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Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions
Dear Trump Fans -
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is eager to force a vote on the Green New Deal to embarrass Democrats. But you might want to warn him of the dangers of embarrassing himself.
Have him take a look at the state of his fellow citizens' finances.
Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that a record 7 million Americans are three months or more behind on their car loan payments.
Last year, the Federal Reserve reported that 40 percent of Americans can't cover an unexpected expense of $400.
Then there's the pressure on families from student loans and credit card accounts.
In 2018, total student loan debt was $1.5 trillion and growing. And the credit card debt collectively owed by Americans in 2018 surpassed $1 trillion. An alarming number of accounts are delinquent. Maybe that's why retail sales had a big drop in December.
Trump backers, also open your eyes to a new study from a University of California at Berkeley economist, Gabriel Zucman. It shows that the 400 richest Americans (.00025 percent of our population) now own more wealth than the 150 million poorest Americans (60 percent of the population).
So while President Trump is pledging "America will never be a socialist country," a lot of Americans are looking for any policy that will help them pay the bills in a time of stagnant wages and high income inequality.
Trump and McConnell have no ideas for dealing with income inequality. Their tax cut put more money in the pockets of the rich and corporations. That is not working for the middle-class.
Polls prove the point.
A recent poll by The Hill/HarrisX found 59 percent of Americans favor raising the top tax rate to 70 percent. A Fox News poll had similar results in January, with 70 percent of registered voters saying they agree with raising income taxes on people who make over $10 million.
The same concern is behind the 70 percent of Americans, in a Reuters poll from last August, who said they support "Medicare for All" - one of the proposals being labeled by the GOP as socialist.
Polls consistently show 'socialist' programs or policies - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and agriculture subsidies - enjoy strong support.
Trump Republicans are quick to point to Venezuela's economic problems as damning proof of the failings of attempts at socialism.
But the truth is that nearly every first-world democratic country has programs that provide an economic safety net for their people - free health care and education, paid sick leave and vacation. These are the very same kinds of measures the GOP derides as socialist.
The Green New Deal proposal, recently introduced as a resolution - not actual legislation - is a starting point for Americans to begin honest dialogue about income inequality.
Somehow, such conversations did not take place for the last two years with Trump in the White House and Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
The Green New Deal resolution proposed by Democrats - Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) - includes more than goals for clean air and water. It aims for a federal policy that would provide jobs with "a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States."
This calls to mind ideas from the original New Deal.
In his 1944 State of the Union address President Franklin Roosevelt said it was the government's job to guarantee:
"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation...; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;"
Those ideas remain central to the American dream.
But 21st century income inequality has the average American living in economic fear and worried about political domination by plutocrats.
My Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson recently told his audience that America's economic ruling class fails to see that "families are being crushed by market forces."
I covered President Reagan for The Washington Post when the top tax rate was 50 percent. Under President Nixon, the uber-rich were taxed at a rate of 70 percent. And under President Eisenhower, the top rate was 91 percent.
All three presidents were Republicans, of course.
The irony is that Trump now has the GOP steeped in nostalgia, yearning for bygone days and hoping to "Make America Great Again."
A big part of the reason why life was better back then was a tax structure that guarded against rampant income inequality.
Ocasio-Cortez dismisses the charge that she is "radical" for addressing this issue.
"Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation," Ocasio-Cortez told CBS's "60 Minutes" last month. "Franklin Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security. That is radical."
She added: "Yeah, if that's what radical means, call me a radical."
Honestly, Trump fans, given the scope of the American family's economic problems, the Green New Deal doesn't seem radical enough.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.