THE U.S. increasingly is facing issues resulting from a disproportionate share of the wealth being held by a relative few, as measured by economic indicators, the most well-known being the Gini index or coefficient--although economists long have recognized that a certain amount of inequality is inevitable and, to an extent, desirable.
"At least some level of inequality is probably actually good for the economy because it creates incentives for people to respond to," notes Tara Sinclair, associate professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University.
Obviously, some Americans--through their natural abilities combined with hard work-develop skills that have more economic value than others. Hard-working, honest, successful people should be able to do very well financially and even become wealthy for their contributions to our society and economy. However, it is a matter of degree and, as in most areas of life, excessive amounts of anything, including inequality of income and wealth, at some point becomes detrimental.
Today, 10% of Americans possess 76% of the nation's wealth; the top one percent owns 40%; and, according to a 2017 study, the richest three Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of U.S. population combined. "If income inequalities exceed that socially useful differential, then you have a situation in which some people are getting higher incomes at the expense of others who have lower incomes and there is no social benefit" maintains Michael Howard, professor of philosophy at the University of Maine.
Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, points out that, when compared to other advanced economies, such as those in Europe and Japan, "The level of inequality in the United States is the highest. Some people have huge amounts of wealth. Many more people have a very low income and wealth, which means their life circumstances are really constricted--you don't have an opportunity to flourish in life; you live in insecurity; you live in fear. You have poor access to opportunity."
Adds Terri Friedline, associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan; "Real people feel the pinch when they don't have that extra money; you have to make really difficult choices. Do you buy healthy wheat bread from the store or the loaf that costs 69 cents? Do you go to urgent care when you have a medical problem?"
"The core values that America was founded on...