Social and Economic Inequality
America is the richest country in the world. However, the wealth is unevenly controlled by few individuals at the top of the economic pyramid. Therefore, wealth and income inequality is one of the current issues in America that the government should address. Statistics show a widening gap in income and non-wage income, such as returns on capital gains and investments (Hurst, 2015). For instance, between 1979 and 2007, the real incomes of the richest people in America tripled while the real incomes of the middle-class families increased by 25 percent, particularly due to increases in the hours worked and labor force participation (Gilens, 2012).
Apparently, the wealthy 5 percent in America account for over 60 percent of the country’s wealth. Economic inequality brings about social and political inequality as well as political polarization and gridlock thereby benefiting a few individuals. As a result, societies with equal distributions of wealth are more likely to experience political equality. Millions of Americans are still working longer hours for lower wages despite the massive productivity and advances in technology taking place in the country. The real median income of male employees is estimated at $783 less than in the 1970s while female workers earn $1,300 less than in 2007 (Gilens, 2012).
The billionaire class and the Wall Street brokers have engineered the rules to consolidate wealth amongst the most powerful and wealthiest people in the country. These people through their corporations are sending jobs abroad and enjoying tax havens while millions of Americans are jobless and children sleeping hungry.
According to a Gallup survey, 16 percent of Americans feel that the country’s central problem is the government, which includes the President, Congress or political conflict (Saad, 2016). The government has failed to protect the interests of the citizens by entrenching a culture of inequality. The American citizen, when asked about the problem, suggests that the government should raise taxes for individuals who earn more than $1 million annually as well as increase the federal minimum wage. Further, it would help reduce the gap if the government mandated employers to provide paid leave to parents of new children and workers caring for their sick loved ones in addition to paid sick leaves to workers (Hurst, 2015).
Reactions of a Modern Philosopher to the Issue
One of the philosophers who would be concerned with the state of inequality in America is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau saw economic equality as a better way of promoting citizens’ freedom as well as securing the social conditions for satisfactory recognition (Neuhouser, 2013). Rousseau, himself, was a victim of inequality when his native city of Geneva transitioned from feudal to a capitalist economy. Rousseau held the opinion that governments should purposely strive to prevent extreme inequality of fortunes.
As currently is the case in America, Rousseau noted that the wealthy would use their power to shape the legislation to better their own interests at the expense of the poor. As he observes economically equal economies enact fairer laws to serve the general populace instead of a specific will of the privileged few (Neuhouser, 2013). Regarding the issue of civic concord, Rousseau points out that governments should set policies that end inequality.
Rousseau would ask for transparency and accountability in public-employee unions, who seem to pit private employees against public workers and non-union members against union members for political gains. Further, Rousseau would ask Americans to desist from trying to prove themselves better than others to ensure that the society does not reward distinction with wealth (Neuhouser, 2013). Therefore, Rousseau would advise those in government to acknowledge inequality in addition to confronting the dimensions of economic inequality.