Opinion: A modern Gilded Age

Madison Newingham

While those benefiting from the abuse of capitalism fail to recognize the social implications, those below the poverty line struggle to lift themselves up. Americans must work towards equity, especially because the current administration is only concerned about the interests of its peers, the top of the top.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” yet Betsy DeVos bought her position with over $100,000 of donations to senators and the Republican Party. Trumpcare offers nothing to those struggling yet alleviates expenses for healthcare CEOs.

If we value the reputation of capitalism and our nation, we cannot take advantage of it due to greed. The rise in socialist policy is in part due to a modern Gilded Age.

In a mixed economy such as ours, we must provide fair wages to propel America as this City Upon a Hill; otherwise, we are undermining the liberty of those being abused by unnecessarily low wages and lack of benefits. Our businesspersons at the top have seen national inflation, yet have done nothing to proportionately raise wages.

Huffington Post reported in 2014 that 14.5 percent of Americans are below the poverty line. Where are the religious conservatives who promised to help their neighbors, feed the poor, be charitable?

Americans are struggling, and conservative gridlock inhibits lifting the bottom of our society up. And why? Because those at the top are unwilling to contribute more in taxes to help their peers — a proportionate share.

American unity does not exist, and the division of social class is exactly why this is the case. Billionaires have literally billions of dollars sitting in a bank, benefiting no one — not even themselves. While their money may or may not be hard-earned, those well-off should feel a duty or even guilt to help those who cannot even afford food for the next day.

There really is a certain point in being so wealthy that any income beyond that point just sits and is not added into the economy. No one can possibly spend billions on material items. At a certain point, there is nothing more to buy.

The American Dream asserts the opportunity for a fair chance. If the rich are adversely advantaged over their peers, those living more modest lives are set back.

The wealth distribution in America allows for the continuous polarization of the lower and upper classes. The current inequality enables the top one percent’s continued growth while restricting the lower and middle classes, as well as a portion of the upper class.

While America was founded on capitalistic ideals, the opportunity for equality supersedes fiscal tradition. Similarly, a fairer spread does not imply socialism, but instead could exist under capitalism.

An impartial wealth distribution would allow for a healthier economy in addition to supporting the growth of lower- and middle-class citizens. The middle-class, average Americans cannot grow if something does not change. These citizens are the backbone of America and the backbone of our economy.

According to CNN Money, while Americans believe the top twenty percent should own a sizable portion of the country’s wealth, the ideal size for the entire upper class actually resembles the very top one percent only.

Significantly, the distribution of wealth and that in which people deem ideal greatly vary. As portrayed in Wealth Inequality in America by Politizane, 92 percent of both Republican and Democratic Americans believe that there should be a steady rise in net worth among the classes. This would enable an upper-class success rate of 10 to 20 times better than that of the lower class to retain American capitalistic ideals.

CNN reports that the top one percent possesses 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and 80 percent of the country actually possesses as little as seven percent of the country’s wealth as of the early 2010s.

Furthermore, ThinkProgress reported that income inequality has greatly increased since the 1970s. In 1976, the top one percent only held nine percent of the country’s wealth; whereas, in 2012, the same group increased their wealth to nearly a quarter.

Notably, the top one percent’s wealth has tripled in the past three decades, allowing for the decline of lower class citizens beneath the poverty line and disappearance of the middle class.

In addition to tangible wealth, CNN reported that the top one percent also holds half of the county’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom fifty percent own as little as half a percent of these. Furthermore, the average company’s CEO makes 380 times more than its middle-class employees. While CEOs have more tasks than their average employees, one cannot conclude that CEOs work 380 times harder to justify their salaries.

While socialism can never occur in America, socialistic tendencies could allow for a fairer distribution of the country’s wealth. Having a steady increase in salaries among the classes and wages actually being adjusted to inflation would allow for not only a thriving economy, but also increases the fiscal and physical health of Americans.

Allowing lower-class citizens the opportunity to earn living wages enables their activity in the economy and opportunity to invest. In addition to meeting physical needs and remaining above the poverty level, these citizens could do more than simply “scraping by.”

Additionally, a large, strong middle-class allows for the success of a country, as concurred upon through bipartisan support – this includes Ohio’s Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman. This notion to strengthen the middle class is, and should be, a non-partisan issue. The middle class determines the success of an economy. They contribute in every day transactions and occupations. Further, the middle class adds to the economy more than the upper class.

Ultimately, progressing to a fairer distribution will give all Americans a better quality of life which supports the founding principles of the United States and supersedes current unjust economic practices.

Madison Newingham is a columnist, contact her at [email protected]