America’s Growing Wealth Disparity
There is no question that free trade has been bad for the country. Evidence of this is found in the shrinking of our middle class. While the rich are getting richer, the middle class is being relegated to low paying service sector jobs, with little hope of achieving the kind of financial success that could have been had just decades ago when our manufacturing base was still strong.
A report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) lays out how much this income gap has grown. The report looked at income growth in different demographics between 1979 and 2007. For that period, the income for the top 1 percent of earners grew by a staggering 275 percent. Meanwhile, the income for the next highest 19 percent of earners grew by only 60 percent. For the middle 60 percent of earners, income grew by approximately 40 percent, and for the bottom 20 percent of earners the gains were only 18 percent.
What this amounts to is a system in which the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. This is no accident. The policies our government have undertaken have served to prop up those at the top at the expense of the average worker. The rich often pay a lower tax rate than those further down the income bracket because our tax system is designed in such a way that it benefits those who can afford to navigate it the best.
Wealth also buys influence, which creates more wealth. Our free trade agreements are an excellent example of this. These agreements exist to benefit multinational corporations, and those corporations have seen record profits as a result of them. But these agreements are the very same that are eliminating jobs and driving down the wages of the middle class.
Unless something is done to reverse this trend, the wealthy will just continue to enrich themselves at the expense of other Americans. We need to reform the influence of money in politics, or else we will continue to instate policies that encourage this growing disparity between the rich and the poor.