Fixing Income Disparity in America – It Starts With Awareness

Lorel Sim – JDSA Intern

The income gap between America’s top 1% and the lowly 99 is the largest it’s been in a century. The wealthy live lavish lifestyles and are ridiculed for their “extravagance.” Despite being hit by the misfortune of our latest recession, the poor and downtrodden are criticized as asking for a hand out, as opposed to looking for a hand up.  Those arguments – both sides – are extreme.  It’s not that simple.  It isn’t that black or white.  But this is: the current income inequalities in this country are squeezing the middle class into nonexistence.

But who points the finger?  Who takes the blame?

We do.

Not a group of politicians in the media, not any one group in society, and not the abstract government sitting behind closed doors making decisions.  It’s us as a whole.

The creation of such a rapidly increasing income disparity in America was the collective effort of all who have taken part in education, consumerism, commercialism, or taxes.  We blame the wealthy for portioning off the majority of the nation’s financial resources.  But really, it isn’t entirely their fault. The middle and lower classes allow themselves to be capitalized upon, bringing wealth to the wealthy.  On the other hand, we blame the middling and lower socioeconomic classes for complaining incessantly about taxes and laws and politics and living conditions. But it’s difficult to take permanent, meaningful action in such a densely populated environment in which voices can be lost or drowned out. Rather than keeping my finger pointed, or shouting blame till I lose my voice, allow me, instead, to explore the effects that such gaps in income disparity will bring to our world.

Income disparity can take root in any country, developed or otherwise.  It has the power to imbalance economies, destroy societies and devastate families. China, not long ago, used to be a more political and social island in the context of the word for voluntary reasons. When it chose to revolutionize and open up commerce in the late 1970s, its booming industries and cheap labor helped its economy skyrocket. Because it is a classless society, the same kind of income disparity is not precisely applicable, but evident in the simple way the elite accept wealth because they have the means to do so, and the rest do not.

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The rapid disappearance of the middle class will continue to affect every economic bracket. As the middle class disappears, the top income bracket will only have a decreasing population of people who can afford to spend money on their products and services, further putting a drag on the economy.  While the lower class continues to struggle with debts and upwardly creeping costs of goods and services, the elite will simultaneously struggle with the discrepancies between their class and the other classes’ needs.

According to the International Monetary Fund, economies with smaller income inequalities experience a more fruitful economic growth.  Exactly what we’re NOT seeing in America.   The top earning bracket in this country, along with the remaining 99%, find itself needing and wanting quite different things from the government and from each other. Both classes, however, lopsided in population count, wealth or power, advocate causes that suite themselves. The 99% seek ideas they feel will level the playing field.  They fight for Obamacare and secured welfare. The elite, who feel threatened and see big government as a big problem, hold on to their hard earned finances – clamoring for more tax exemptions and laws that will keep them ahead of the pack. Needless to say, both classes are simply trying to secure their comfortable survival.

However, if more people understood that overcoming wide income inequalities would bolster national coherence in important arenas, perhaps both financial species would make an effort to look for resolutions that would help both. Financial analysts, politicians, and everyday observers have explored a plethora of solutions.  But they all seem biased toward one group versus the other.

We work so hard to lock in our individual promises of financial security. It seems that, in terms of the consensus, the primary thought is for “myself to survive.” Power and status seem to appeal to our inherent human greed.  There is nothing wrong with working diligently and reaping the benefits of toils. However, I question the excessive, obsessive, and aggressive game of economics that people feel the need to “win” so desperately. There needs to be cooperation tempered by a healthy balance of financial competition, rather than rampant struggling to get to the top.

This issue has been tirelessly debated – some sympathizing with the 99%, others rationalizing the perspectives of the 1%.  But there will be no perfect solution – no prefect answer to a problem that all of us have created over such a long period of time.  National laws, interconnecting economic systems and different socioeconomic statuses seems to be an insurmountable mountain for us to climb. But there will always exist a way to fix things and better our circumstances.  And it always starts with awareness.

What would happen if we continue this downward spiral because of the manipulative game of money?  At the end, the intentions this article was written with will no longer be relevant – and perhaps the struggle to become affluent will be supplanted by the struggle to merely make ends meet.

In our increasingly materialistic world, money can buy things, work out compromises, settle legal issues, be negotiated, and make life exponentially easier or harder. It seems, sadly enough, that money can do almost anything.

Almost.

One of the things it can’t do is beat the power of a collective people that hopes to get back on track to a unified, cooperative network of classes. Think about it. Leave it to your imagination to ponder what might happen with the continuation of such competition from person to person, and hopefully you’ll decide not to let your world become the dystopia of fiction.

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