The Impetus for a Shared Sacrifice

With a potential double-dip recession, public and political debate over the debt ceiling, and growing concern over the stability and viability of the United States’ finances, many of our nation’s leaders seem interested only in preserving the status quo for our country’s most wealthy. It is mind-boggling to think that there has been close to $ 1.2 trillion dollars in loans to banks and the financial system as a whole, while severe cuts are continuously made to our education system.

These educational services are critical to the country’s most vulnerable populations, like low-income African American youth. The root causes of our failing education system or rather, “the failing of our black boys system,” is primarily due to a lack of resources, the establishment of “pushing out” policies, disproportionate discipline of black boys, over identification of black boys as needing special education, and inequitable educational models predicated on the flawed No Child Left Behind law—a law that schools and districts across the country have been forced to rely on for the past decade.

The current financial situation provides more than enough incentive for everyone to put some skin into a shared vision of equal sacrifice. With an estimated 13.9 million unemployed persons, of which 15.9 percent are black and 25 percent are teenagers, it’s unfathomable that we can sit back and put the onus on the middle class and poor when the current financial problems we face have more to do with a marginal taxing system, excess spending on national security, and “too big to fail” companies, rather than on programs that support job training and employment, education, and childcare.

We all need to make sacrifices to shore up the economy so everyone can live the American dream; however, sacrificing the bottom 12 percent, the majority of whom are black, does nothing to advance this goal unless you’re in the upper 2 percent echelon of wealth, i.e., big-time Wall Street market makers sanctioned by the Securities Exchange Commission. As such this American dream really does not exist for the middle to low-income populations, and definitely not for young African American males.

That we need to tax the rich and super rich at a higher percentage is not a point of view limited to myself or the poor. Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in America, in the New York Times, recently called for a true shared sacrifice that increased taxes for the rich. Buffet wrote: “My federal tax bill last year was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income – and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

The sensible approach to a shared sacrifice is simple: level the playing field to be more equitable. The impetus should be based on the building of human capital. When our country was at its greatest with a flourishing economy, it was due to the investments made in building up the middle class through the funding of educational programs and vocational training programs that bridged the gap between low-income families and the wealthy to move beyond poverty and into sustainable jobs and industry. To keep the economy afloat, unemployment and overincarceration of young black males cannot continue to be the norm.

Policymakers should, as Buffet so politely stated, “stop coddling the rich” and punishing the working middle class and poor. They need to stop playing politics and begin making the proper economic investments and shoring up our economic interests and global competitiveness by providing the needed resources for what we know works in education.

If for no other reason, the impetus for a shared sacrifice should be all the motivation needed to compel our leaders to start using their pens to advance policies that are just and equitable, not simply self-serving.

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