Here are some horrifying but very true facts to get your blood pressure rising:
The wealthiest 20% of Americans account for 52% of total income. This is more than ever before.
The top 1% hold 39% of American's net worth. The bottom 90% hold only 23%.
The richest 400 Americans have a higher net worth than the poorest 80 million Americans.
The median white household earns $33,000 more per year than the median black household. Likewise, the median black family earns $0.61 for every $1.00 a white family earns.
41% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats believe there is too much wealth inequality in the US.
The wealth gap between America's richest and poorest families doubled between 1989 and 2016.
Surrounding the 2008 stock market crash, those in the top 5% gained an average of four percent of their net worth. Those in the bottom 30% lost, on average, forty percent of their net worth.
Women earn $0.80 for every $1.00 men earn. This is up from $0.60 in the 1970s but has not changed or improved for several years now.
30% of Americans live below the poverty level, making under $10.10/hour.
This is all terribly depressing news, but I am hoping it will scare us into action. Ok, so the U.S. isn't doing great right now in terms of keeping everyone afloat -- how do we change that? How can the average twenty-something decrease the wealth gap?
1) Support local and national policies that spread the wealth. Sign petitions, vote, and march to get bills passed.
Support efforts to...
Increase the minimum wage. Increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10 would lift 4.6 million people above the poverty line.
Improve education and equalize opportunities for students of all backgrounds.
Prevent discrimination in hiring, education, banking, housing, etc.
Increase taxes on the wealthy.
Implement universal healthcare.
Make paid family leave and sick leave mandatory.
Provide high-speed internet to everyone.
Basically, support socialist and communist policies, to whatever extent you believe in them.
2) Stop complaining about your taxes. Or... complain less.
I didn't realize I was becoming a rich asshole until I started ranting to my mom about how ridiculous it was that I might owe $35,000 in taxes on a $100,000 income. How absurd! I will be working hard for that money! How dare the government take away my money!
She pointed out that I'm extremely lucky to be making enough to owe that much in taxes. Many Americans don't earn as much as I'll be paying in taxes.
My whole life, I'm claimed to support increasing taxes for the rich. Well... I might just be the rich. And I'm not letting myself become fiscally conservative, so bring on the taxes!
(Note: This doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to minimize our taxes-- it just means you should pay your fair share.)
Our tax money goes toward unemployment, welfare, food stamps, roads, schools, Medicare/Medicaid, and social security. I'm sure you expect social security and health insurance in your old age, and would want government help if you lost your job and couldn't feed your children. So stop complaining and be grateful that the support systems are there.
3) Be transparent about your pay and promote fair hiring practices.
By sharing your pay details with co-workers, friends in a similar field, those you mentor, and others who ask, you'll hold managers accountable. No one will know they are facing pay discrimination if they don't know what their peers are being paid.
In addition, take action however you can at your own place of business. Make hiring decisions based on qualifications, not based on first name or race. Promote diversity when you select candidates for interviewing and which candidates to hire.
Speak up if you hear someone in the workplace (or at home) discriminating, threatening, isolating, belittling, or stereotyping a minority -- or anyone at all, for that matter. Speak up for your fellow humans or no one will.
How are you helping combat the wage gap and economic inequality? How have you seen evidence of this inequality in your own town?