When I think about what one thing would benefit the most people, I keep coming back to income inequality. And I keep recalling this speech by Obama from a year ago. I really like it. There’s so much here. It’s the one where he said:
I believe [inequality] is the defining challenge of our time.
– Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility, The White House, 4 December 2013
A dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility [has] jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.
He also said, notably, that the income and opportunity gap, “is now as much about class as it is about race.” That’s it’s now affecting large swaths of people. I see this. People can’t afford to buy a home, to send their children to college, to become educated themselves. (“Education is the most important predictor of income.”) Students are saddled with untenable loan debt. Can you believe there was a time when higher education was free to students? In the 1960s it was.
The median income in this country hovers around $50,000. That means half of Americans make that or below. How do they afford the $5,000 or $10,000 deductible and co-pay on their health insurance policy? (Dr. King once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”) So, they pay the premium but never go to the doctor.
Health insurance in this country is a racket. The more sick people, the better for business. And when people can’t afford to eat a good diet, make time for exercise and rest … their ranks swell. By the time they reach retirement age, they have poor health, little savings (“About half of all households don’t have any retirement savings.”) and grim prospects. Given the growing lack of empathy in this country, seniors, as I’ve noticed, are becoming invisible, especially poor seniors. Obama recalled the Pope’s remark in his speech:
The Pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. “How can it be,” [Pope Francis] wrote, “that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
Speaking of the Pope, he reiterated Obama’s call at the beginning of this post, in his Tweet:
Inequality is the root of social evil.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2014
When we exchange wishes for a happy and prosperous new year, are these the things we think about?