Inequality is not a condition. It’s a creation. Inequality is produced by thousands of decisions deliberately made by bosses, bankers and big shots to siphon money and power from the many to the few.
We see Wall Street and Washington doing this to us, but the widening and deepening chasm of inequality in America is also the product of decisions that local elites are making every day. Take Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city largely run by a few billionaire families sharing an entrenched laissez-faire ideology. They want no heavy-handed government policies — unless you’re poor or working class.
Thus, the city powers who find it unconscionable to hike taxes on the rich, recently socked low-income bus riders with a 17 percent jump in fares. For the 27 percent of people in Grand Rapids who live below the poverty line, that’s a serious chunk of change siphoned right out of their pockets.
Then, the board of directors of the city’s transit agency slipped a siphon tube into the wallets of their own drivers and mechanics, arbitrarily terminating their pensions. Adding a crude insult to injury, the board simultaneously gave a pay raise to the transit boss — literally stealing from workers to lift the CEO’s salary above $200,000 a year.
When the workers, who’re members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, began leafleting bus riders to oppose the fare hike and pension theft, the arrogant boss and autocratic board threatened to arrest and fire them!
Luckily, even in Grand Rapids, it’s still legal to exercise your First Amendment rights, so the union won an injunction against this repression. Better yet, the attempted siphoning of money and power has rallied community groups, students, bus riders and others into a grassroots movement to stop widening the inequality gap and start bridging it.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.