Question #4 on the Income Gap

People often talk about the growing gap between the rich and poor.  However, today’s poor (in the United States, at least) are much better off than most people (not just the poor) were a century ago.   Does it matter that there’s an increasing gap between the rich and the poor if the standard of living for the poor keeps going up?

The gap between the rich and poor is one of the biggest issue facing America  Not only is it bad for the economy it’s bad for our morality. It’s divided us and made it harder to empathize with each other. This gap has lead to needless finger pointing and jealousy.  It’s created an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality.  It’s allowed us to look around judging others not for who they are but by how much money they have in the bank and the manner in which they choose to spend it.

WIth such a large gap the increased standard of living doesn’t matter.   An increase in the standard of living for the poor means an increasing standard for the middle class and rich.  What’s worse is during the recovery, the gap between the rich and poor actually widened.

Comparing our poverty line to other countries may ease the minds of some people, but does no good to solve the problem.  In Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky wrote “I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”  His point is spot on.  Mentioning that people in Chad or Fiji or countless other places having a lower standard of living than Americans does nothing to change the fact that in our country the rich continue to leave the poor further and further behind.

I grew up in a middle class family.  By no means rich but I always had food on the table and the lights on.  I graduated from a good college and was able to land a solid job with a big company upon graduation.  I’m not in the top 30% but am I’m not in the bottom 30% either. For all the answers I think I have about life I have no idea how to solve this problem in a way that would please everybody.

The two most popular sides of the argument seem to be redistribution vs Darwinism. Tax the richest as much as we can or let everyone fend for themselves and see who among us survives.  The fact that according to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country isn’t good.

Personally, my vote goes to a basic income.  Obviously there would be a lot of details to work out but it is the easiest way to end poverty in our country. Also, I believe that a basic income would allow for people to pursue their passions and dreams to advance society instead of spending their time working for a company they hate just to be able to pay rent and feed themselves.

I know that it’s not right or realistic to expect people who work hard for what they have to just give it up.  Nor is it right to assume that anyone who has less isn’t a hard worker and lacks potential.  Believe it or not, hard work and a large income are not directly correlated.  Yes, some people are lazy. Some have had bad breaks.  Some people are born with a silver spoon. And some of us are just caught in the middle not poor enough to plead poverty but not rich enough to make a difference.

My hope is that we stop believing that monetary worth equals self worth. More importantly, that we all understand that this problem isn’t hypothetical. It’s real.  As are the millions of people who are living in poverty every day. The income gap isn’t something than can be solved by a minority of the population.  If you don’t want to give away your money fine but look into other ways you can help those around you such as volunteering or through charity.  Because in the end if we don’t look out for each other who will?

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