Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wealth Gap in America

With the recent issues of income inequality being brought to the forefront of the American social conscious with protests such as the Occupy Movement calling for farer wealth distribution, it's not wonder that issues of class divides and poverty will play a key role in the 2012 presidential election.

Bruce Watson states in his article ('It's official: Wealth gap has turned America into a seething pit of resentment') for the Daily Finance that the Pew Research Centre found '66% of Americans believe that there is a "strong" or "very strong" conflict between the rich and the poor'. Watson acknowledges this staggering statistic by noting that just three years ago, only 47% of respondents shared these opinions. The number of those who responded with 'very strong' is, intact, the highest it has been since the question was first asked in 1987, showing a vast change in public opinion over a relatively short period of time. This tells us that there is serious distrust in American wealth and how it is distributed.

Essentially, during the past three years, more traditional sources of friction -- race, gender, religion, sexual preference, age and national origin -- have become vastly overshadowed by distrust over wealth.

Watson therefore asks if America is the 'melting pot or boiling cauldron', suggesting that this change in public opinion is directly related to the rich getting richer and the 99% remaining on the same levels of income. This, in turn, has raised more awareness of class within America. Particularly in the case of white Americans, the research figures show an increase in opinions towards class conflicts by more than 50%, jumping from 43% to 65%.

Politically, democrats have always been more likely to notice a class divide, but it appears that the latest results show an increase in conflict between classes for both republicans and democrats. This plays a significant role in the presidential race and the search for a republican candidate. Watson quotes Rick Santorum when he attacked both Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney for using the term 'middle class'.

The governor used a term earlier that I shrink from. It's one that I don't think we should be using as Republicans: "middle class." There are no classes in America. We are a country that don't allow for titles. We don't put people in classes. There may be middle-income people, but the idea that somehow or another we're going to buy into the class-warfare arguments of Barack Obama is something that should not be part of the Republican lexicon. That's their job -- divide, separate, put one group against another.

Similarily though, Romney shares opinions with Santorum, and this can be seen in the quote that Watson reports in his article.

You know, I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare. When you have a President encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99% versus 1% -- and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1% -- you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.

These two republican ideas, however, go directly against what the statistics are showing for the American people as a whole, political parties aside. As Watson goes on to say, another poll by Bloomberg and The Washington Post found that 53% of Republicans believe that taxes should be increased on households making more than $250,000 per year. These statistics show a growing number of worried republicans who have also found themselves struggling with the unfair wealth distribution, some of which has been experienced by Mitt Romney himself as he struggles to identify with the poor, middle class and even upper middle class of America.

Watson concludes his article by saying:

While it remains to be seen how much the struggle between the rich and the rest will affect the next election, one thing is clear: For a growing number of voters, one eye will be on the ballot box, and the other will be on the bottom line.

This summary may seem ominous, but the sentiment is felt across America nationwide. While the 1% of Americans continue to live frivolous lives, the rest of the population live in fear of losing their jobs or being out of work due to injury as they cannot afford to lose pay or else they won't be able to make rent the next month. In a first world country, the middle class are homeless, their children are hungry, and all they are being told is that it will get better, even as the American dream fails to live up to expectations.

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