Opinion: Liberty and justice for all (at a price)

Lucas Misera is a sophomore economics major and columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Lucas Misera

As the 2016 presidential election approaches, questions surrounding immigration, the economy and social issues will arise.

However, one nagging topic within American culture is carefully avoided: This is not the same America that it once was. The American Dream is dying, and it needs to be revived quickly.

The American Dream suggests that citizens of the United States can succeed both financially and socially through hard work. Unfortunately, achieving success through persistence is a rarity in today’s United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate reached a staggering 14.5 percent in 2013. Nearly 45 million Americans are struggling to make ends meet — a number that should invoke drastic reform.

Many will counter this statistic by arguing that the welfare system is broken, reasoning that this may skew the numbers on poverty. Perhaps this is true, but one fact remains evident: The middle class is fading away. One of the most hotly debated topics in politics, yet one that legislators seem eager to avoid, is income inequality. It’s vaguely similar to the aphorism “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” but this is more than just a saying in today’s economy. In fact, it’s unnervingly realistic.

In terms of income, the poor and lower-middle class are facing hardship. Wages are stagnant, as is income growth. Of course, the financial crisis of 2008 crippled America’s economy — except for the pockets of the top earners in the country.

In fact, the trend in recent years has been that when viewing wage growth from the bottom earners to the top one percent, income growth rises exponentially. Essentially, as America’s low-income households see minimal growth, America’s highest earners find their wages rising rapidly. What repercussions may be lurking behind such imbalanced conditions?

First and foremost, income inequality is creating an economic barrier between social classes. As wealth is continually being distributed on opposite ends of the spectrum, the socio-economic border between the wealthy and poor is becoming evident.

There may not be a “class war” as some argue, but the unequal distribution of wealth and income is certainly a threat to one of the American Dream’s most fundamental principles: opportunity.

Researchers are finding that numerous conditions will ultimately dictate whether or not somebody will be able to rise into a more prestigious, wealthier socio economic class. For example, being born into an impoverished community instantly lowers one’s chances of working their way out of such conditions.  

Race and ethnicity play a factor, as several cohorts of minorities experience a median household income nearly ten times less than that of the median white family. The melting pot of the world might not be mixing quite as well as we imagine, and America must bring itself to this realization soon.

A melting pot, a land of opportunity and a haven for freedom. Through democracy we are free, and America has been an escape for immigrants facing persecution and hardship for more than a century. Nonetheless, this nation’s most intrinsic values are threatened by a powerful underlying threatincome inequality. This nation is nothing without its motivated, incentivized middle class, so re-imagining the American Dream will be critical in 2016.

Lucas Misera is a sophomore economics major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]