One American value that always seems to show up when talking about these things is equality. So why is it that America is still so unequal? I’m not talking about racial inequality, or gender inequality, but about wealth inequality. “In 2013, the top 10% owned 76% of the wealth, while the bottom 50% held only 1% of the wealth.” (cbo.gov) The government overrepresents the wealthy, as they can fund campaigns and get their views represented compared to the general public who have a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy” (rt.com) In my book Our Revolution, this is one of the many issues Bernie Sanders wants to address. In his speech when he announced that he was officially running, he says, “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.” (120) While these numbers may be exaggerated, there is still truth behind them..
When you start adding demographics to this, the results become even more striking. “From 1984 to 2009, the wealth gap between whites and African-Americans increased from $85,070 to $236,500.” (Shapiro et al. 2). In 2009, a study done by Pew Research Center found that the median wealth of a white household was almost twenty times that of black and Hispanic households. (Taylor et al. 14) The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “in 2017, the median weekly earnings of women were 82% of that of men.” (BLS Report 1075 1) These gaps could possibly be explained through inheritance, as families that start out with more money have more of an opportunity to let their kids do better. This reasoning also applies to the wealth gap in general. People who have more money have more opportunities to make more, and those with less money do not have the resources to do so. Despite being called “the land of opportunity”, America doesn’t seem to be allowing it.
So how can we fix this? In Our Revolution, Sanders has some ideas. These include raising the minimum wage to a living wage, equal pay for equal work, making it easier to join unions, and getting more people in full-time jobs. Most of his ideas are aimed at raising the common American up, instead of pushing the rich down. Of course, this will not be easy. Like I said earlier, the wealthy have an unproportional amount of power in the government, so attempts to pass legislation will likely be brought down. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. If America truly wants to value equality, then we have to start changing something.
“Oligarchy, Not Democracy: Americans Have ‘near-Zero’ Input on Policy – Report.” RT International, 15 Apr. 2014, www.rt.com/usa/us-democracy-oligarchy-policy-512/.
Sanders, Bernie. OUR REVOLUTION: a Future to Believe In. St. Martin’s Press, 2018.
Shapiro, Thomas, et al. The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide. Brandeis University, Institute on Assets and Social Policy. 2013
Taylor, Paul, et al. Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. Pew Research Center, 26 July 2011
United States, Congress, Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2017.” Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2017, Aug. 2018. www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-earnings/2017/home.htm.
United States, Congress, Congressional Budget Office. “Trends in Family Wealth, 1989 to 2013.” Trends in Family Wealth, 1989 to 2013, 18 Aug. 2016. www.cbo.gov/publication/51846.
Wolff, Edward N. Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—an Update to 2007. Working Paper No. 589. Bard College, Levy Economics Institute, 2010
Image source: By Stephen Ewen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27391254