Income inequality forfeits the American dream
Today, income inequality in America is the widest it’s been since the 1920s. The top 1 percent in America owns 40 percent of our nation’s wealth. Decades of bad policies have widened the gap between the rich and the middle class. Congress has actively introduced policies that benefit the rich, such as cutting income taxes, capital gains taxes and deregulation of banks and businesses. Corporate profits have doubled through the years, yet wages for middle class families remain stagnant.
In the last 30 years, worker productivity has gone up 90 percent, yet wages for middle class families have only gone up 8 percent. It is absolutely unjust that Americans who work harder today than ever before do not reap the same benefits. The increased inequality and decreased upwards economic mobility poses a fundamental threat to the American dream.
We as a nation must come to terms with the fact that the economic system is rigged against us.
In the beginning of the year, TheWashington Post reported that “economic mobility hasn’t changed in half a century, economists declare.” In the article, economist Lawrence F. Katz from Harvard said, “Because there’s so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that’s much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.” So the saying “Work hard and you can achieve the American dream” is literally not true anymore.
What caused this economic calamity is that as a nation we have continued to vote against our own best interests since the election of President Reagan.
The period after WWII is known as “The Great Prosperity” because America implemented policies that resulted in very low income inequality. The GI Bill helped many veterans returning from war earn a college degree, and the subsequent expansion of public universities made higher education affordable. In the late ‘50s, America housed the best educated workforce in the world. One-third of American workers belonged to a union that gave the average worker bargaining leverage for higher wages. All of this led to the expansion of the American economy, and it was made possible simply because the very wealthy in America paid their fair share. During the “The Great Prosperity,” the very wealthy in America paid 90 percent in income taxes. Today, billionaires such as Mitt Romney pay 13.9 percent in taxes, while middle class Americans pay around 35 percent in income taxes.
Fact of the matter is, the taxation system in the past few decades has tilted toward the rich and away from the middle class. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. Income inequality affects us all and it will continue to affect us if we remain silent. A country is determined great not by how much wealth it accumulates, but by the level of prosperity among the common people. America is for the people, by the people and it is time our elected representatives listen to the people instead of only the top 1 percent.
Rezwan Haq is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.