By Kathyrn “Kate” Frankenfeld, Intern, Colorado Mesa University
“Capitalism turns men and women into economic cannibals, and having done so, mistakes cannibalism for human nature”
– Edward Hyman
Balance is key for every aspect of life. Unfortunately, the distribution of wealth and resources in America is extremely unequal due to the competitive nature of our capitalistic economic structure. In this country, the top one percent owns around half of the wealth circulating within the United States. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 Americans are battling with poverty and the roadblocks that accompany it.
The poorest must prioritize their needs because their financial budgets are unable to cover all costs of living. Extreme economic hardships can cause difficulty obtaining housing, food, clothing, entertainment, and social mobility. People struggling through poverty are faced with increased lifetime trauma, educational setbacks, and demoralization. In addition, because poverty is stigmatized, society treats the poor as if they were less worthy of dignity. A clear example of this is the fact that low SES children are bullied at higher rates. The trauma from bullying alone can cause lifelong effects. Being economically disadvantaged introduces families to many stressful situations, health disparities, and challenges, which can be seen as trauma and have adverse effects on the brain. Low SES is positively correlated with reduced gray matter and integrity of white matter tracts in language and executive functioning (EF) regions of the brain. Problems like these help to perpetuate generational curses, increase the cycle of poverty, and expand the educational gap.
This severe inequality only benefits the wealthiest. From an economic perspective, extreme inequality causes many more disadvantages than benefits. It creates problems such as decreased long-term GDP growth rates, higher crime rates, worsened public health, increased political inequality, and lower average education levels.
Around 1.6 million people are in control of almost 40% of this country’s wealth. The current economic structure encourages financial and therefore social inequality to flourish. Few live an extravagant and lavish lifestyle, while 40 million people live in poverty in the United States. Even though 61% of Americans believe that there is too much income inequality that exists in this country, there is variation across political parties. The bottom line is that there is excessive income inequality in the United States, and many do not understand the severity of the wealth gap. In the 2020 election, 4 in ten American voters ranked economic inequality as a top political priority. The wealthy are the people who hold power within our society, which decreases the likelihood of legislation aimed to narrow the wealth gap. In the meantime, people who are struggling the most are left voiceless. Without bipartisan support, the wealth gap will not be diminished. Serious policy changes need to take place for the wealth gap to begin shrinking.