Wealth Distribution: the ideal, the perception, the reality

Here’s some food for thought.

The majority of this video relies heavily on logos –the true facts: statistics, graphs and other data tables. It’s hard not to be convinced by these interesting  statistics  regarding the wealth distribution in the United States. Even more striking is the immense difference in how we perceive the distribution to be, what we want it to be and what it actually is. It may not be easy to make a good argument based on logos, but when the information and the facts are so striking, so different from what we think and what we hope, logos works very well. Combined with the speaker’s last sentences about us “needing to wake up,” the argument certainly is effective.

Now of course, this issue of inequality is not only limited to the recent decades or so. As we see from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the 1920s was characterized by economic prosperity, materialism, and a pursuit of “fun, careless things.” In the novel, we do see a very distinct separation of class, a clear line drawn between Tom, Nick, George Wilson and Gatsby. Yet although we are aware of Tom & Gatsby being filthy rich and Tom having an arrogant personality, the above video shows just how absolutely wealthy they are (380x more than an average worker). And although money does not justify his action, we do come to understand why Tom acts this way. He (and Daisy) have so much money that as Nick said, all they have to do is “retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” And true to the phrase “money can’t buy you happiness,” you could say that Gatsby does in part fail in his pursuit of Daisy through money because at this point, money means little to her anymore.

Later, John Steinback’s Grapes of Wrath, set in the 1930s, too addresses this inequality of wealth. Farmers in the Great Plains are kicked out of their homes of hundred of years by banks seeking profits. Initially, they protested, threatening to shoot and kill whoever tried to kick them off their own lands. But these farmers hadn’t yet grasped that these corporations and CEOs hold immense power and wealth in their hands and can easily remove them. These wide division between the banks and the farmers depicts the hopelessness of the farmers, that no matter what they do, they will never be able to close the gap, never be able to fight for themselves. Additionally, despite what we see in the video–that this top 1% holds more wealth than the bottom 80% combined–the banks in Grapes are STILL clawing for every little amount of profit and capital they can make, emphasizing Steinback’s portrayal of these wealthy corporations as inhumane, heartless and rapacious. Because after all the money they make just by kicking people out of their homes, installing tractor systems and carelessly treating the land, they still want more, even if it means crumbling the lives of these farmers.

Considering that out of the 5000 people surveyed (which is indeed small, but certainly will cover the major parties/ideologies), 92% of the people chose a relatively equally split wealth distribution as their ideal, this issue is surprisingly bipartisan. That 80% of our population doesn’t even register on our wealth distribution graph (all of them hold a total of 7%), that the top 1% hold 40% of America’s wealth, is quite a disappointment to America as a whole.


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