US Income Inequality is a Humanitarian Crisis

American exceptionalism is alive and well, but we should be ashamed of it.

Today, the United States is one of the wealthiest nations the world has ever seen, but we have some of the most egregious income inequality to boot.

The United States of America is the “city upon a hill” which politicians from Reagan to Obama so dearly describe it as, but not for admirable reasons.

Income inequality in the US is so bad that when the United Nations sent a representative to examine poverty in states, he found that the “United States has proved itself to be exceptional in … problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.”

That UN representative is named Philip Alston. His title is UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and he found that despite incredible pockets of wealth and technological advancement, the United States has been negligent, leaving an incredible 40 million people in poverty.  

The US has the highest level of inequality of all Western nations. Of the 37 member-nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US ranks 35 in terms of poverty and inequality.

In preschool, most of us are taught that fairness is ensuring that everyone gets a slice of the pie. If that pie has eight slices, the top one percent of households by income have 3.2 slices of that pie, the other 99 percent share the remaining 4.8 slices, according to New York University economics Professor Edward N. Wolff and The Washington Post.

This gross inequity is pervasive, it plays a role in every horrendous facet of injustice, from a lack of access to life-saving drugs to homelessness to the influence of dark money in elections.

Rampant, unfettered capitalism is to blame. To continue in a system which has such a nonchalance towards the suffering of millions is immoral and history will reflect poorly on us if we don’t address it.  

Democratic and Republican governments have been complicit in this immoral inequality. In 2016, I wrote a piece claiming that a return to politics as usual, with a more “normal” Republican like Bush would be better than Donald Trump. This was a mistake. Establishment figures from both parties have been working together to maintain this status quo.

Luckily, there are already policies drafted to combat this inequality. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the presumed 2020 presidential candidates, has made waves through the introduction of a federal jobs guarantee.

In addition, numerous Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation to “open up an existing government health insurance program, either Medicare or Medicaid, to anyone who wants it” according to The Washington Post.

Both of the aforementioned policies would not only provide necessary services to the people of this nation but also work to retroactively balance the inequity of this nation.

Such is the only way to right the wrongs this country has allowed to occur.

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