Inequality constitutes a rising problem in United States. Ever since the 1970s, it has been steadily increasing; today, income inequality is at its highest since the Great Depression. The fact that America is currently mired in the worst economic crisis since that period may not be a coincidence.
This site has found fifteen striking charts of inequality. Some are better at conveying the problem than others. Nevertheless, overall it does a decent job at presenting the magnitude of American inequality. Pictures like the one below are especially effective:
The causes of this growing inequality remain complex. Experts attribute numerous causes. Some point to the decline of manufacturing and blue-collar industry since the ’70s – which probably plays a part. Liberals blame conservative tax-cuts which helped the rich disproportionately.
Whatever the reason, it remains undeniable that the well-off have benefited most from the economic growth over the past few decades. Another graph illustrates this point:
What is most striking about this chart is the degree to which CEO pay increases, almost without regard to how well the companies under their management do. The stories of massive Wall-Street bonuses to CEOs responsible for bankrupting their banks have become infamous; the practice continues.
At some point something will have to be done to curb this trend. Taxes on the rich will almost certainly be raised, although it would be better to do this after the recession. Even the analysts on Fox News acknowledged this on their Sunday discussion forum. The estate tax – which falls on the inheritances the rich give to their children – is going back to its level before President George W. Bush cut it. The New Yorker and other sources are proposing a “millionaire’s tax,” something for which broad public support probably exists.
All in all, increasing inequality remains a threat to the overall wellbeing of a country. As a matter of fairness, income inequality goes hand-in-hand with opportunity inequality – leading to rigid social stratification. This sets the ground for social unrest, as the rich increasingly feel disconnected from the poor, and vice versa. In the worst case, things may end in revolutionary violence.
Of course, the United States is nothing near that situation now. Best keep it that way.