There is an article in the New York Times about whether increased income inequality in the United States will lead to slower economic growth. The article quotes prominent economists and includes some shocking statistics.
According to the article:
Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression, and the recession has done little to reverse the trend, with the top 1 percent of earners taking 93 percent of the income gains in the first full year of the recovery.
The 1 percent earns about one-sixth of all income and the top 10 percent about half.
The I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) has cautioned the United States, too. “Some dismiss inequality and focus instead on overall growth — arguing, in effect, that a rising tide lifts all boats,” a commentary by fund economists said. “When a handful of yachts become ocean liners while the rest remain lowly canoes, something is seriously amiss.”
I am struck by these statistics, despite the fact that I have heard them before. It makes me wonder what impact these levels of income inequality have on people on both sides of the economic divide.
Our country is sharply divided on many levels and on many issues. An earlier post on this blog discussed the lack of opportunities for interaction between people of different classes, due to what Michael Sandel has labeled the “Skyboxification of America.”
It is much easier for people to act in their own self-interest if they can insulate themselves from people with different backgrounds and experiences. The Skyboxification of America enables people to insulate themselves from people who cannot afford their lifestyle.
But how much money is enough? Some corporate salaries are far beyond what people need to live a comfortable existence. And yet, people continue to strive to make more money and to acquire more things – while people they work with struggle to make ends meet.
Maybe we should all focus more on acquiring more understanding for other people and their needs and struggles instead of on acquiring more wealth.
What do you think? Do you think income inequality in the United States has reached a point where people in leadership positions will have to start taking it seriously? What would that look like? Do you know of any examples of CEOs who have worked on leveling incomes in their companies? What will it take for policymakers and corporations to stand together to make some changes to the policies that lead to income inequality? What opportunities do you see for bringing people together to promote better understanding and cooperation? What role do you think the need to save for retirement plays in this equation?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.