Every American dreams of finding a job that pays well enough so that they may comfortably take care of their loved ones and themselves for years to come. Most Americans hope to find some way to make a living that they enjoy, something that they view as productive. Unfortunately, many do not have this luxury. In our society, a good portion of the population is forced to hold the base of our country in place while hardly being redeemed for their time and effort, and thus the problem of income inequality. Numbers of these people live from paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by, not because they manage their money poorly, but because the value of their time at work is negligible. Some may even sacrifice happiness at work to find a job that pays better simply because they cannot make ends meet at their current job. Some people sacrifice their sanity and eventually their life just to keep from going under financially. Segregation in income distribution is another cause of these problems, such as that with women or African-Americans who make less than other classes comparatively. In contrast, actors and actresses such as Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts make millions in the entertainment industry, an industry that grosses hundreds of millions of dollars a year creating what adds up to be the same kind of entertainment most people could get out of watching their children play sports or sing in a choir. The question then is how to find the value of work and time in our society and what should determine income. Positive reasons for income inequality are hard to find. One reason is the incentives there are to achieving higher status of income. You are regarded as successful in the eyes of your peers, and if you financial security is achieved, your life can be a lot less stressful. It is the pursuit of these incentives, this kind of greed, which keeps the economy running strongly. People work hard if they will be rewarded for it, so they pursue a higher education to get better jobs, to create a business, and we all benefit from that. An article, The Truth About Income Inequality by John H. Hinderaker and Scott W. Johnson, which is based completely on statistics from the government*, proves that income has not fallen for Americans. In fact, the distribution of income is no worse than it has ever been, and certainly better than when the country was first being settled. Without unequal distribution and rewards for those who pursue a higher income, people would have little reason to work and the economy would become stagnant.
Income inequality was a large reason why people immigrated here in the 1800’s. Their countries were becoming too segregated by classification of income. Now this country is becoming more of what those people fled from over a hundred years ago. Moreover, many companies are now moving their production overseas and taking away the very jobs and opportunities that looked so attractive to the American immigrants. Back in America, some companies hire illegal aliens at low wages, which creates a larger lower class. As of 1996, illegal aliens made up 7% of the nations workforce*. We need to keep this country from becoming like those socially segregated countries that people emigrated from in the past.
Many large firms make a lot of money, but there is no trickle down effect. The few on top make most of the money while the average worker does much of the work. According to the real annual income of Americans, about 95% of the benefits of economic growth over the last 25 years have gone to the rich*. Should not the hard worker on the bottom get more? These firms are controlling because they only give out as much as necessary to keep the workers employed. Many of these same firms have companies in other industries, such as entertainment or retail, and a lot of the money they pay out comes back to them through these other industries. In addition, women and African-Americans make less money than white males for working the same jobs. Income should certainly not vary with gender or race. As mentioned in an article of LBO on income and poverty, women make 74% of what men make for doing the same job. For blacks the gap is even larger, they made only 63% percent of whites during the same time period as the women as mentioned in the same article*. These discriminatory practices are pure evidence of income inequality.
Another section of the negative effect of income inequality is social segregation of class. People are described as “bad poor” because of their financial position and their failure to overcome it. However, that is easier said than done. Children who are born into poverty are already poor and they have no control over that. They have to work very hard with little assistance just to get to the point where a change can be made or an upgrade in class is possible. People of low class are generally regarded as less valuable or even disposable. They are the subject of much ridicule and prosecution due to their financial status. This sort of classification is attempted to be stabilized by welfare and other government money programs, but the taxpayers fund that, so the money is taken back away from them. Income inequality is one of the main causes of social segregation of class.
How then do we find the value of work in our society? One-way, the way that is most prominent in the working world today is salaries are higher where more money is made. That is, people will make more money at Warner Brothers than at a Dairy Queen simply because of the contrast in revenue between the two firms. To say a person flipping burgers should make the same or even similar amount of money, as a corporate officer of a large firm would be incorrect according to our society’s standards. When it all comes down to it, demand or labor force is where the money is. Most people would agree that income should be based on education and experience. However, this formula applies to minimum wage workers as well as to the CEO of a large corporation. It is true that the roles of most every individual in society are important. People are needed to work minimum wage level jobs just as much as stockbrokers. In today’s fast paced society, however, there is a higher demand for people who have learned a specific trade or skill.CEO’s make more money than fast food workers do because there is a more limited supply of people who are capable of running multi-million dollar corporations. Both work equally as hard but one has a higher-level of skill. This skill is more valuable to society so the income is higher. Regardless, those who work minimum wage jobs still need to support themselves or their family, the CEO and others still want to eat fast food, Therefore, both must be maintained so that they are allowed to live comfortably.
If everyone in this nation were aware of the influence that income inequality has on the people’s lives, many would be surprised and outraged. While the incentive’s and rewards of higher income are what fuels the economy, and what raises our standard of living, reaching that level of income has been difficult in the past and seems to be getting worse. Income inequality has been on the rise since the 1960’s, according to the graph of the Gini index, a statistical index of (in)equality*. Those incentives of higher income are becoming scarce and costly, and many people think it isn’t worth the work to reach it. The larger the gap between the social classes, the more prominent social classification becomes, and the more we, as citizens and human beings, should be prepared to make a stand for the basic right of standard of living that was initiated by our independence.