Inequality for All’ is a Robert Reich documentary describing economic inequality, the wealth gap between the affluent and the medium Americans. The economic inequality caused in the United States dates back to the post-World War II era, particularly the late 1970s. In the 1970’s the productivity rate rose quickly and wages remained steady, resulting in more income from employers without wage rises. Technological developments played a significant role in this situation due to the introduction of machines that replaced workers and did the work more effectively at a cheaper cost; these technologies became more popular in the nineteen eighties and seventies. Many Americans lost their jobs or had to settle for little pay due to the use of machines at their workplaces (Reich 12). Cargo ships, containers and satellite communication systems reduced the production cost for business owners worldwide; this eliminated many jobs in the manufacturing sector and exerted downward pressure on the salaries of the existing employees.
Other technologies that eroded wages and job include robotics, software, digitization, and automation. These developments did not do away with all incomes. The value of the well-connected, and well-educated individuals who had training in the technological field increased. It is important to note that training in these professions is expensive therefore only the rich and individuals on scholarships can afford it; this creates a system where rich people own companies and their children are the ones qualified to work in them. The country began to put fewer efforts in education, infrastructure and training instead of modernizing the infrastructure and providing opportunities for everyone to train in this field. Other economies have helped their citizens adapt to the current economic trends; this makes the USA one of an unequal economies in the world (Reich 13).
The USA has the most significant unequal wealth distribution among developed countries; it comes 64th in the world rankings on the equal distribution of wealth. Only 1% of the country’s controls at least 35% of America’s resources and the lower 50% only controls 2.5%; this means that four hundred affluent individuals are richer than the bottom 150 million people (KeyPoints from Dr. Robert Reich’s Film, “Inequality for All” 1).
In 1978, the average income for an American worker stood at $48,302, but the figure lowered to $33, 751 in 2010. The earnings of the top 1% increased from $393,682 to $1,101,089 between 1978 and 2010. The household expenditures have greatly increased over the years; in the 1970s, the cost of housing was $15,579, college was $903 and healthcare $1,686. In 2010, the cost of housing, healthcare, and college stood at $21684, $ 7082 and $1833 respectively (KeyPoints from Dr. Robert Reich’s Film, “Inequality for All” 1). The figures indicate that the average American earns less but spends more over the years while the rich accumulate more wealth.
There was an increase in productivity of 250% between 1948 and 2010 while wages rose by a mere 100%. In the nineteen seventies, CEOs earned less than fifty times more than their workers; in the 2000s, the salary 350 times bigger than their juniors’. In the USA, approximately 24% of children born in the poor household is unlikely to get out of the situation in their lifetime. The top managers in leading finance companies took home at least $1 billion in 2009. In the 1960s, the debt to household expenses ratio was 1:1 while in 2008 it stood at 12:1; meaning that more Americans required bank loans to meet their daily expenses. There has also been a significant reduction in the popularity of workers’ unions since the nineteen seventies meaning that a smaller portion of the middle-class accounts for the national income. In 1950, at least 35% of American workers were members of labor unions; today the figure is 11.3% (KeyPoints from Dr. Robert Reich’s Film, “Inequality for All” 1).
Economic inequality has some negative impacts on the population. Inequality thwarts the ideal of equal opportunities for all Americans regardless of their social status and race. It limits upward mobility since some individuals are not considered worthy of the opportunities for self-development (Reich 9). They, therefore, remain poor and lack the means to better their lives. Inequality is also a big threat to our democracy. Justice Louis Brandeis once said that democracy and the concentration of the country’s resources in the hands of a few people could not coexist. Political influence is synonymous with wealth. Political differences and polarization that arise from high inequality rates challenge the democratic ideals of the USA. Political scientists conclude that economic issues are the major determinants of individuals deciding to be either Democrats or Republicans. Most Americans work very hard but do not see the fruits of their labor. It is only normal that they suspect that the system is rigged against them when they see a few people at the top (Reich 10). They suspect that the rich are in league with the government to exploit the poor and middle-income citizens and benefit from their hard work.
In conclusion, the gap between the rich and the average American is big compared to the situation in other developed countries. The introduction of technology played a major role in this scenario. America must, therefore, invest more in education, infrastructure, and training to bridge the gap.
“KeyPoints from Dr. Robert Reich’s Film, “Inequality for All.” 2015.
Reich, Robert B. “Income Inequality in the United States.” 2014.