Wealth and Income Inequality Widens – Wake Up, Americans!
Over the first weekend in March 2013, a YouTube video breaking down income inequality in America went viral. I highly recommend that you watch this YouTube video. It does a simply amazing job communicating statistics, and it’s fun to watch!
Inequlaity Is Ruining Our Country, and I Want to Know Why
- In the United States, 21.9 percent of all children are in poverty, a poverty rate second only to Mexico’s (among rich nations). One in five children (16 million) struggles with hunger.
- “The International Human Rights Clinic at New York University’s School of Law has just released a new study, “Nourishing Change: Fulfilling the Right to Food in the United States.” They report that 50 million individuals—that’s one in six Americans—live in a household that cannot afford adequate food. Of these, nearly 17 million are children. Despite this, Congress is moving to weaken food security program funding, like food stamps.” [From Amy Goodman’s Time for a Raise in the Minimum Wage.]
- The average CEO’s pay is now $7,000 an hour – that’s 350 time the average worker’s. According to data compiled by the AFL-CIO, the average CEO pay at 327 of the nation’s biggest companies reached $12.3 million. It’s the equivalent of $7,000 an hour – 350 times the typical worker’s pay of $20 an hour. Some CEO pay is much higher. For details of the “top 10”, see: CEO Pay: Who Makes the Most.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The gap between the top 1% and everyone else hasn’t been this bad since the Roaring Twenties. We are recreating the gap that gave us the Great Depression!
- In 1928, a year before the US economy nosedived into depression, the top 1 percent share was 23.9 percent.
- In 2007, the top 1 percent share of national income peaked at 23.5 percent. – See more at: http://inequality.org/income-inequality/#sthash.py5lRXSk.dpuf
“No person, I think, ever saw a herd of buffalo, of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. No person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.” – Henry George, American political economist (1839-1897)
- From Income Inequality in America, more disturbing facts about inequality in America:
- The top 1% of Americans now have 19% of the nation’s income, a share that has doubled since 1980.
- The rising tide has lifted a few boats significantly, and the rest hardly at all: Since 1979, the average income of the top 1% has more than tripled and their share of pretax income has doubled; in the same time span, the bottom 80% has lost pretax income share and realized only 20% income growth.
- The poorest fifth of households have an average income of $20,510, while the richest fifth have an average income of $164,490. That is eight times as much.
- The United States has more income inequality than Pakistan and the Ivory Coast.
- A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute finds that policymakers’ decisions to make the tax code less progressive played a large role in widening the economic gulf. Specifically, about 30 percent of the expansion of the after-tax income gulf between the rich and not-so-rich between 1979 and 2007 was due to tax and budget policies becoming less redistributive. In addition, the boost in income for the top 1 percent is correlated with tax cuts.
- The federal minimum wage over the past 40 years has not kept up with inflation. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be $10.74 instead of $7.25. Why don’t we have a universal living wage in this country? Would this perhaps mean one less vacation home or yacht for one of those CEOs? If you have been duped into thinking that there would be negative consequences of instituting a universal living wage, then please read: Clearing the Air: Myths and Concerns.
- From Ralph Nader’s new book Told You So, on the minimum wage: “The cruelty is unbelievable here. We are an advanced Third World country. We have great military equipment and science and technology. Half of the people in this country are poor. They can’t even pay their bills. They’re deep in debt. … Thirty million workers in this country are making less today than what workers made in 1968, inflation-adjusted. These are the workers who clean up after us, grow our food, serve us in the stores, take care of our ailing grandparents. … These are the workers that are most underemployed, underinsured. They work in often the most dangerous situations. They don’t have unions.”
- This year, 3.5 million people will experience homelessness. The federal government says 42% of them are working at some point during the week. Minimum wage jobs were once stepping stones. Now they are the jobs raising whole families when coupled with subsidies.
- On July 29, fast food workers walked out of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and other fast food chains. They are demanding wages of $15 hour and the right to form unions. The strike attracted the support of labor groups, clergy, and city council representatives. Online, supporters chimed in with tweets like “#iamfastfood” and “Poverty wages. #imnotlovingit.”
- On July 31, NPR’s Tom Ashbrook hosted an excellent program called The Fast Food Economy. Caller Terrance Wise, who works for both Burger King and Pizza Hut, described his struggle: “We’re slowly dying off in these jobs. I’ve invested eight years with Burger King, poured a tremendous amount of energy into the company, only for them to continue to let me down. As far as my family, I have three daughters … I’m currently homeless. And this movement is about making the public aware … they come in, you see the crisp bag that we hand the food out and we’ve got to be smiley-smiley, so you would think life is just peachy. But when I clock out and I leave my shop, I actually have no home to go to. And I don’t see what could possibly be right about that.”
- McDonald’s provides its minimum wage employees with a handbook offering employee budget tips. How very thoughtful of them! In what might be the most laughable budget suggestion, the handbook recommends spending a whopping $20 per month on health insurance. Here’s another gem: “Turn off your heat for as long as possible.” The recommended budget includes $0 for heating. The budget also omits such non-essentials as clothes, groceries, furniture needs, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and food.
- You’ll find little regard for health and safety at these two McDonald’s! One of them is in New York City; the second is in Otawa, Ontario.
- On July 19, a New York City McDonald’s crew walked, saying they were forced to work without air conditioning amid record-high temperatures. One worker collapsed from the heat.
- On July 24, The McDonald’s at 252 Elgin Street in Ottawa, Ontario was called out for its kitchen heat and other hazards in an Occupational Health and Safety inspection.
Are you as upset by these facts as I am? Why on earth are we letting this happen? Not only is this bad economic policy, it is downright immoral! Let’s join together to correct these inequities.
How You Can Help
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Support the fast food workers’ strike. Participate in the demonstrations. Use social media to express your support. Join other Tweeters using the popular hashtags “#iamfastfood” and “Poverty wages. #imnotlovingit.”
- On August 1, Daily Show comedian John Oliver lampooned Fox News’ absurd arguments against raising the minimum wage. Oliver’s coverage lays bare the ignorance, mean-spiritedness, and unabashed greed of those who argue against raising the minimum wage — it’s something that everyone who cares about workers and their families needs to see (it’s also pretty hilarious). Watch the video, sign on in support, and then share the clip with everyone you know. Follow this link: The Daily Show.
- To reduce outlandish CEO pay packages, “the best strategy may be to keep publicizing their pay to shame them – and the corporate boards that approve their compensation packages”. [Heidi Moore, economics editor at The Guardian, in Yahoo Finance’s The Daily Ticker.] You can find several articles that document CEO pay. Find one of these articles, get its URL link, and share it on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Here is a link to one of these articles: CEO Pay: Who Makes the Most.
- Excessive salaries contributed to the reckless financial culture that nearly ruined our economy. The Dodd-Frank law, which Congress passed in 2010, requires publicly traded corporations to disclose how much their executives make—compared to their average worker.Three years later, the law still hasn’t been enforced. Why? Because the Securities & Exchange Commission has not even passed regulations implementing the law. Meanwhile, big corporations are putting pressure on the S.E.C.—and Congress—to quietly kill it. Enough is enough. This is basic public information we have the right to know, and will help prevent the next financial crisis. Join Daily Kos and USAction by signing our petition to the S.E.C., urging them to enforce Dodd-Frank’s provision on disclosing C.E.O. salaries.
- Treat the homeless with the respect they deserve.
- Treat fast food workers and other low wage earners with the respect they deserve.
- Lobby for tax policies that are more fair and more distributive. Recall the study from the Economic Policy Institute described above. About 30 percent of the expansion of the after-tax income gulf between the rich and not-so-rich between 1979 and 2007 was due to tax and budget policies becoming less redistributive. Furthermore, the boost in income for the top 1 percent is correlated with tax cuts.
- Support organizations that are trying to end hunger and poverty. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Feeding America is another leading domestic hunger-relief charity.
- Support the efforts of an organization called Universal Living Wage. Print out their Resolution, sign it, and mail it to them! Help them show our representatives in Washington DC that there is support for a Universal Living Wage.The goal, as stated on their web site:
- The proposal, through a ten year plan, is to fix the Federal Minimum Wage by indexing it to the local cost of housing throughout the United States. The ULW would end homelessness for over 1,000,000 minimum wage workers and prevent economic homelessness for all 10.1 million minimum wage workers.
- By using existing government guidelines: 1) work 40 hours in a week, 2) spend no more than 30% of one’s income on housing, and 3) using the HUD section 8 rental calculations, we ensure that anyone working 40 hours in a week will be able to afford basic rental housing, food, clothing, utilities, and access to health care.
- Share this post with friends. It is important to raise awareness of these issues.
What Are Your Thoughts
Do you agree that inequality is ruining our country? How do you feel about what you have just read? Are you worried, sad, angry? Do you think that we need to move our country in some new directions? How? Why?