Inequality in the US

Questioning one's critique of the US is probably more common than we realize. While critique is often viewed as criticism, that is less the point here then who actually raises such objections. I may expect to run into blind faith in the US at my local watering holes, but I am often surprised when my students object, or more commonly are indifferent to such critiques. A series on Slate by Timothy Noah (titled the United States of Inequality) offers a number of excellent reasons why more people need to critique the current state of affairs here in the States, and while there are numerous and varied reasons to offer such critique, Noah is focussing on the growing gap between the rich and the poor in a country that has historically held a propensity for the myth of equality.

What current analyses show is that the richest 1% of the US - and especially the ultra-richest 0.1% - are making more then ever, and represent the largest percentage of wealth since the era of the Robber Barons and the Industrial Revolution. Thus forms the basis of the Slate series:
"This was the era in which the accumulated wealth of America's richest families—the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies—helped prompt creation of the modern income tax, lest disparities in wealth turn the United States into a European-style aristocracy. The socialist movement was at its historic peak, a wave of anarchist bombings was terrorizing the nation's industrialists, and President Woodrow Wilson's attorney general, Alexander Palmer, would soon stage brutal raids on radicals of every stripe. In American history, there has never been a time when class warfare seemed more imminent. That was when the richest 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation's income. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation's income."
Noah shares that the top 1% (those who make about $368,000 or more) saw their income share more than double since 1973, while the ultra-rich top 0.1% (those who make $1 million or more) saw their share more than quadruple in the same time period. There are a number of such fascinating statistics and graphics that delve into how this has happens, and explanations about what it means. Noah brings attention to the fact that the US is more unequal than most countries in Latin America - a region usually thought of as being dominated by the descendants of the European aristocracy that ruled for hundreds of years. He offers an analysis of the role that race and gender are playing (or more accurately, not playing) in these changes, along with what some may see as surprising insight into the immigration debate:
"When economists look at actual labor markets, most find little evidencethat immigration harms the economic interests of native-born Americans, and much evidence that it stimulates the economy."
Stay alert to forthcoming pieces in the series, as the first few have been insightful and interesting. This is the type of information that helps to justify critique, and may aid in furthering the realization that all is not well in the world of the US.

Graphic Source: Catherine Mulbrandon of
Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Awesome post. You're right: such black and white justification for critique is helpful. What's equally interesting is how people on the opposite end of the critique spectrum -- say, for instance, people who believe that big business has our best interests at heart -- could use this same data to make their argument. The data about inequality is clear, but the solutions are often murky.

  2. Wonder how that .01 percent is feeling during the recession.

  3. Ya you'r right: When economists look at actual labor markets, most find little evidencethat immigration harms the economic interests of native-born Americans, and much evidence that it stimulates the's really Help full.
    thanks for sharing .


Having trouble leaving a comment? Some browsers require acceptance of 3rd party cookies. If you leave an anonymous comment, it may need to be approved.