Power of One
Tea, politics, soccer, and tea again; these were the ingredients of a village gathering. I recall the winters of my early teenage years. Villagers would bond and debate over how to fix the world’s problems. Often the debate’s topic was a question like, “Which country is the best country to live in?” I remember one name that would always be at the top after the debate and everyone would agree by the end: the United States of America. Everyone would unknowingly bring up their perception of the American dream — people who work hard would get ahead in life. Years later and after living in this country for a year and half, I find that statement hard to believe. As a student and working two jobs I still live paycheck to paycheck.
Poverty has reduced by 2.4% in the last 7 years in Washington state (talkpoverty. org), however, income inequality continues to consistently increase. A recently published study by the Economic Policy Institute found that in 2015 the annual median income of 99% of Washingtonians was $57,100. In contrast, the top 1% posses 20% of total income in the state, with an annual median income of $1,383,223. That means, the top 1% earn 24.2 times more than the other 99%. Is it fair that a CEO is being paid 300 times more than their employees? Income inequality has a lot of harmful effects that we might not see. Those effects can have unforgettable impacts on society, particularly youth.
Income inequality prevents low-income families from investing in their children’s future and is a barrier to attending higher education. This in turn contributes to housing instability and homelessness. Statistics from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction indicate that 30% of students Income Inequality: A Threat to Future Generations Power of One Farid Rasul I needed while in college, I would have had a more successful outcome. I would have had this support had I been eligible for the Passport Program. I would have been part of a community and had an additional support system. But because I was in the tribal foster system and not the state foster system I was ineligible and excluded for this program and the support it provides. But thankfully, with the work I do with The Mockingbird Society, I can now say that Tribal, Federal and Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children youth are now eligible for the Passport Program. I may not qualify for Passport anymore due to my age, but I am very grateful for the work that we have done to allow more from low income families attending public high schools did not graduate in 2016. Even though universities offer financial aid, many low income and homeless youth won’t even make it there. The few that make it there have a very hard time accessing financial aid. Low-income youth are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system according to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. In the last four decades low-wage workers’ income grew by only 8.9%, while high-wage workers’ income increased 46.9% according to the Economic Policy Institute. That means despite economic growth, low income workers are not seeing an equal income growth. If this trend of disproportionate economic growth, favoring high-wage workers continues, youth in low income families will face the same obstacles over time and even generations.
Most policy makers have not
shown any interest in reducing
the income gap. In fact they
have favored the wealthiest
populations with their tax cuts
and economic policies.
This aligns with Bill Gates’
belief: the income gap tilts
democracies in favor of
Most policy makers have not shown any interest in reducing the income gap. In fact, they have favored the wealthiest populations with their tax cuts and economic policies.This aligns with Bill Gates’ belief: the income gap tilts democracies in favor of powerful interests. Closing the income gap starts with affordable, accessible, quality education. We need to adopt more progressive income and estate taxes and model our economic policies after countries such as Japan and Scandinavian nations where income disparity is the lowest. Those countries have secured their youths’ futures. So should we. We don’t want to be remembered as ‘those who didn’t do anything.’ We should ask ourselves why the financial situation of a person is a main determinant of their potential. The American dream should be available to all, not only the rich. Therefore, call your legislators and ask for more affordable and accessible education and tax reform.