Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Increasing American Inequality—Why Is It Happening?

American polity is deteriorating; few can deny that. The Occupy movement is telling us that the masses of poor and middle class Americans are dissatisfied with the economic divisions that are rending apart our cities and our society. We all ask, “Why is this happening?”

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the main goal of American government was to make a better American. The two parties differed on how this was to be done; but the general goal was the same. Over the 1st 60 years of that century, the goal gradually shifted toward a goal of increasing the gross domestic product and distributing it evenly. All seemed to work well at first, and America became the dominant force in the world economy. However, the system began to come apart in the 1960’s and 70’s with the civil rights movement and the Viet Nam War. American liberalism seemed to be taking over; and American business influence on the society reached its nadir.

American business reacted. In the years after World War II, Americans had embraced the ideas of pluralism, which they thought would insulate them against the excesses of communism and fascism, the scourges of the early years of the 20th Century. But then, something very unexpected happened beginning in the 1960’s and 70’s. The voices of traditional American entrepreneurism began to speak loudly and effectively. The forces of egalitarian pluralism were beginning to fade, and selfish private special interests came back in force. Government began to enact laws that favored the rich and the mighty in business. As a result, we are now seeing an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Thus—the Occupy movement!

Over the last few years, while the country has been suffering from economic recession, the rich have gotten even richer. And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer. In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else's income went down. This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom. The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

All of these changes have not been due to the efforts of the rich. Labor unions have had a share in the cause of economic disruption because of their ever-increasing demands for higher and higher wages and benefits. The unions have effectively caused overseas businesses to prosper and to draw capital out of the United States. The business that went overseas added to the incomes of the already rich in our country.
Obviously, I do not know the answer to this developing economic inequality in our America. Nevertheless, I hope that we, Americans, will recognize the issues and will respond with generosity and true patriotism. We cannot continue to grab for the money and expect our country to flourish.

For those who would further inform themselves on this subject, I would refer them to . Thanks for reading!

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