On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Kenny Cheng, American Cyberculture student at UC Berkeley.
The first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the word “inequalities” is the growth income gap between rich and poor in our society. In the last three decades, the economy has been growing very slowly. However, income growth happened mostly at the top of the income scale. The share of total income of the top 1% jumped from 8.9% in 1976 to 23.5% in 2007. Yet in the same period, the real hourly wage declined by over 7%. Community norms decide what people should spend, and the rich’s huge spending shifts the frame of reference that shapes the demands below. The bottom of this cascade are the middle-class, who are finding it hard to keep up with their financial goals. A reason this happened is our tax structure: over years, the tax rate of the very rich (0.1%) has been decreased from over 60% at one point to the current 30%. Our tax system has become less progressive, and social benefits are enjoyed by both the rich and the poor. The little tax revenue generated shows in our declining infrastructure that are not well-maintained. I believe that something has to be done here. However, the people who call for a dramatic increase to 70% tax for the top tier in the very short run are unreasonable. This undermines the very central foundation that our country’s business is founded on: entrepreneurship, and our American dream. Dramatic tax increase will only lead to less incentive to climb up the corporate ladder or to the top of the income ladder by bringing innovation, and lead to tax evading. What I believe people should do instead of just pointing at the inequalities and blame the rich is to reform our system and make it more efficient. Income of the top tier will increase on its own; they are capable of taking care of themselves. We need to take care of the middle and lower tiers, and create more opportunities by more spending on infrastructure, benefiting our economy in the long run. Unfortunately, our economic policies have so far been very short-sighted.