Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Americans don’t have a clue about income inequality

There’s an interesting and disturbing article in today’s Salon on income inequality in America. A recent study found that the United States has by far the largest gap in income inequality in the developed world. The current gap in this country between what CEOs make as compared to the average pay of workers in their factories is a whopping 354 to 1. To provide some perspective, in 1965, the gap between CEO pay and workers was 20 to 1. On the list of developed countries, the second country below America is Switzerland, with a gap of 145 to 1. The pay gap in the United Kingdom is 84 to 1.

The article points out how clueless Americans are when it comes to income inequality in this country. The survey asked people what they thought the actual wage gap was, and the answers averaged out to 36 to 1, and this was across ages, demographics and political affiliation. When asked what they thought the gap should be, respondents said about 7 to 1. How is it we have such a poor understanding of the wage gap and income inequality in this country?

The author points out a number of reasons for our rose-colored view of income inequality, including the lingering belief among Baby Boomers that we’re still living in the Post-WWII boom, the reluctance of Republicans and Democrats to address the issue and the Ayn Rand/Tea Party propaganda that those at the bottom of the economic ladder are lazy and not working hard enough.

The one culprit the article leaves out is the corporate mainstream press. Is it in the economic interests of the small cabal of media giants to make an issue out of income inequality? Absolutely not. Scaring consumers with stories about how much more their bosses make than they do could lead to all kinds of unfortunate circumstances, like people saving more and using credit cards less; letters to representatives demanding more income equality; citizens actually marching in the streets demanding things. The horror! FOX News is only the most vocal corporate shill, but it is by no means alone.

Breaking down existing beliefs about income inequality will be difficult, but necessary. If nothing is done, our ruinous trend will continue to push the 99 percent down and lift the .01 percent up and further enhance the political power they already enjoy.

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