descending us into alarming levels of injustice and dysfunction, but its primary focus is on solutions. You will learn how we can create a more prosperous and far more just and democratic society, one in which prosperity will be more equitably shared. 

Sometimes paradigm shifts are necessary to solve fundamental prob­lems. Now is such a time, so innovative, transformative solutions are pro­moted here. They are evidence based to best serve the country as a whole. Few of us want what we have now, a political system mainly serving a small elite most able to influence it, and their dominance is growing. We can have a truly democratic republic through the political system reforms I detail in this book.

The beneficial transformations I design for—some are summa­rized below—may seem too large to be achievable. Many will believe that no policies can exist that will achieve these goals because if they did exist they would have already been implemented. However, if you consider the policies detailed in this book carefully, you will see that this prejudice is misguided. The de­tailed program described in this book will:

  • End unemployment or reduce it to historic lows.
  • Create a minimum tax-free annual income of $34,980 for full-time work. Expanding and reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and raising the mini­mum
  • Reduce full-time work-hours to 36 hours per week. Despite 10% fewer work-hours, and consequently as much as 10% lower com­pensation from the workplace, people’s take-home income whose income now is under $160,000 will rise, and rise proportionally more the lower the income, due to either lower taxes or the ex­panded EITC.
  • Transform the economic system to one where most economic ac­tivity will be performed by worker-owned and controlled busi­nesses at the end of the designed 20-year transition period. Loans, grants, tax benefits and subsidies within several detailed pro­grams will accomplish this. By extending democratic practices into the workplace, and substantial capital ownership to the work­force, income and wealth inequality reduction, productivity en­hancements, and other important benefits result.
  • Eliminate the dominating importance of money controlled by national public office candidates and their allies, and thereby allow a meaningful democracy to exist. This will be ac­complished mainly by instituting a TV and radio station license requirement to offer generous allotments of airtime free of charge to four qualified candidates per national public office contest within a thoroughly detailed system. No reasonable need for the purchase of airtime will exist. All airwaves are pub­licly owned, so they should best serve the public interest. Also, support qualified candidates with postal, newspaper, and internet advertising subsidies, and institute a new Fairness Doctrine.
  • Enhance democratic functioning with new, innovative democratic forms. Average citizens in deliberative groups involving 0.1% of the citizenry will develop some public policies.
  • Create a vigorous media of, for, and by the people necessary for a well-functioning government of, for, and by the people. This book details these ways to accomplish this: Insti­tute a license renewal requirement for worker-ownership and con­trol of air media companies, and support it with loans, grants, tax benefits and subsidies. Motivate ownership and control by work­ers of other kinds of media businesses, also through loans, grants, tax benefits and subsidies. Media ownership and control by workers will eliminate important media content selection biases resulting from the character of current media ownership and management, and result in other important benefits. The media’s role in the functioning of a democratic society is essential, and our media corporations’ current structure is inevitably serving this role This policy will create a new and vigorous media culture more responsive and accountable to the majority.
  • Eliminate tuition for two and four-year public colleges. This will help meet our stated ideal of equal opportunity for all and help create the well-informed citizenry needed for a well-functioning democracy and economy. It will also remove an enormous burden from millions of future college graduates whose education serves the national interest.
  • Increase Social Security payments by $500/month to all recipients, and provide it to some who are currently ineligible. The United States ranks 30th among 34 developed countries in the percentage of a median worker’s earnings that our public pension system replaces, and private pensions are becoming less common and generous.
  • Eliminate the deficit.

The economic and political system reform program detailed in this book will also have other transformative beneficial impacts if instituted. 

Impossibly grandiose goals? They are not—on one condition: Your support and the support of many others for the detailed program in this book and the organization devoted to seeing it be instituted. Please join us so we can reach a critical mass in numbers for this change to be inevitable. Let this time of crisis be a time of opportunity, a time for a New Enlightenment where, unlike during the 18th century Enlightenment,  all people independent of race and sex share in its benefits.  All of our lives can be improved, for tens of millions of us dramatically so, through policies that will create a far more just and beneficial political, social and economic order. Now is the time to make it happen.   

Our current political system needs radical reform because, inherently, policymakers unwilling or unable to serve the majority are its result. When good and capable persons overcome nearly insurmountable barriers to their entry into elected office, they are largely disabled by dysfunctional rules of Congress and colleagues serving narrow, moneyed interests. So further decline or paralysis is inevitable without system change.

The person who may be the most well-informed judge on the relative quality of our election system is the internationally renowned election observer, former President Carter, whose Carter Center has monitored 96 elections in 38 countries. He said, “We have one of the worst election processes in the world right in the United States, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money.” For this and other important reasons, the U.S. Congress’s approval rating reached a historic low in 2014 of 9%.[1] Only 9% of Americans think Congress is mainly influenced by the voters they represent.[2]

The outcomes of our economic system are to a large degree determined by the regulation, tax, and government expenditure policies created by our political system, so major economic injustices and hardships are evident. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 20% of the U.S. population did not have enough money to buy the food they or their family needed at least once over the prior year.[3] In 2013, about 50 million, that’s over one in every seven, Americans lived in poverty, a higher fraction than at any time since 1966, a higher number than ever. Our per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $52,800 in 2013, but in 1966 it was $28,680 in 2013 dollars. So on average, each person in the United States had an income almost two times higher in 2013 than in 1966, yet about the same fraction of the population was in poverty because nearly all the country’s income gains have gone to a small economic elite.

The average wealth of the poorest 40%, 126 million Americans, was negative $10,800 in 2013, but as our GDP per capita indicates, we are a wealthy country, not a poor one.[4] The total wealth of just 400 people, less than .00013 % of our population, was over $2.3 trillion in 2013.[5] This is approximately the total wealth of the least wealthy 190 million Americans or 60% of the country and is about the GDP of Italy, the eighth largest national economy in the world. The top 400 people have wealth equivalent to 12.8% of U.S. GDP in 2013. In 1980, the wealthiest 400 Americans had wealth equal to “only” 2.8% of U.S. GDP.

The Gini coefficient measures inequality, with numbers between 0 and 100 that rise with greater disparities. The UN-Habitat Monitoring and Research Division defines an income Gini coefficient of 40 as an “international alert line” indicating that a society’s “Inequality [is] approaching dangerously high levels” that could “lead to sporadic protests and riots.” Our income Gini coefficient is now about 48 and has risen to about 80 for U.S. wealth.[6] Our economic inequality is the highest in the developed world and our economic mobility the lowest.

We cannot have a functioning economic system if income or wealth is divided equally, but disparities so large that the top 1% of Americans have 24% of the nation’s income is unjust and economically, politically and socially harmful.[7] The average income of the top 1% of U.S. households in 2011 was $1,530,773, while the average income of Americans in the bottom 20% was $9,187. The highest income for an individual was $4.9 billion. Part 4, Note 1 details why this degree of income disparity is unjustifiable and harmful.  

With the huge disparity in economic power inevitably comes a huge disparity in political power, resulting in greater economic disparity. This vicious cycle of growing power disparities will lead to disaster unless it is consciously and forcefully interrupted and reversed. Yet it seems we are continuing to run on this path of predictable outcome, like lemmings over a cliff.

Increasingly, people are aware of their powerlessness, so they no longer bother to vote. If people believe their interests will not be served whoever is elected, they have little motivation to vote. We have, by far, the lowest voter turnout in the developed world.

Concurrent with the decline in trust in our political system and leaders is a decline in trust in our business leaders and media. And this decline in trust is extending not just to our most important institutions, but also to one another as individuals. The percentage of Americans who believe that other people can generally be trusted fell from 46% in 1974 to 33% in 2012. Trust is essential to social cohesion and political stability, and it is negatively correlated with economic inequality. Trust in a democratic system of government requires trust in the few who represent the interests of the many.

These ominous signs for the future of our country and many other signs of societal dysfunction and decay we urgently need to address with robust policy solutions. Some of these other signs I describe in Part 1 of this book. For decades, both major political parties have allowed the development of, or created, a long list of shocking economic, political and other societal conditions. Why are we tolerating this?

We are a creative people, yet little creativity has been applied to the most important domains of ensuring that our economic and political systems best serve the majority of people. The debate on all the important related issues has been too narrow, due mainly to a dysfunctional media. But the problem runs deeper to those in our academic institutions’ political science and economics departments, where adherents to failed dogmas are common—dogmas that, not coincidentally, have served a narrow elite, to the detriment of the majority. Academic economists have commonly supported or actively promoted the policies of removing important and necessary regulations on corporations, and of lowering taxes on high-income households and corporations that have been instituted over the last few decades. These policies have served the country poorly. However, some members of these academic disciplines have had clearer vision or higher purpose, and some of the policy proposals in this book use ideas of some of these and other exceptional people.

Clearly, a mass movement is needed for fundamental change, and I hope this book attracts you to be part of the one in the direction it defines. Recent history gives the Occupy movement and the Tea “Party” as examples of important political forces that rose unexpectedly and quickly to great prominence. These movements are far from the limit of what can be accomplished, and what has been accomplished by political movements in the past.

I chose the name The New Enlightenment mainly because economic inequality was one of the most important motivations for the Enlightenment period’s societal transformations, including the one that created the United States. Data from medieval England and today indicate it is more extreme now than it was before the Enlightenment. For this reason and others, it is time for a New Enlightenment. These data and this analysis are in Part 1, Now Is the Time for The New Enlightenment.

If you are aware of the evidence that our economic and political systems require major reforms, you can skip most of Part 1 with little loss of continuity. The data from England before the Enlightenment are rarely seen, though, and their analysis and comparison with conditions today is original here, so I recommend that no one skip this Part 1 information and other historical and essential information in the first ten pages of Part 1. The facts in Part 1 may cause despair, but do not despair. The rest of the book is designed to create hope by providing the major part of a foundation for a New Enlightenment.

   Robert Bivona

The New Enlightenment was written over about a five-year period beginning in December 2011


[2] Congress Still Ranks Low in the Public’s Eyes, Rasmussen Reports, 1/3/15

[3] More Americans Struggle to Afford Food, 9/12/13, Alyssa Brown

[4] Household Wealth Trends In The United States, 1962-2013:What Happened Over The Great Recession? Edward N. Wolff, National Bureau Of Economic Research, pg.14

[5] Inside The 2013 Forbes 400: Facts And Figures On America’s  Richest

[6] Fortune magazine, America is the richest, and most unequal, country, Erik Sherman  9/30/15,, U. S. Census data

[7] Striking it Richer:The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2013 preliminary estimates) Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley,1/25/15. The data in Saez’s document is determined using income tax statistics. Based on the authors communication with Emmanuel Saez, about 2% additional income share would likely result from taking into account income directed to tax havens.

The New Enlightenment excerpt,
pages 8-11,16, 17

The Age of Enlightenment

During the Enlightenment, people imagined and acted on a vision of a radically more just world

The original Enlightenment period in the 18th century was a time when many people in Europe, and later in the American colonies, shared a vision of a transformed world. The more widespread use of printing presses, more extensive roadways, and newly created postal services needed to distribute periodicals and other print media allowed their means of mass communication, print media, to dramatically increase public awareness of societal issues. There was an explosion in the number of books and other publications. Literacy rates increased greatly, and debating societies and other public forums were used to discuss the important issues.

As a result, many people were able to imagine the possibility of a fundamentally more just world order than the one in which they were living—an order based on reason, the ideals of equality for all, democracy, and fundamental individual human rights. More importantly, they also acted on their new and radical vision. During this period of revolutionary transformations, the powers of monarchy, the privileges of the nobility, the political power and authority of the Catholic Church were overturned. There were also dramatic revolutions in science and philosophy. The American Revolution (1775–83) was an integral part of the Enlightenment period.

Enlightenment revolutionaries strove to create more egalitarian societies

The awareness of the importance of economics to politics was a fundamental part of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment revolutionaries experienced the injustice of the majority of the wealth of their society being controlled by a tiny fraction of the population. This small minority used their vast wealth to control the political and social order. So Enlightenment revolutionaries formed more egalitarian societies where political leaders were accountable to the majority. Governments were designed to ensure that public policy served the ideals of democracy, equality for all, reason, and basic individual human rights. America was one of these societies.

America was the most egalitarian society in the world

In America’s early years it was the most egalitarian society on the planet, and our Founders were proud of these conditions. In a letter from Monticello dated September 10, 1814, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We have no paupers …. The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich … such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families …. Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Jefferson contrasted these conditions with an England of paupers and plutocrats: “Now, let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries. In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only; and the proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers you know better than I do. Were I to guess that they are four in every hundred.”[1]

George Washington, nine months before his inauguration as the first president, predicted that America “will be the most favorable country of any kind in the world for persons of industry and frugality, possessed of moderate capital, to inhabit … it will not be less advantageous to the happiness of the lowest class of people, because of the equal distribution of property.”[2]

After Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey to America in the 19th century, he returned to France and wrote that nothing “Nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of conditions… the influence of this fact…has no less empire over civil society than over the Government; it creates opinions, engenders sentiments, suggests the ordinary practices of life, and modifies whatever it does not produce…the equality of conditions is the fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived, and the central point at which all my observations constantly terminated.”[3]

Early America was the world’s most egalitarian society.[4] Today, we are the outliers in the other direction—we are the most unequal of all the developed countries. On a per capita basis, we produce over 30 times the amount of goods and services per year than when the country was founded.[5] Yet, in 2012, almost 50 million Americans were in poverty and over 20 million were severely poor, with incomes less than one-half the official poverty income.[6]

During America’s early years England’s 1% were so rich that the country’s average national income was nearly as high as that of the colonies, despite the much greater prosperity of the majority of Americans. Today, America’s 1% are taking a greater share of national income and wealth than the old English aristocracy did, and a larger percentage of the country’s income and wealth than any other advanced country.

[1] Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 10 September 1814

[2] Letter from George Washington to Richard Henderson, 19 June 1788

[3] Democracy In America, Introductory chapter, Alexis De Tocqueville

[4] NY Times, America, Land Of The Equals By Chrystia Freeland, 5/3/12

[5] American Enterprise Institute: Life Expectancy v. Real GDP Per Capita, 1800-2007 Mark J. Perry. In 1800, in the U.S. per-capita real GDP was $1,343 by 2007, it was $42,952. Worker hours per capita are much lower now than in 1800, so the GDP/capita ratio is an underestimate of the productivity gains.               

[6] U.S. Department Of Health & Human Services, Information On Poverty And Income Statistics: A Summary Of 2013 Current Population Survey Data 09/18/2013

The Enlightenment Era’s Ideals Were far from Fully Realized

The tolerance of the atrocity of slavery and the near extermination of Native Americans

The Enlightenment era ideals of freedom and equality for all, democracy, basic individual human rights and using reason to determine action, advanced societies greatly. But they had (and we still have) a long way to go. Many Enlightenment era Europeans’ and Americans’ understanding of who was fully human was tragically deficient. Racist atrocities during the Enlightenment era resulted from faulty information and evil people, not Enlightenment ideals.

Slavery pre-existed the Enlightenment era, but the large Transatlantic slave trade was facilitated during the era by advancements in weaponry and their production processes, the ability to travel, and to produce ships that could carry large numbers of people. Unfortunately, advancements in science and technology, a major characteristic of the Enlightenment era, have always resulted in advancements in the abuse of science and technology.

The Enlightenment transformations were imperfect and incomplete advancements, as have been all others. Basic individual human rights were not extended in the U.S. and Europe to races other than the white race, and to women, until well after the Enlightenment, and even in the 21st century this extension is far from complete.

Social orders dominated by elite powers of monarchy and nobility were inhumane, and eliminated based on Enlightenment philosophy. We now are in a period where a kind of aristocracy is again dominating our social order. This book will describe some of the resulting dysfunction and injustices.

So we need a New Enlightenment, one where all people independent of race and sex share in its benefits. But these benefits will be largest for those currently most disadvantaged by the unjust social order now.

If enslaved African Americans were justly compensated for their labor, what would the assets received then be worth today? Also, a hundred years of Jim Crow laws and economic oppression from other forms of discrimination followed enslaved African Americans’ theoretical emancipation. The result is that African Americans now have 1/20 the per capita wealth of whites.

Although not targeted to benefit any specific race, New Enlightenment reforms will reduce disparities between the races. But to what degree should we further correct disparities resulting from injustices of the past? This will best be answered after the true democracy and other social reforms of the New Enlightenment. 

Economic Disparities Now and Then

Greater economic disparities exist now than before the Enlightenment, as the table shows, for income inequality. The first three columns of the table include data from Gregory King’s classic early study of British income inequality that published the information on 26 classes of persons in England and Wales in 1688. The fourth column is calculated by multiplying the first and third columns. (A summary and analysis follows this detailed table.)

Income Distribution in 17th Century Britain

Number of Families in Class


Yearly Income Per Family (£)

Total Income in Class


Temporal lords




Spiritual lords
















Eminent merchants & traders by sea








Persons in greater offices and places




Lesser merchants and traders by sea




Persons in the law




Persons in lesser offices and places




Freeholders of the better sort




Naval officers




Eminent clergymen




Persons in liberal arts and sciences




Military officers




Freeholders of the lesser sort




Lesser clergymen




Shopkeepers and tradesmen








Artisans and handicrafts




Common seamen




Laboring people and out-servants




Common soldiers




Cottagers and paupers




Vagrants, beggars, gypsies, thieves and prostitutes (per  head)



Medieval Britain Income Inequality Summary and Analysis with a Comparison to America's Income Inequality in 2011


Medieval Britain

2011 U.S.

Maximum household income


$4.9 billion (hedge fund manager John Paulson)

Median household income



Ratio of maximum income to median

84.2 to 1


Top 400 highest income household’s average income



Ratio of top 400 average
income to median

48 to 1


The highest 1%’s income  percent of  all income



Income Inequality Is Far More Extreme Now Than In Medieval Times

The Scottish Enlightenment’s Adam Smith

Adam Smith was one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, and he is widely considered the father of modern economics. His work was important to many other very influential thinkers, including David Ricardo and Karl Marx in the nineteenth century and John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman in the twentieth. Smith’s “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (1776) is one of the most influential books ever written. In it he wrote:

 “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”[i]

“Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

Societies require systems that moderate tendencies for distributions of wealth and income to be highly skewed toward a small economic elite.

The term “economist” did not exist in the time of Adam Smith. He considered himself to be a moral philosopher dedicated to understanding ways for society to be organized to best serve the majority of people and the ideal of justice.

People should be taxed “as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.” Taxation should “remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich.” 

Adam Smith

Smith maintained that sharing the feelings of others as closely as possible is ideally one of our main drives in life. The meaning of his famous “invisible hand” reference has been misinterpreted to justify individual greed as the driving force within society.

[i] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book 5, pg. 316 and Book 3, Chapter IV, pg. 448

The New Enlightenment’s Index

For anyone with a copy of The New Enlightenment without an index and anyone else who would like it, here is a downloadable PDF of The New Enlightenment’s Index.

Amazon as Metaphor manuscript excerpt

Introduction to Amazon as Metaphor

Advancements in communication and computer technologies, medicine, transportation, and other fields are testaments to the immense power of the creative human mind. Humanity has accomplished what was once deemed possible only in the imaginations of visionary science fiction writers just a few decades ago. However, too little creativity has been applied where it is most needed, on ways to reverse our ominous social decline trends and create economic and political systems that best serve the majority of people.

Discussions on the root causes of our social problems and possible solutions in the media and academic institutions have been too narrow in scope. University political science and economics departments commonly adhere to outdated ideologies that restrain policy recommendations within boundaries that do not significantly disturb the status quo. This is due to the elites’ influence.

Almost any institution or person has a price for acting in the service of elites; however high it is, they have it. If income inequality did not grow from unjust to grotesque from 1975 to 2023, the lowest income 90% would have over $50 trillion more; instead, it went to the top 1%.[1]

The top 1%’s power to corrupt our political system to serve them at the expense of the majority is overwhelming. In 2010, the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision also gave corporations the rights to do so, and their ability to destroy democracy is even more extreme. In 2022, corporate profits totaled $11.6 trillion. Each year since the “Citizens United” decision, a small fraction of corporate profits funded the election campaigns of our “representatives.  After elections end, corporate elites also direct massive amounts of money to lobbying campaigns of elected and regulatory officials and to the “revolving door” between them and high paid corporate positions. As a result, policymakers have done little or nothing in response to many social decline trends threatening our nation’s survival or instituted public policies that contributed to the decline, such as tax cuts for the rich and corporations. We have a government of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%.

 The political system determines economic outcomes through a wide variety of government policies of which our corporate elite is well aware. So they devote immense resources to corrupting it to serve them at the expense of the rest of us. The policies include subsidies to businesses and sectors, policies on taxation, trade, and business regulation, including antitrust laws and their enforcement, the funding and character of social welfare programs, and investments in education, infrastructure, and R&D.

Corporate elite’s political system investments have brought high returns. For example, from 1975 to 2023, tax rates on corporate profits dropped from 48% to 21%. This 27% difference is highly significant for two reasons: corporate profits are huge, and corporate ownership is extremely concentrated in an economic elite. The total value of corporations listed on U.S. stock exchanges owned by the top 1% is more than 16 times the value held by the bottom 80% and more than the bottom 99%.[2] Corporate profits for the four quarters ending April 1, 2023, totaled $13.9 trillion, so the 27% was a staggering $3.75 trillion reduction in public funds in just one year.[3]

Let’s see what we could have had for the $3.75 trillion instead of a more obscenely wealthy corporate elite whose additional wealth empowered them to be more socially destructive:

  1. The total of all tuition and fees paid by students at 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in the 2020-21 academic year was $81.9 billion—easily paid for out of the $3.75 trillion, leaving $3.67 trillion and making colleges and universities tuition and fee free.
  2. The average monthly payment the 62.8 million Social Security recipients receive is $1,707/month. 40% of older Americans rely solely on Social Security for retirement income. Americans 65 and older are the fastest-growing age group who are homeless; by 2030, their numbers will triple. Homelessness is devastating for all, but older adults face additional risks and harm from the experience.[4] (Approximately half of homeless single adults are ages 50 or older.) The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides an average of $676/month to 7.45 million recipients.[5] 53% of them rely on it for 90% or more of their income.[6] A $500/month increase in Social Security and SSI benefits to everyone in these programs would substantially improve the lives tens of millions of them. It would cost $446 billion/year, leaving $3.23 trillion for immense improvements in the lives of tens of millions more Americans.
  3. The average benefit per person for the 42 million receiving the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) in fiscal year 2024 will be $189 per month, an $84 per person per month decline from the emergency allotments during the Covid-19 pandemic.[7] Despite the SNAP program, 44.2 million people lived in households that had difficulty getting enough food to feed everyone in 2022.[8] A doubling of 2022’s $119.4 billion SNAP budget would likely eliminate or nearly eliminate food insecurity in the U.S. The additional funds can both increase benefits per household and the number of households receiving them by increasing the maximum income threshold for eligibility. $3.11 trillion remains.
  4. $48.5 billion in federal funds provided 10.2 million people in 5.2 million households rental assistance of all types.[9] Due to underfunding, only 1/4 of eligible households receive rental assistance.[10] An additional $146 billion will be sufficient to serve all eligible households and eliminate or nearly eliminate homelessness. $2.96 trillion remains.
  5. 8 million K-12 public school teachers receive an average annual salary of $59,000. In total, they receive $224 billion.[11] Public K–12 teachers are paid 19.2% less than similar workers in other occupations.[12] Their salaries, stressful working conditions, and long hours are causing many teachers to leave their jobs and is making recruitment difficult. Nearly 9 in 10 public school districts are finding it difficult to hire the number of teachers they need.[13] Increasing teacher pay by 50% would bring it up to 21% higher than similar workers in other occupations and end the teacher shortage. This pay disparity is appropriate considering the extraordinary social importance of their role. Above all, our society needs a well-educated citizenry best able to contribute to it. A 50% teacher pay increase will cost $112 billion. $2.85 trillion remains.
  6. Broadband internet’s average monthly cost is $61.07.[14] Assuming we can extend broadband to all 131.2 U.S. households at the same average cost per month the total would be $96.1 billion. The U.S. pays close to double the average broadband costs of OECD nations, so $96.1 billion is unnecessarily large.[15] It would best serve our nation if we used eminent domain laws to purchase broadband infrastructure from current internet providers and offer broadband free as a public service at a much lower cost. However, let’s assume that in the short term we use public funds to pay the private internet providers their exorbitant fees totaling $96.1 billion so we can offer broadband as a public service to all households for no charge. $2.75 trillion remains.
  7. The annual operating expenses of mass transit agencies nationally totals $50 billion; 36.2% or $18.1 billion is sourced federally.[16] Eliminating local governments and users’ costs would require $31.9 billion in additional federal funding per year. With their savings, local governments’ can add to or extend bus or rail lines or increase hours of operation. It’s in the national interest to make mass transit free because it will encourage more people to use it. It’s more efficient mode of transportation significantly reduces energy consumption and the associated pollution. Free mass transit fares will also benefit car users by reducing traffic congestion. $2.72 trillion remains.

After beneficially transforming the lives of tens of millions of Americans and significantly improving the lives of tens of millions more through the above federal expenditures, we have only tapped into 28% of the $3.75 trillion that we would have collected with the corporate tax rates of 1975. Instead, we let elites have more money to move further beyond what they need to live a lifestyle of historic extravagance. Below is how we can use the remaining $2.72 trillion for a radical social advancement that will benefit all Americans immensely, either directly or through its economic stimulus effect

  1. We can give everyone over 18 years of age $878 per month ($10,536 per year) as a “Universal Basic Income.” Universal Basic Income (UBI) systems have all citizens receive the same constant amount of public funds monthly to help protect them from extreme economic hardship. UBI can be a potential solution to various social and economic problems. Here are some of its benefits:
  • UBI will serve as a safety net for those displaced by the widespread alteration in the character and amount of work that will occur due to advancements in automation and artificial intelligence.
  • It will significantly reduce poverty levels and income inequality by most benefiting those in lower-income brackets. Poverty has high economic and social costs. Accounting for the lower economic productivity, increased health and crime costs, and increased costs resulting from child poverty yields a total cost of $1.03 trillion per year.[17]
  • UBI will also enable some lower-income people to save money, so it will reduce wealth inequality.
  • A basic level of financial security will motivate more people to pursue education, training, or start their own businesses, which will advance their and national productivity.
  • Alleviating financial desperation will lead to a reduction in crime and foster a greater sense of community and social cohesion, and increase civic engagement.
  • UBI will reduce the stress and anxiety due to financial insecurity, which will improve mental and physical health. This will further improve people’s productivity.
  • UBI supports socially valuable unpaid work, such as caregiving and volunteer work.
  • During periods of economic downturn or crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, UBI will help to provide financial stability to individuals and families and maintain the consumer spending needed for economic stability.
  • Since UBI would boost consumer spending, it would increase demand for workers and, consequently, wages. UBI will also increase low wages by giving people enough security to have bargaining power. Workers would not have to accept unjustly low-paying jobs because they have a guaranteed income to fall back on.


The $878 monthly UBI would not be taxed or accounted for in determining the amount of or eligibility for other government benefit payments. $878 monthly is about 86% of a full-time minimum wage worker’s income after paying Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Some may claim the above analysis may not be valid because higher corporate tax rates would reduce economic growth and the associated corporate profits. However, many people have debunked this tenet of “trickle-down” economics, including economists at The Economic Policy Institute. Their study of corporate tax rates and economic growth since 1947 found a positive correlation between the two—growth tends to be higher in response to higher tax rates.[18]

The main objections to instituting a UBI on a national level is its high cost and potential to reduce people’s motivation to be economically productive.  We have seen that we can easily support an $878 per month UBI.

People cannot achieve their life’s goals with just an $878 per month income, so they will seek employment, and the UBI will help them do so in ways that best serves their interests and uses their abilities. No one wants to be or wants to be seen as a useless member of their community.

Several localized UBI pilot programs have demonstrated that economic productivity will not be negatively affected; most show positive effects:

A pilot program in Stockton, Ca, found an increase in full-time employment of people receiving UBI. In February 2019, 28% of the people in the program had full-time employment. One year later, 40% of UBI recipients were employed full-time. Researchers found several reasons for the increase: UBI increased recipients’ ability to reduce the number of part-time shifts or gig work in order to apply for better employment. It also enabled some to complete internships, training, or coursework that led to full-time employment or promotions.  Furthermore, alleviating constant financial strain generated increased bandwidth for goal-setting and risk-taking, both previously limited by scarcity. The increase in full-time employment and their average improved productivity due to improved skills and emotional health increased recipients’ overall productivity.[19]

Manitoba, Canada, also had a UBI experiment. It demonstrated that providing a guaranteed income did not significantly discourage primary household income earners from working full-time. It also showed positive impacts on mental health. There was a decrease in hospital visits related to mental health issues due to the alleviation of financial stress. Also, their experiment showed that by reducing financial barriers, individuals were better able to pursue higher education, leading to long-term benefits for both individuals and society.[20]

Analysis of Finland’s UBI program also revealed that a basic income positively impacts employment. People on their basic income were more likely to be employed than those in the control group. Researchers found that their productivity was also enhanced by UBI recipients’ higher level of confidence in their cognitive skills, including their ability to remember, learn, and concentrate, than the control group. Research has found that people experiencing scarcity and uncertainty tend to suffer from reduced bandwidth, shortened time horizons, and feelings of inadequacy or helplessness.[21]

After learning of the immense benefits enabled by returning the corporate tax rate to the level of 1975 to our nation and almost everyone in it, do you think our nation’s elite will welcome the increase? No, they won’t. And any proposal to do so will result in a rabid and robust response to destroy it. Given their wealth and power, they will succeed unless we fundamentally advance our political system.

Above all, almost all elites want not just to maintain their immense wealth and power but to increase it, regardless of the effect on the rest of us. They think their taxes are too high, and their political and mass media system influence resulted in one of their own, Donald Trump, in the presidency whose major accomplishment there was a reduction in taxes on corporate profits and very high-income individuals. He cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and the highest income tax rate on individuals from 39.6% to 37%, and doubled the amount that the wealthiest households can pass on tax-free to their heirs, from $11 million per couple to $22 million.[22] Since 1975, marginal tax rates on very high-income individuals have dropped from 70% to 37%.

Despite the huge tax reductions on top incomes and corporate profits, most elites think their taxes remain too high.  To express their dissatisfaction with the reductions, corporate elites deploy elaborate schemes to hide profits from tax authorities. And the highest-income Americans also hide much of their income from tax authorities. The top 5% of income earners’ elaborate tax avoidance and evasion schemes have succeeded in hiding more than 20% of their earnings from the Internal Revenue Service. The top 1% of earners account for more than a third of all unpaid federal taxes, and as a result, just from this 1% alone, federal revenues are reduced by $175 billion annually.[23]

However, the abuses of and injustices in our tax code are most extreme in a smaller segment of our population than 1%. For example, Jeff Bezos, in 2007, then a multibillionaire and has been the world’s richest man and now is the third richest, paid $0.00 in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, multibillionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk, who in 2023 was the richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.[24]

The tax cuts elites have accomplished for themselves in the United States have global implications. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described them in his report after his mission to the United States in December 2017: “The tax cuts will fuel a global race to the bottom, thus further reducing the revenues needed by Governments to ensure basic social protection and meet their human rights obligations… the United States remains a model whose policies other countries seek to emulate.” He also wrote that our “high child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”

Our nation’s most rapacious and ruthless pursuers of personal wealth and power are those most dedicated to capturing our political system, which has radically diverged from a democratic one, to protect and advance their wealth and power regardless of the social consequences.

Elections give the impression we have a democratic political system, but this is far from reality. Princeton University political scientists quantified how far. In their words, “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact on public policy…Policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans.”[25]

The difference in your ability and wealthy individuals’ and corporations’ ability to influence public policies is like the difference in the ability of a stone and a yacht to float on water. The amount the top 1% had in 1975 gave them sufficient influence in our political system to start the wealth transfer process; the 1%’s additional $50 trillion and historically high corporate profits have them now with far more than enough to continue it. We have a democracy in form only, not substance; like a dinosaur in a museum, that’s not a real dinosaur. As a result, our society is in the process of destroying itself.

Elites are setting the agenda for humanity’s future through their dominant role in economic, political, and media systems, and their influence on academia. As a result, they gain more wealth and power as our social safety nets are shredded. The rest of us want the opposite, but our voices are unheard as grotesque inequalities keep growing.  

From March 2020 to October 2021, U.S. billionaire wealth surged to $5 trillion, a 70% or $2.1 trillion increase. Most of this $2.1 trillion gain and the $5 trillion in wealth was untaxed. Seven hundred forty-five billionaires own two-thirds more wealth than the bottom 50% of U.S. households combined.[26] But only 70% of Americans say the U.S. economic system unfairly favors the powerful.[27] It would be significantly larger than 70% if we had well-functioning mass media and educational institutions. Most Americans do not understand how extreme our nation’s inequalities of wealth and income are. And too few know that they are economically and morally unjustifiable, and that their growth threatens our nation’s survival.

As elites rise beyond the stratosphere many Americans descend into hell. (Some elites will rise beyond the stratosphere literally on three of their rockets: Jeff Bezos’s, Richard Branson’s, and Elon Musk’s.) At least 600,000 are homeless, many living in tents on the sidewalks of major cities, 63.5 million sometimes can’t afford to buy the food they need,[28] 110 million adults can’t afford to go to a doctor when sick, [29] 80 million can’t afford the drugs they are prescribed,[30] and according to government statistics, 37.9 million live in poverty.[31] Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death. It was associated with 183,000 deaths in 2019.[32]

Government poverty statistics do not include the number of Americans incarcerated whose average income before incarceration was less than half that of the non-incarcerated population.[33] In 2021, we had about 2 million incarcerated.[34] The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 664 per 100,000 population, 5.1 times the incarceration rate of the UK (130 per 100,000), 9.6 times that of Germany (69 per 100,000), 7.1 times that of France (93 per 100,000), and 17.5 times the incarceration rate of Japan (38 per 100,000).[35]

But since our ruling class is doing fantastically well, most are sociopathological to varying degrees, and our policymakers are in their pockets, they do nothing significant to end the injustices and human rights violations tens of millions of Americans experience. Our nation has more than sufficient resources to end them. Economic productivity is over 30 times higher than at the country’s founding.[36]

Concentrating our nation’s wealth in a ruling class has them with historic amounts that come with a corresponding amount of power. Most of us know this is unwise. Enabling individuals to have overwhelming influence over society leads to the corruption of their character. This problem has been recognized for centuries; as Lord Acton famously said in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[37] We are experiencing the result of this dynamic on people who were extraordinarily immoral before the corrupting influence of extreme wealth and power.

Corporate elites’ personality characteristic tendencies are a consequence of the motives to be at the top of large corporations and the requirements to get and be there. The corporate world is often characterized by cutthroat competition in the climb up to the top of the corporate ladder. And the competition is most extreme in large corporations where the rewards at the top are massive. In this context, it is not surprising that ruthlessness, exploitativeness, narcissism, lack of empathy, selfishness, manipulativeness, greed, a desire for power, and egotism are personality characteristics that advantage people when they exist with excellent political skills.

Sociopathy and psychopathology are complex terms. Both involve a range of personality traits that include a lack of empathy, manipulation, and disregard for the rights of others. Since these traits advantage people in their rise up the corporate hierarchy, the qualification process for some of our nation’s most powerful positions is a kind of “filtering” that leaves the most ethical behind and sends some of our least ethical there. However, categorizing all large corporation elites as sociopathological or psychopathological is not correct.

A Stanford University professor determined that 12% of corporate leaders are psychopaths.[38] (The prevalence of psychopathology in the general population is about 1%.) However, psychopathological tendencies extend beyond this 12%. He did not determine how far beyond or the correlation between the depth of psychopathology with the size of the corporation and status within it. The highest-status people in the largest corporations, where power and wealth are most concentrated, are more likely psychopathological. Corporate elites’ sociopathological and psychopathological tendencies are a major concern for society.

Top corporate managers are our society’s members most able to exploit everything to their advantage. With their political aptitude, institutional incentives, and unscrupulous morals guiding them, these people are extraordinarily destructive.

Although the pursuit of profit compels corporate managers to engage in unethical business practices, they have some discretion in how far beyond moral and legal boundaries they go. Some of their behaviors have been appalling, and many are hidden from view, but we can get a sense of their overall character by their effect.



[2] Federal Reserve, 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, Excel Extract File analysis


[4] American Society on Aging, Homelessness Among Older Adults: An Emerging Crisis, Margot Kushel

[5] ,























[28] The Urban Institute study found 24.6% of adults food insecure in December 2022. If this percentage is applied to the entire US population 82 million were food insecure.

[29]  Norc 2018 survey found 44% of adults did not go to a doctor when they were sick or injured over the prior two months because they could not afford to.

[30]  Norc 2018 survey found 32% of adults could not fill or fully fill a drug prescription over the prior two months because they could not afford to.




[34] The prison population dropped during the covid years as a result of pandemic-related slowdowns in the criminal legal system, not permanent policy changes. The criminal legal system has returned to “business as usual,” and prison and jail populations have begun to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.


[36] In 1775, in the U.S. per-capita real GDP was $2,153 (2019 dollars) by 2019, it was 27 times that, $57,997. Worker hours per capita are lower now than in 1775, so the GDP/capita ratio is an underestimate of the productivity gains.

[37] Originally stated by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887


  Additional book excerpts are under the Economic System Advancements and Political System Advancements tabs   

Robert Bivona

Since my early teens in the 1960s, I have been aware of the advantages of having wealth in gaining more and the wealthy’s disproportionate influence on our political system. Each decade since then, economic inequality and our political system’s corruption by wealthy individuals and corporations have grown more grotesque.

Also since my teens, it seemed to me that a society where maximizing business profits motivates economic activity would inevitably be dysfunctional. In pursuit of maximum profits, private actors will too often ignore resulting public harm. The environmental contamination in the 1950s and 1960s made this defect obvious. Extremely polluted air harmed the health of tens of millions of Americans, and some toxic rivers ignited into flames. The profit motive and a political system corrupted by corporations and wealthy individuals resulted in these conditions.

Among the other characteristics of modern-day capitalism I  never felt I could comfortably conform to is one where people earn a living by subordinating themselves to “bosses.” Also in my early teens, I was aware of neighbors whose social contributions far exceeded others with much higher incomes. Since then, the disconnect between social contribution and rewards has grown more obvious and extreme. Its incongruous character I describe in my books with many examples.

Despite my long-term interest in developing policy responses to systemic defects creating increasingly severe social problems, several decades passed before I detailed some because in my teens and twenties I pursued a more intense interest in science and mathematics. Although not directly related to my later focus on economics and politics, my formal educational and professional background developed the analytical skills I needed to write The New Enlightenment and Amazon as Metaphor.

I was excited to study physics at the college level after being introduced to the subject in high school. But as the process proceeded, I found it stifling. Professors would give equations such as the Schrödinger equation and show how physical systems will behave using it with too little emphasis on the creative process that resulted in the equation. I was interested in solving the problems professors assigned on determining physical system’s behavior, but I was more interested in the creative process that led to the problem-solving techniques.

I did not proceed with my education in physics immediately after receiving my Bachelors’s degree in 1975. Instead, I found employment as a “Lab Coordinator” in a physics teaching lab of a university. It involved setting up and maintaining lab equipment and assisting lab instructors. It was a 20 hour per week job, so I established a math and physics tutoring service to supplement my income. My clients were mainly high school students whose parents paid for the tutoring sessions. After about a year as lab coordinator, I began taking graduate courses in physics part-time, a free benefit of employment.

After witnessing the energy crisis of 1979 and early 1980s—the second major oil crisis within a decade—cause major social disruption from long gas lines (in some cases five miles long) and skyrocketing prices, my interest grew in a career change. It seemed to me I could make the best use of my technical skills by gaining expertise in designing and performance predicting alternative energy systems and energy conservation measures for buildings. Further motivating this desire were the incorrect predictions of “pundits” that the world would likely run out of sufficient qualities of oil to continue using it as an energy source within a few decades. I viewed active and passive solar systems, photovoltaics, and energy conservation as solutions to the reported oil supply crisis. Their environmental advantages added to their appeal. (However, at the time, I did not fully understand the significance of fossil fuels’ use in global warming.)

Some engineering firms offered design and economic analysis services for building energy conservation and alternative energy measures; after taking a few classes in the subjects at local universities, I succeeded in gaining employment at one. I was relegated to a cubicle like most of the other engineers and given projects to work on, mostly in isolation.

I didn’t particularly appreciate working at the engineering company, and it made me aware I had too large a deficiency of knowledge in the field. So, I sought the best educational program in designing and analyzing building energy conservation and alternative energy measures and decided it was a graduate program at Arizona State University. I applied, was accepted, and left my birthplace, the New York state region, for the first time for the very different environment of Arizona. While in the program, oil prices dropped 40% from their highs, the supply shortage seemed to be resolved, and within a couple of years, prices declined 80% from their highs. As a result, work in the solar and energy conservation field was scarce.

Since Arizona adjoined a state I had wanted to see for most of my life, California, I visited, and the beauty and climate (including cultural) of the northern California coast caused me to cancel my plans to return to New York and relocate to Marin County, CA, a suburb of San Fransisco. I established a tutoring service and soon also found work as a part-time consultant to a company that helped architects and contractors meet the California energy conservation code. The company paid me $20 per hour and charged clients $60 per hour for my work (this was the mid-1980s), so I started my own company providing the same services to architects and contractors directly. Also, I assisted a company in performing detailed comparative energy performance analyses of various energy conservation measures for large commercial buildings using a sophisticated computer program (DOE-2) that I learned how to use at ASU.

Eventually I longed for involvement with physics again in an academic setting and found employment as a lab manager at a major university. I supervised a staff of six part-time students in setting up equipment for the undergraduate physics teaching labs and lecture demonstrations, repaired or supervised the repair of the equipment, and assisted lab instructors. I wrote chapters of revised lab manuals, designed some equipment instructors used in the labs and lecture demonstrations, and managed a major expansion and move of the labs to a new building.

From 2010 through 2016, I devoted myself full-time to the research for and writing of 2017 released book, The New Enlightenment. I was highly motivated to write it. Our economic and political systems have been widening the chasm between our professed ideals of democracy, liberty, and justice for all and our reality for decades. Ignorance of significant facts, faulty ideas, and corruption among political and economics professionals contributed to the widening.  I viewed our social decline trends as inevitably leading to social disintegration without a social movement dedicated to creating a fundamentally more democratic, egalitarian, and just society based on some new, unconventional ideas.

In 2019, I began work on the research for and writing of my book, Amazon as Metaphor that I finished in 2023. My visions of the societal advancements we needed (and need) were clear, and I felt compelled to express them. My two books detail fundamental economic and political system reforms and why we need them. If instituted, they would create a far more just and better-functioning society.

                              Robert Bivona

Let’s “assemble with all the coolness of philosophers, and set [our Constitution] to rights.”

Our Constitution has been inadequate as a foundation of a well-functioning representative democracy. And Supreme Court decisions over the last few decades have turned its First Amendment into a kind of powerful weapon against the majority of Americans by equating money with speech and corporations with people. As a result, we have a government even more extremely serving a wealthy elite at the expense of the majority than it had in prior years.

The words “democracy” or “democratic” do not appear in the Constitution, and it tolerated slavery. Amendments since then have improved the Constitution but amending it is overly burdensome and much needs amending. When we amended it, we had a diverse media, which allowed and helped motivate the amendments. We now have a highly concentrated, elite-dominated mass media stifling public debate and widespread exposure to public policy reforms that would greatly benefit the majority. Mass media has been essential to enabling grotesque inequalities to grow. (The media system reforms I detail in The New Enlightenment, if instituted, would robustly solve this problem.)

A constitution should ensure political equality among all citizens, and it should foster consensus building and promote effective problem-solving. Instead, ours results in exactly what Madison warned against; it has “divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.” It is past due for us to take an honest look at the deficiencies of our Constitution and create one that best serves our citizenry.

The fundamental political and economic system advancements I detail in The New Enlightenment and Amazon as Metaphor, if instituted, would significantly advance us toward a well-functioning democracy and just society.

Base on an analysis of about 2000 public policies instituted over three decades, Princeton University researchers found: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact on public policy…Policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans.”

In 2018, HUD public housing operating expenses for 1.1 million units were $4.37 billion or $331 per month per unit, including repair, maintenance, and all other operating expenses. However, HUD’s massive repair cost backlog on public housing indicates insufficient budgeting for regular repairs and maintenance.

According to a National Apartment Association “Survey of Operating Income & Expenses in Rental Apartment(s),” private sector apartments spend on average $0.54 per sq. ft. per year for repairs and maintenance.  Since an itemized accounting of HUDs repair and maintenance expentiures was not available, I assume HUD spent half this amount and add half to estimate operating expenditures for well-maintained buildings. For the 850 sq. ft. average apartment, this adds $19.19 to HUDs $331 prior cost per month per unit, totaling $350.19.  

The average percent increase per year in the number of households over the last decade, now about 130 million, was roughly 1%. 1,040,000 is 80% of the 1,300,000 new households expected next year. 1,040,000 is a desirable number more than needed for new households in the bottom 20% wanting an apartment to gradually satisfy pre-existing bottom 20% demand. Eventually we will satisfy this demand enabling opening the program to the second from the bottom income quintile households.


The 350,000 units purchased are about 20% of the multifamily units sold per year. These buys will moderate multifamily units price declines due to the newly built low-priced apartments added to the market per year, which will lower private sector rents. (Multifamily unit sales are about $175 billion per year. Assuming a $100,000 per unit yields 1.75 million units total; 20% is 350,000.)

The Decline of Small Businesses

Over about two decades, the number of small businesses has fallen dramatically. For example: (source)

IndustryDecline in Number
Small construction firms15,000
Small manufacturers> 70,000
LocaL retailers108,000 (40% decline)
Community banks, credit unions13,000 (50% decline)

Between 1997 and 2012, the share of total business revenue going to firms with fewer than 100 employees fell by nearly one-fifth. One study found in over half of the 26 industries analyzed that two corporations now control over half the market. In many industries, the top two firms gained over 20% of their market from the early 2000s to 2018. Over the last two decades, over 75% of U.S. industries have experienced an increase in concentration, while United States public markets have lost almost 50% of their publicly traded firms. The Fortune 500 corporations captured 73% of our economy in 2013.

The Black-White Wealth Gap

In the first six decades of the 19th century, more than half of the nation’s exports consisted of raw cotton, almost all grown by slaves. Wealth created as a result passed on and appreciated over subsequent generations of White families instead of the Black families that generated it. Then when slaves were freed, the promise made to them of 40 acres in land grants went unmet—while many White Americans were typically provided 160-acre “hand outs”  of land in the west. This “free equity” translated into greater economic security and wealth accumulation over subsequent generations.  

In the 20th century, a major contributor to Black wealth denial was racist home ownership policies, which reduced rates of Black homeownership and associated wealth appreciation. In the late 1940s, the GI Bill’s home loans overwhelmingly benefited White veterans. By the time GI Bill ended in 1956, nearly 8 million World War II veterans had received 4.3 million home loans worth $33 billion. But relatively few loans went to Black veterans. For example, in Mississippi only two returning Black veterans received home buying benefits from the GI Bill. In the north, Blacks did not fare much better; in New York and northern New Jersey, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages backed by the GI Bill supported non-whites.

The GI Bill’s college education benefits also went overwhelmingly to White veterans. Twenty-eight percent of white veterans went to college on the G.I. Bill, while only 12 percent of black veterans did so. And the colleges Blacks were allowed to attend tended to be of lower quality.

Devastating Economic System Dysfunction

In 1968, the minimum wage was $11.60 per hour (in inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars), the highest in U.S. history. Productivity grew from 1968 through 2019 by a factor of 2.5.  If workers’ pay grew proportionately with the value they produced over this period, as it did over prior decades, the 1968 minimum wage could have been $29 in 2019; instead, it was and is $7.25 per hour. Also, the 1968 median annual household income of $55,738 in 2019 dollars would have been $139,345 in 2019; instead, it was $68,700

All Americans could be living prosperous and stable lives. Instead, our economic system’s dysfunction has 78% of Americans in a condition where they can’t pay all their bills if they miss one paycheck. 40% cannot pay a $400 emergency expense without borrowing money or selling something. Tens of millions are food insecure, or housing insecure, or can’t receive medical care when they need it. The economic hardships of many tens of millions of Americans result from systems (economic and political) that have allowed a small elite to capture almost all the benefits of productivity gains.

From 1968 through 2019, the income of the average household in the top 1% grew by 158%, from $789,200 to $2,034,300. The top 1%’s share of post-tax national income increased by 66%, from 8.7% to 14.4%.