Bethany Stafford Smith
Periclean Scholars Final Writing Assignment: Teensandtwenties.com Article
Current Issues in Social Justice—Economic Inequity
A growing issue in not only the United States, but also the world, is the inequity that falls across us all. In the words of Russel Brand, “When I was poor and I complained about inequality, people said I was bitter. Now I’m rich and I complain about inequality, [and] they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want inequality on the agenda, because it is a real problem that needs to be addressed.” The growing inequity in the United States is a complex issue that our country is unsure how to address. It has lots of contributing factors, which makes it harder to approach. The reason it matters now is because it has worsened significantly in recent years, especially the last decade. The longer we allow this issue to worsen, the more difficult it will be to fix.
Here are a few mind-blowing statistics:
-The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for 0.3% of the wealth (Fitz 2015).
-The top 3% held 54.4% of all wealth in the US in 2013, up from 44.8% in 1989. The bottom 90% held 24.7% of all wealth in 2013, down from 33.2% in 1989 (Leubsdorf 2014).
-Lower socioeconomic status generally results in less positive health outcomes and less access to health care; obesity has a greater incidence rate within lower socioeconomic demographics (Obesity Action Coalition 2015).
– The gap between the rich and the poor is widened by many different things including but not limited to: unpaid internships, college, globalization, technology, current tax rates, and capital gains (Shemkus 2015).
This concerns everyone because with statistics like these, it is quite obvious that if things continue to go this way then a small percentage of the country will control the entirety of the United States, leaving the rest of us without hope or opportunity. This cycle is self-perpetuating, the money goes to politics, which continues to increase the power of wealthy individuals, making more policies that only benefit the wealthy, and so on. Programs in our country will become increasingly privatized, resulting in decreased access for all but the super rich.
The economic recession that occurred from 2007-2009 and its effects may seem to be gone, but they are not completely absent from our day-to-day lives. Some lingering effects of the recession have caused an increase in pay for those who are already of higher socioeconomic status, and a decrease in average salary for those who are of less affluence (Leubsdorf 2014). Let’s bring back the ability to work towards the American dream! Let’s bring back hope to have bright futures, no matter what family you were born to, and what neighborhood you live in. Sounds like a good idea, but how?
As there are many aspects to this complicated issue, a multitude of programs, policies, and people would be necessary to stop the widening of the economic gap. Even more programs are essential if we would like the reverse the gap. We could start by pressuring our local governments and state senators to reallocate more funds in the government’s budget to go towards education. This would be impactful because of the way most public education systems currently work in this country. Generally, the schools who score better on standardized tests are given more funding, and the schools that score lower on the standardized tests get less money. Fewer funds mean fewer teachers, fewer programs, and fewer opportunities for these schools to improve. But wait, how does that make any sense? Don’t we need to give more money to the schools that are struggling? The answer to that is yes, but without radical improvements to the public education system, especially in low scoring schools, the opportunity gap will continue to expand. Education offers all the ability to be empowered. By robbing those of lower socioeconomic status a good education we are invalidating Thomas Jefferson’s quote from the American Constitution, about every citizen “having a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Humans of New York, or HONY is a prime example that shows you can help people by doing what you love. Brandon Stanton, the man behind it all, regularly comes up on my Facebook feed photographing a cute elderly couple, a small child, or an eccentric artist. Instead of only photographing random New Yorkers, he has also recently created philanthropic projects. Stanton advertised Mott Hall Bridges Academy (MHBA), a public school that needed more than a little bit of hope. He shared many stories from people who attend or work for MHBA, and in doing so he tells a culmination of this group’s stories. Stanton helps put a name and face to every statistic about the underserved. While raising awareness about the situations of these people, and sharing their stories- be it inspirational, heartbreaking, or awe inspiring- he is also raising funds to help their communities. HONY’s efforts have raised almost 1.5 million dollars to give inner city school children the opportunity to attend college. I think that giving a voice to the people who are so rarely heard by the population is not only extremely important, but it can have powerful effects and offer opportunities to those inherently have fewer.
Another way you can personally get involved is to volunteer with programs in your local community that help the underserved. There are many ways to get involved and help others; you can find opportunities to help others on your own or you can join a group whose purpose is to help. Elon University has a program called Periclean Scholars, a group of students who work together to create sustainable change for many underprivileged parts of the world. For example, Periclean Scholars class of 2016 volunteers with a program every weekend called LUPE, Latinos Unidos Promoveindo la Esperanza. The class of 2016 Pericleans work with LUPE showing them how to read and write in English. This helps empower the members of LUPE in a country where they do not yet speak the native tongue, and results in them having more control in their daily lives. Periclean’s English lessons allow them to feel like their voices can be better heard. Education is highly important to closing the economic gap, it allows for better communication among all citizens of the United States, especially to those who hold positions of power. Periclean Scholars not only help locally, they support other countries around the globe.
Providing resources and education to all, facilitates a more level playing field where all US citizens can cooperate, work together, and truly be heard. Decreasing inequity in the United States would benefit the greater good because equal opportunity is the stepping-stone to enabling everyone’s ability to contribute to society. In closing, remember that volunteering and speaking out are two of the many things you personally can do to help close the economic gap! Every little bit of help and volunteerism makes a difference and brings our country closer to equity.
Fitz, N. (2015) Economic inequality: It’s far worse than you think. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/economic-inequality-it-s-far- worse- than-you-think/
Leubsdorf, B. (2014). Fed: Gap between rich, poor americans widened during recovery. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-gap- between-rich-poor-americans-widened-during-recovery-1409853628
Obesity Action Coalition (2015). Obesity statistics. Retrieved from http://www.obesityaction.org/educational-resources/obesity-statistics-fact-sheets
Shemkus, S. (2015). Why the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Salary.com. Retrived from http://www.salary.com/why-the-gap-between-rich-poor-is- widening/slide/2/