beaby Beatrice Parwatikar
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

This is the tale of two economies: one for the rich and one for those with lower income. It is the best of times for the rich and the worst of times for those with low incomes. When I think of the haves, I am focusing on the top twenty percent income which has eighty percent of the wealth with the top two percent holding most of that wealth.

The five groups of income listed by the U.S. Census are $0 – $25,000 (28.22% of population); $25,000 – $50,000 (26.65 % of population); $50,000 – $75,000 (18.27% of population); $75,000 – $100,000 (10.93% population); and $100,000 or more (15.93%).

In the last six months there have been a few articles written about income disparity. In “How Income Inequality Is Damaging the U.S.” (Forbes 10/02/12), Joseph E. Stiglitz said: “Inequality in America has reached its highest level since before the Depression.” These kinds of headlines usually are found on the back pages of newspapers or in economic journals.

We also had “Occupy Wall Street” that brought a lot of attention to the income disparity.

In reality we have had an economic shift where the rich keep getting richer while the the poor are getting poorer. We have also decreased the size of the middle class.

Another problem that has happened with this reversal of fortune has been that power has also moved to the wealthy. They live isolated lives from the reality of day-to-day living for most of the population of the U.S. They also use their power, with the help of their wealth, to protect themselves from any changes that would allow a more equitable economy for the vast majority of the population. They have their hired foot soldiers, the lobbyists, which they let loose in large numbers to defeat anything that would cause harm to their wealth or their ideology. They have the “Citizens United” ruling in 2010 by our corporate friendly U.S. Supreme Court that gave corporations the right as individuals for free speech. This has allowed unlimited amounts of money to be placed in political and policy PACs to put forth their agenda. The rich own most of the media outlets which also helps them to put forth their agenda.

This is the most protected group in our society at this time. They have their protectors in Congress with the philosophy that every problem can be solved by a tax cut for the wealthy. They have protection by using their power to get people elected who agree with their philosophy. We have watched some in Congress fight vigorously to protect cuts in corporate taxes, inheritance taxes and personal taxes. The top two percent are mainly the CEOs of large corporations, media empires, insurance companies, drug companies, banks and investment companies, giving them a lot of power over the day-to-day life of the rest in society but giving them protection from the hardship others suffer.

We, the rest of society, must come together to form alliances to work to remove some of the power and the wealth of the top two percent. The Occupy Movement had a good points but they were not broad enough in their agenda to fit the vast majority of people. We all remember the statement by Mr. Romney in the presidential campaign about the forty-seven percent of the population: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I do not believe this view is only held by Mr. Romney: this is the unspoken view held by the protectors of the top two percent in Congress. This is why we see a lack of protection for this forty-seven percent of the people. These are the families earning under $50,000. It is very sad to me when I hear some people who fall in this forty-seven percent group who are receiving some government assistance complain about others that aren’t deserving of that same assistance because they’re lazy. This is when I know how well the message from the top two percent is working in dividing the people against each other. We have seen people vote against their own best interest because they think that the legislation that will only help the rich and hurt the poor doesn’t include them because they deserve their government assistance. This is the power of media hype.

Those in the $50,000 – $150,000 may have their homes still after the mortgage crisis and may be still holding on to their jobs, but they are wondering about educating their children or what will happen if someone became seriously ill in their family. They may own some stock through their 401k plans but they don’t have any power over the corporations holding their investments.

If the $0 – $150,000 people would ban together to change the society in the U.S., their agenda would more closely fit the needs of most of the population. There needs to be improvement in our educational system, increases in HeadStart to assist children with an early start in their education, early intervention remedial reading assistance, math and science emphasis, relevant vocational training and support of post high school education. A good educational system will help us as a country face the global challenges of today’s economy. It has been said that early intervention in education for those who are struggling would decrease single motherhood, the prison population and it would add productive people to our society.

Affordable housing will not only give housing but it would also help to create jobs. We need to look at doing more for the environment: this would not only create better life for our children but an industry of new jobs with cleaner energy for our society. We can no longer leave vast majorities of our population with sub-level education and expect to compete in a global economy. We can’t continue as great nation when among other developed nations we are one of the lowest in education, one of the worst in health, supporting a large prison population, not turning out the needed science and math people, and trying to continue to support a large military. We need to come together and begin to see our common needs using our political clout to help have our needs met.

We may not have the wealth but we have the clout of our numbers as people to force the upper two percent to hear our demands and we have the voting power to change Congress to listen to our needs. We must have hope for our future and not just think we are without power to make changes.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

5 thoughts on “ECONOMIC JUSTICE: A tale of two economies

  1. We are now beginning to experience what much of the rest of the world experienced, and continues to experience at the hands of the USA. Take a look at third world countries in Latin America. Historically, USA based companies used the people as slaves, controlling business, controlling land, and more recently controlling the economy and the media.

    The result: greater poverty, and greater wealth accumulated in the hands of the few. In El Salvador, for example, they used to identify 14 families who divided control of the entire country into the current 14 departments. Today, those 14 are now seven. Our government and military continuously interfered in those countries, often to the detriment of the poorest of the poor and anyone who sided with them. Consequently, right up to today, Salvadorans and others continue to flee poverty, absence of employment opportunities, and violence, coming north to escape crushing and life threatening circumstances.

    Our response: “no amnesty until we seal the border.” “Throw out those that are here ‘illegally’ after all they broke the law.” ETC.

    We’re doing the same within our own country now. Our poor are our “illegals” now. They are lazy, bad guys, mentally ill, drug users, thieves, illegals, minorities, terrorists, and worst of all poor who are “takers”, taking our country to financial ruin.

    So, to protect ourselves, we need to buy guns, take away those overly generous “entitlements”, strengthen our police and military, and keep those people in their place- in prison, in poverty, in the ghetto.

    And, yes, dividing the people against each other is a great strategy that we are employing all the time. Bringing people together is extremely difficult. However, a common cause is probably the most effective motivation.

  2. Ms. Parwatikar: You need to choose your words more carefully. Do ALL “rich people live isolated lives”? How do you know that? I’m not picking sides; I just don’t like to see articles that throw a blanket over one segment of the population, whether it’s rich/poor or black/white. It’s called being biased, and we have enough of that already.

  3. Sharon, do you actually see very wealthy people living in low- or middle-income neighborhoods? Some probably do–and they probably disguise their wealth; we must always allow for exceptions. But the facts in the article stand–unless you know of verifiable information to the contrary.

  4. You see, Ms. Parwatikar: You did it again. You say that “the facts in the article stand” unless I have verifiable information to the contrary. I do not. Likewise, I’ll ask you the same question. Do you have verifiable facts that (all) rich people live lives of isolation? I doubt it. Opinions are not facts. And because there ARE exceptions, maybe what you should have said was that “many” rich people live lives of isolation. Don’t disregard semantics; it’s how we communicate.
    I’m not taking sides; I’m not a crusader for the wealthy. But I am a crusader for semantics. And I don’t like bias. What you are doing is indicting an entire segment of population. That’s bias. And so I repeat; those of you who have an audience need to chose your words carefully.

    1. Sharon, Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Exceptions (the fact that they exist) prove that the rule–wealth corrupts–stands as it has stood throughout history. One cannot serve both God and mammon (wealth).

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