Does anyone remember waking up one day and seeing a billion news articles about how Kylie Jenner is a billionaire? Yes, a 21-year-old, a similar age to many of us, is practically a billionaire from selling makeup. We live in a world where all of us work our butts off in college and live off ramen noodles to eventually live a quality life. Some of us wait tables and get paid about $2 an hour. Some of us are teaching the future generation and don't get paid nearly enough. Some of us mop floors and make a wage that isn't even enough to pay rent at any residence in close proximity of our job. And some of us build houses every day in the scorching heat and the injuries are build up as the days go by. All while others simply get lucky by who they were birthed to. So what is this called?
The phenomenon that some people are super rich and some people are really poor. It can be referred to with a number of names, but today I am going to refer to it with the term wealth inequality. Wealth inequality is the gap between the poor and the rich which is a growing problem, not only in America but globally. And subsequently, like everything else, our generation will be the ones expected to combat it. These are the kind of subjects I am really passionate about and love to learn more about. Today, I'd like to share a little bit more about wealth inequality, what causes it, and how it will affect us in the long run.
Let's start off with the point I found most interesting… And if you don't grasp anything else I talk about in this article, I hope you leave with one thing: Eight of the world's richest men hold half of the world's wealth. According to Oxfam in 2017, this means there are eight men who have as much money as EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD COMBINED. And this number has dwindled down to almost only five men today.
Now I could list these eight men who were accounted for, but I don't think they really need my publicity. So all you need to know is that their names start with rich and ends with rich. Whether you believe that there is no issue there and these people earned it or you think this is absolutely ridiculous is beside the point. Let's talk about what exactly this means.
I think it is kind of hard to grasp how much money these men actually have. In Journey North's article, "Millions and Billions," they state that to spend just ONE billion dollars, you would need to spend $1,000 a day for 2,740 years. The eight men mentioned are worth about 60-100 billion dollars, so for them, they would have to spend $1,000 for about 165,000 years to exhaust their funds.
Keeping that in mind… Oxfam's article, "just eight men own the same wealth as half of the world," explains that there are people working for just $1 an hour producing products for the world's richest companies with CEO's who are the highest paid people in the world. A prime example of wealth inequality. Obviously, these CEOs have earned their money, but the fact that it comes at the expense of poorest people in the world can not be denied.
The Seven Pillars Institute's article, "The causes of economic inequality," sums down the reasons to the labor market, education, growth in technology, gender, and personal factors. So when thinking about the causes of wealth inequality, it is important to remember that people are really rich or super poor for reasons far beyond their own personal control. You could end up being really rich because your great great grandfather was the first to invent something super random. Or you could end up being really poor because you were born to a family in the middle of a desert with no access to water.
To put it simply, the super rich people are absorbing all of the funds in the economy to leave the people with less money to brawl for what's left. As long as we continue to buy the iPhones, download Microsoft on all of our computers, and order off of Amazon for anything we can think of, there will continue to be a major gap between the rich and everyone else. They buy cheap products from other countries and pay for very cheap (and often times unethical) labor, yet we all still give them our money.
Let's also not forget the fact that we "regular" people pay taxes and they don't. What? Yes! That's exactly right. According to the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy, 60 companies avoided paying all federal income tax in 2018. To be exact, Amazon made a record profit of $11 billion that year and paid $0 in taxes. Did someone say 'Merica? If you want to know more, I suggest looking further into Trump's tax cuts.
So now that we understand how it happens, let's discuss what the effects of wealth inequality will be. In the Washington Post article "how rising inequality hurts everyone, even the rich," by Christopher Ingraham, he explains "the children from the bottom 40 percent of households - a huge chunk of the population - are missing out on pricey educational opportunities." So almost half of the population doesn't have the same chance as everyone else. Ingraham goes on to explain that this will eventually make these children less productive which leads to lower wages and then overall less participation in the economy.
But it isn't just the lower income people who get hurt by wealth inequality. Ingraham also states that obviously this is bad for poor families but it hurts the people on top because the wealthy need regular people to be able to afford to buy their products. It's possible that this could get so bad that people who make regular wages will no longer be able to afford to spend their money at these big companies. Therefore, if we continue to have a small percentage of super wealthy people in the world, everyone involved may end up super unhappy.
In conclusion, wealth inequality is a growing problem caused by unfair working conditions and unequal opportunities that lead to a huge gap in income among people on earth. Like climate change or staying out too late when you have an 8 a.m. in the morning, it's a problem that cannot be ignored, because eventually, you have to face the effects of it. I hope you all know enough about wealth inequality to go share it with your grandparents the next time you see them.