Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Bernie Sanders give an intelligent and inspiring talk at the historic landmark Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre, VT. The talk, part of a Primo Maggio (May Day) celebration, was "From Debs to Sanders: Fighting for Change."
Bernie's talk revealed clearly the many ways in which the ideas and actions of early 20th century socialist party leader, Eugene V. Debs, bettered the lives of workers, children, women, racial minorities, and the environment AND how important Debs' ideas remain, especially in the light of the past 30 years of massive transfer of wealth from working and middle class families to the wealthy and super-wealthy.
Bernie cited, as just one egregious example, the fact that the wealth of just one family, the Walton Walmart heirs, is greater than that of the entire bottom 42% of the US population and that Donald Trump was seeking to pass a new $50 Billion tax break for these SUPER-RICH people!
I would like to add to Bernie's statistic about the Walton family wealth, several related facts that show how this disparity is the result of a transfer of wealth to the Waltons from poor and working class families:
(1) the vast majority of Walmart's income and profits come from sales to poor and working class customers.
(2) the low-prices that Walmart uses to attract these poorer customers are largely made possible by paying extraordinarily low wages to their workers many of whom are kept below 20 hrs/week so that they won't qualify for health insurance or other worker benefits (like sick leave, personal days, or paid vacations)
(3) another critical way in which Walmart has historically achieved such low-prices has been to demand that its vendors continuously lower their prices, a factor that has probably led to the loss of more clothing and other manufacturing jobs in America than any other single factor (take note, Donald Trump, Mr. Shop American!)
(4) as a result of Walmart's market dominance and its locations generally outside of cities and towns, hundreds of thousands of small businesses have been forced to close and in many American towns "Main Street" has been transformed from the thriving center of commerce and community life to a blighted area of poverty and, often, crime.
It is high time we all join Eugene V. Debs in the kind of "solidarity" he cherished and do everything in our power to halt and perhaps even reverse such massive transfers of wealth, even as Donald Trump and the Republican's are seeking to make these disparities even greater with enormous tax cuts to the super-wealthy.
As Eugene V. Debs said at his sentencing hearing:
"Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."