To see how far removed modern conservatism is from what the Founding Fathers envisioned for our grand American experiment we need only look to what people like George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, and others had to say about the detriments of income inequality. A great short article from Newsweek highlights this much-forgotten fact:

The founders, despite decades of rancorous disagreements about almost every other aspect of their grand experiment, agreed that America would survive and thrive only if there was widespread ownership of land and businesses.

George Washington…predicted that America “will be the most favorable country of any kind in the world for persons of industry and frugality, possessed of moderate capital, to inhabit.” And, he continued, “it will not be less advantageous to the happiness of the lowest class of people, because of the equal distribution of property.”

James Madison, the Constitution’s main author, described inequality as an evil, saying government should prevent “an immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches.” He favored “the silent operation of laws which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigents towards a state of comfort.”

Gee, those sure don’t sound like the arch-capitalists conservatives would like to make our Founding Fathers out to be. Their point was pretty clear: democracy can’t thrive when one small group of people controls the majority of the wealth (especially when the control of that wealth is artificially obtained through choice tax breaks and the influence of special interests).

New Mexico, you might already know, has the worst rate of income inequality in the nation — the average income of the top 20% of households in our state is 9.9 times that of the lowest 20% of households.

There are many proposals on the table in the New Mexico Legislature right now to address the unconscionable income inequality gap that persists in New Mexico. Increasing the state minimum wage and the Working Families Tax Credit are two great examples, but proposals like increasing funding for early childhood education will also help reduce inequality over time because better students are better able to increase their standards of living later in life.

Written by