Why Income Inequality Is Bad for America
America now has an income disparity comparable to nations such as Iran and Russia as economic policy continues to help the rich get richer at the expense of the middle class.
The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle class have actually seen their incomes fall. All the growth in recent decades has gone to those at the top.
As our foreign rivals have proved, to succeed in the global economy requires collective action on the part of the people and government to invest in education, infrastructure, industry and technology. As the wealthy become detached from ordinary life, these concerns become less of an issue, making them feel more indignant about having to contribute to these services.
All the while, our schools continue to fall behind the rest of the world, our infrastructure is in shambles, industry has lost millions of jobs, and we are no longer the world leader in technology.
The problem with correcting the problem is that in our political system, wealth begets power. The Supreme Court decision in the landmark Citizens United case decided that corporations can donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, which essentially confirmed the plutocratic state of our government.
As long as our political process is so distorted, we will only see economic policy that benefits those at the top, such as the recent push for KORUS. Disastrous “free” trade deals only benefit those at the top, at the expense of everyone else, but it is the wealthy elites that push for such deals, further exacerbating the cycle of income inequality until the economy completely collapses.
The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money has not bought them: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.