Working America: Wealth Inequality Is Much Worse Than You Think (and Congress Just Made It Worse)

First thing you need to do is watch the video above, by YouTube user politizane. We’ll wait.

OK, finished? Great. I’m sure you’re mind is a little blown.

Sure, you knew inequality was bad, and maybe you’d even seen some of those numbers before. Maybe you already knew that CEOs got paid 380 times that of the average worker (up from 42 in 1980), and maybe you knew that the income gains of the past few decades have flowed disproportionately to the wealthiest people. But seeing it presented by politizane so starkly, and so effectively, can give anyone pause.

When you compare the stark facts in that video with what our lawmakers are actually focusing on—both in Congress and at the state level—it’s got to get your blood boiling.

You probably heard about the sequester that went into effect last week: $85 billion over 10 years slashed from both military and domestic spending. Most of these cuts—public housing, disaster relief, special education funding, mental health and substance abuse treatments, early childhood home visiting, state health care grants—disproportionately hurt those low-income working families who were all the way to the left in the video.

Now why couldn’t Congress and the president make an agreement to stop sequestration? Here’s how House Speaker John Boehner described it:

Let’s make it clear, the president got his tax hike on January 1st. The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over.

Consider that in the context of the video. With wealth inequality between the richest 1% and the rest of us growing into a gaping chasm, the man who controls the purse strings in Washington has stated that there will be no more talk of revenue.

That’s no more talk of closing loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas.

No more talk of a tiny financial speculation tax, which could generate billions in revenue while discouraging risky trading.

No more talk of getting rid of giveaways for big pharmaceutical companies, or taxpayer subsidies for massively profitable oil companies.

No more talk of addressing the situation that a billionaire like Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

And no more talk of adjusting the way our tax code coddles the super rich’s main source of income, dividends and capital gains, which a recent non-partisan study pegged as the biggest driver of income inequality in this country.

Simply put, Speaker Boehner is saying that as long as he’s in charge, there will be no more talk of actually addressing the inequality presented in the video. Instead, he will allow deep cuts that hurt low-income workers, the elderly and other vulnerable populations to go into effect.

That’s a long way of saying that the inequality politizane presents in his video is not an accident, and certainly not just the result of market forces. Inequality in this country is very much a man-made disaster and a result of specific choices made by specific people in positions of power. And, by a wide margin, Americans don’t think it should be this way.

Photo courtesy of Working America's Facebook page.