Income Inequality Is The Great Problem Of Our Time

Income Inequality Is The Great Problem Of Our Time

How do we end income inequality?
Jake VP.
Jake VP.
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The American Dream, the idea that you can move up the social ladder through hard work. Americans like to think that America is the place this can happen the easiest, sadly this isn’t true.

So what’s going on? One place to look is income inequality, a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that “the average income of the top 5 percent of households was 13.3 times the average income of the bottom fifth [quintile] in the late 2000s”. When you also learn that 40% of Americans are unable to pay for an unexpected expense of $400 or more without taking out loans, or selling possessions, according to a Fed study, it is apparent that this is a problem. It is also a problem for our economy at large, another EPI report estimates states that GDP has slowed by 2 - 4 percent in recent years, because of income inequality.

So if Americans are struggling, and our economy is hurting because of income inequality, what is going on, and what do we do?

A report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) says the problem lies in viewing the split between those who went to college, and those who didn’t. CAP says the solution isn’t in giving more people college degrees, but in increasing the demand for workers without 4 year degrees. CAP continues that increases global competition has been a factor. And although “trickle down economics” like those from the Reagan years, and Trump's newest tax cut may not have contributed to Income Inequality (a deeper dive into the Reagan years’ impact on inequality can be found in this Urban Institute article) they did not do anything to help alleviate inequality.

CAP also talks about the important role decreases in Union membership has played in increasing income inequality, along with the fragmentation of the workforce with the “gig economy” saying “freelance workers and independent contractors; part-time workers; and day laborers to supply an increasing share of their workforce … Independent contractors do not receive a host of protections afforded to traditional employees—such as coverage under federal minimum wage, overtime, and collective bargaining requirements—and are far less likely to receive company-provided benefits.”

Also instrumental to fixing income inequality are 5 areas of “investment” CAP names:

  1. Ensuring that all families have access to quality, affordable child care
  2. Building a 21st century infrastructure, including expanding the system and repairing and replacing aging highways, public transportation, passenger rail systems, and water infrastructure
  3. Rebuilding the K-12 schools essential to our children’s future
  4. Preparing homes and communities for the impacts of climate change and saving households money on their energy bills through a new Future-Ready Communities Corps
  5. Providing long-term services and supports so that more older people and people with disabilities can thrive in their communities

Income inequality is multi-faceted problem though. A report from the Brooking’s Institute talks about how certain regions, namely rural areas, are having a harder time bouncing back from the Great Recession. Having fewer options and resources than metropolitan areas is compounded by other “barriers to labor force activity due to opioid use and criminal records.” The extent of this shocking, stating that “the dependence of non-working adult men on painkillers (Krueger, 2017) is strikingly large, with 30-40 percent reporting daily use; and the prevalence of criminal records has grown dramatically as well. While we have long known that ex-offender status among African-American men is a major barrier to their employment, Looney and Turner (2018) find as many as a third of all non-working 30-year old men hold such records.”

The same Brookings report mentions that although there is some evidence that raising minimum wage could limit employment in the long run, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit could be a good incentive to get people working. The majority or their focus though is in making it easier to get a job by helping economically depressed areas, increasing training for workers without a 4 year college degree, and alleviating problems arising from the opioid crisis, and having been convicted of using/possessing drugs.

The Economic Policy Institute looks to a jobs guarantee (similar to what I talked about in a recent article) along with strengthening labor standards (supporting unions and a higher minimum wage) and also regulating banks to prevent another housing crisis, and higher taxes on the 1%.

All and all it’s clear that income inequality is a challenge which will take many different approaches to solve. I think looking into helping out communities which have had a harder time recovering, especially rural communities, with better infrastructure, and resolving the opioid crisis are two areas we can all agree to work on to begin reducing income inequality, especially since improving infrastructure (which will mean more jobs in of itself) and ending the opioid crisis are issues most people support anyway.

Another undeniable takeaway is that the average worker needs to be better supported. Whether it is through our tax code, or in negotiating trade deals one thing all of these reports have in common is the running theme that the American worker is not being helped by their country.

This is a real problem, but it is one with solutions, and as long as America seeks to be the “Land of Opportunity” I believe we can overcome this problem, and make the American Dream a reality.

Cover Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon

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I Might Have Aborted My Fetus When I Was 18, But Looking Back, I Saved A Child’s Life

It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had done it.

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Due to recent political strife happening in the world today, I have decided to write on a very touchy, difficult subject for me that only a handful of people truly know.

When I was 18 years old, I had an abortion.

I was fresh out of high school, and deferring college for a year or two — I wanted to get all of my immature fun out so I was prepared to focus and work in the future. I was going through my hardcore party stage, and I had a boyfriend at the time that truly was a work of art (I mean truly).

Needless to say, I was extremely misinformed on sex education, and I never really thought it could happen to me. I actually thought I was invincible to getting pregnant, and it never really registered to me that if I had unprotected sex, I could actually get pregnant (I was 18, I never said I was smart).

I remember being at my desk job and for weeks, I just felt so nauseous and overly tired. I was late for my period, but it never really registered to me something could be wrong besides just getting the flu — it was November, which is the peak of flu season.

The first person I told was my best friend, and she came with me to get three pregnancy tests at Target. The first one came negative, however, the second two came positive.

I truly believe this was when my anxiety disorder started because I haven't been the same ever since.

Growing up in a conservative, Catholic Italian household, teen pregnancy and especially abortion is 150% frowned upon. So when I went to Planned Parenthood and got the actual lab test done that came out positive, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I was stuck between two roads: Follow how I was raised and have the child, or terminate it and ultimately save myself AND the child from a hard future.

My boyfriend at the time and I were beyond not ready. That same week, I found out he had cheated on me with his ex and finances weren't looking so great, and I was starting to go through the hardest depression of my life. Because of our relationship, I had lost so many friends and family, that I was left to decide the fate of both myself and this fetus. I could barely take care of myself — I was drinking, overcoming drug addictions, slightly suicidal and living with a man who didn't love me.

As selfish as you may think this was, I terminated the fetus and had the abortion.

I knew that if I had the child, I would be continuing the cycle in which my family has created. My goal since I was young was to break the cycle and breakaway from the toxicity in how generations of children in my family were raised. If I had this child, I can assure you my life would be far from how it is now.

If I had carried to term, I would have had a six-year old, and God knows where I would've been.

Now, I am fulfilling my future by getting a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, having several student leadership roles, and looking into law schools for the future.

Although it still haunts me, and the thought of having another abortion truly upsets me, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I get asked constantly "Do you think it's just to kill a valuable future of a child?" and my response to that is this:

It's in the hands of the woman. She is giving away her valuable future to an unwanted pregnancy, which then resentment could cause horror to both the child and the woman.

As horrible as it was for me in my personal experience, I would not be where I am today: a strong woman, who had overcome addiction, her partying stage, and ultimately got her life in order. If I would have had the child, I can assure you that I would have followed the footsteps of my own childhood, and the child would not have had an easy life.

Because of this, I saved both my life and the child's life.

And if you don't agree or you dislike this decision, tough stuff because this is my body, my decision, my choice — no one else.

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Pete Buttigieg Is On Everybody's Radar Now, But Can Mayor Pete Really Become President Pete?

Charisma, polyglot and success in reviving a Midwestern city make him a viable candidate for president. But will this hold?

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At the time of writing this, at least 18 people are vying for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Donald Trump during the Presidential election in 2020. This includes some heavyweights, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker. There are also fringe candidates, like Andrew Yang. Then there are the formerly fringe candidates. One person fits that bill: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Pete Buttigieg has erupted as a potential candidate for the Presidency. He recently took 9% of a recent poll in Iowa, the state that begins the general election season. The question is this: why has he gained so much traction? There are several potential reasons.

First, Mayor Pete has, at least compared to Trump, significant governmental experience as the mayor of South Bend. He has been mayor since 2011. He began his time in office at the age of 29 and has since been re-elected with 80% of the vote in 2015. His success in the city has shown: the city experienced significant growth following a population decline between 2000-2010.

The Mayor has also spearheaded some rebirth projects in the city, including converting the old Studebaker plant in town into a tech hub, conversion of the city streets downtown, and millions of dollars of private investment into the city. As a result, Mayor Pete can tout his success here as examples of why he could be president.

Other supporters claim that he is immensely talented and intelligent (though I do not like this reasoning). Mayor Pete was a Rhodes Scholar after attending Harvard. He knows myriad languages, including Norwegian. He is well-acquainted with various philosophies, including that of well-known intellectual Antonio Gramsci, whom his father has written on.

Though this line of thinking is flawed (I mean, Julian Castro attended Stanford, Cory Booker was also a Rhodes Scholar and Elizabeth Warren lectured at Harvard Law School), it is easy to see WHY he resonates: when compared to the President, Pete is levels above him.

Finally, a lot of what he says resonates with people. He speaks about his faith with fervor and honesty, something I appreciate greatly. He talks about the virtues of progressive politics and supporting policies like universal healthcare, labor unionism, combating climate change among other policies. His youth ideals combined are valued by many.

However, Pete still has his critics. Concerns about the gentrification of the city, wiretapping, and targeting of vacant properties that led to accusations of targeting of minorities in the city are what concerns many people. There were also previous issues with the police chief in the town, who recorded conversations, and who he demoted, which raised concerns for racial bias.

Whether or not this affects the primary at all is anyone's guess. However, he has momentum. Maybe Mayor Pete will become President Pete someday.

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