Opinion

Are We a Nation Divided Over Income?

By | May 8, 2014

Declaration_independenceThere once was a nation created by idealists who wanted to make sure that “all men were created equal.”

Of course, back then, “all men” meant only men, since women didn’t have the right to vote. It also meant only male landowners, since non-landowners were denied voting rights, too.

But still, this new nation was on the cutting edge of providing the right to life, liberty, and happiness for as many people in their country as possible.

Fast forward several hundred years, and this nation is now the strongest, most influential country in the world. It prides itself on being a haven for people who embrace liberty and equality.

Of course, within this haven of equality, the wealthy (10 percent of its citizens) possess half of the country’s total income, and the top one percent possesses nearly one quarter of its income.

This income disparity has transformed into a national debate about equality. Should such a small percentage of citizens possess so much of a country’s income? Is this equitable?

Many of the citizens within the top 10 percent believe that the “poor” are lazy and lack a strong work ethic. If they just worked harder, maybe they could earn their place in the top 10 percent of the country’s wage earners.

On the other hand, many people in the lower 90 percent of earners believe that this country’s income tax system strongly favors the top 10 percent. They believe that political leaders have created a corrupt system of taxation because these leaders are in the top 10 percent themselves.

Is it lazy people, or a crazy tax system, that cause this great discrepancy? The debate goes on.

The worry in this powerful nation is that the 90 percent will become resentful and angry when their income capacity lessens so much that they all become poor. An enraged populace would certainly rattle the rich.

A hint of this rage occurred when the “Occupy Wall Street” advocates took over public spaces in cities across the country, as well as in major urban areas around the world.

Many people thought these protesters were little more than extreme hippies and anarchists. But what happens when soccer moms, teachers, and firefighters begin to question why their paychecks are getting smaller and smaller, while the elite in this fabled nation continue to expand their wealth?

Will the wealthy cling to their mantra about “lazy poor people” then? Trying to claim that teachers and firefighters are just too lazy is like Marie Antoinette saying “let them eat cake.”

Years later, the French revolted.

So, what will happen? Will the great income divide split this nation to the point of revolution? Or will common-sense leaders prevail, as they work toward reducing the income gap?

Is it too idealistic to hope that equity will occur when 20% of the population is wealthy, 60% earn middle-income wages, and 20% are below middle income, but still earn enough to stay off the streets?

And all are able to eat cake whenever they want.