Can Inequality in America Get Any Worse?


PBS Frontline has a special airing on Tuesday night (7/9/13) on our growing inequality issues.  Check out the trailer for that program.  More on this below the fold.

I encourage you to watch that program and if you feel so inclined, I’ve linked out to a handful of related articles below.

Losing Our Way

It seems we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into a reverse Robin Hood economic mess and we need to better inform ourselves if we’re going to pull ourselves out of it. (And that’s to say nothing to of the growing challenges of resource constraints which further complicate matters.)  The chart below shows the trend of our Gini Coefficient over the past four plus decades.

The Gini Coefficient is a relative measure of equality/inequality in which zero would represent perfect equality in which all citizens were financial equals and a Gini score of 1 would represent a country in which all the money was held by a single person.  Scores tend to fall between .25 and .60 for countries which report scores.

As you can see, there are countries that have it worse than the U.S., but we’ve made up a lot of ground on them in recent years.

I believe that fabric of society is held together by a human relationships and the commonly held belief that the systems which are in place are fair and just.  The figures above tell me those things are headed out the window, if they haven’t already left.

The foundation of this country, the thing that made us the envy of much of the world, was the promise of the American Dream.  The idea that anyone could improve their lot in life by working hard, following the rules, and persisting through adversity.  In a fair and just system with opportunities, those virtues seem well placed, but in a system that does not reward those, toeing the line seems less virtuous and more obedient.

The things I might have expected to teach my kids to value, seem less important than they once did.

“Follow the rules.”

“Be patient.”

“You should be happy you have…”

The list goes on.

So much of what our predecessors taught us seems more geared to keeping us under a thumb rather than making us valued and valuable people.  Given the results, maybe we should worry less about teaching our kids to follow the rules and more about being free thinkers who can give the world a nudge towards a better direction?

As goes the American worker, so goes America.

Back to the question in the title.  Can it get any worse?

Answer:  A whole lot.

If we let it.

Further reading:

The New Yorker: The Fall of the American Worker
Zero Hedge: 15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Fading Fast
CNBC: State of the American Dream Is Uncertain
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