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Session 4: Hot Topics - Income, Taxes, Regulation, Trade

Workshop Goals

  • To understand strategies for assuring more egalitarian income and wealth, including regulation and taxation.
  • To understand the economic and social benefits of better regulation and taxation, including better markets and entrepreneurship, less exploitation and waste, more justice and equity.
  • To understand the complexities of trade and outsourcing so as to assure equity and sustainability.


(90 min total)

5 min Welcome and Chalice Lighting

20 min Minimum & Living Wages. A Maximum Wage?

20 min Progressive Taxes

5 min: Break

20 min Regulatory Capture, Deregulation, Monopoly Power, Union Busting

15 min Free Trade, Outsourcing, Race to the Bottom

5 min Debrief and Closing

Prior Readings

Have each participant pick out a selection of these readings so that key areas get covered.


Welcome and Chalice Lighting (5 min)

     “So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough.” – Shakespeare.  Optional in depth participant story.


Minimum & Living wages. A Maximum Wage? (20 min): What is the difference between a minimum wage and a living wage? What are they in your area? Are there any local wage campaigns, and, if so, who is involved?  What are the facts on how different kinds of employment and businesses would be affected? There’s only so much you can do to reduce inequality at the bottom, so how about at the top? What about a maximum wage (or compensation package)? How could this be implemented, either directly or indirectly? What should be the limit? What are the facts on how relative pay affects performance?

Progressive Taxes (20 min) What are the arguments for more progressive taxes, especially income and wealth taxes? What are ideal versus currently feasible tax rates? What special taxes might help reign in Wall Street? Besides the “bad” of inequality, what other “bads” (= “negative externalities”) might be taxed to benefit society? What “tax expenditures” (= tax breaks or subsidies) should be removed to benefit society? How should government use the additional tax revenue? For example, which regressive taxes to lower? Which investments in people, infrastructure or technology to benefit future generations?

Break (5 min).  Another optional in depth participant story.

Regulatory Capture, Deregulation, Monopoly Power, Union Busting (20 min)  What is “regulatory capture”? Did it play a role in the financial crash of 2008? Contrast the government’s response to the 2008 crash with the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s. What was the role of financial deregulation in the crash of 2008?  Where else do you suspect regulatory capture today, and with what consequences for inequality? What do you think about modern companies that have of monopoly power, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Walmart? What are the issue involved, the winners and losers, short term and long term? Perhaps no factor is more closely associated than the drastic decline of unions with the vast redistribution of wealth to the 1%. What do you see as the causes of this decline? Remedies?

Free trade, Outsourcing, Race to the Bottom (15 min) What was the role of protectionism versus free trade in the industrial development of the United States? Of the Asian “Tigers”? What has been the role of global free trade pacts like the World Trade Organization in the de-industrialization of the United States? Why has this globalization, or offshoring, of the economy been linked to escalating inequality in many countries, besides the US, both developed and developing? What is the “the race to the bottom”?  Can it be stopped before the world hits “bottom”?  That is, are there practical ways to ensure fair trade and outsourcing that do not escalate inequality or damage the environment or resources?

Debrief and Closing (5 min)  

     “The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.” – Theodore Roosevelt


Topical Outline

Minimum & Living wages. A Maximum Wage?

  • Federal vs state & local minimum wage laws
  • Living wage movement
  • Maximum wage (compensation) proposals

Progressive Taxes

  • Federal and local income taxes, then and now. Serious inequality effects
  • Importance of wealth taxes. Missing taxes on financial wealth and transactions.

Regulatory Capture, Deregulation, Monopoly Power, Union Busting

  • Regulation: standards, transparency, monopolies vs competition, innovation, working conditions, externalities
  • Effects of deregulation, especially on finance
  • Union busting strategies and effects.

Free Trade, Outsourcing, Race to the Bottom

  • History of protectionism and development.
  • Winners and losers from free trade. What is fair trade?
  • Fair outsourcing versus a “race to the bottom”


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