Inequality and political rigidity in American society

  Let’s take a look at how Americans perceive equality or inequality in their country and how to measure this indicator. Compared with other major democracies, how does the United States rank in terms of inequality and social and economic mobility. Furthermore, even if the level of inequality in the United States is high, so what? In other words, if many Americans are really poor, and they are destined to be unable to get rid of poverty, this is of course a very sad thing for them personally, but it is for the rich in the United States and the entire United States. Is it also a bad thing?
  When Americans are asked about equality or inequality within their own countries, they generally respond: As early as 1776, our Declaration of Independence stated in the second sentence that equality is one of the core values ​​of the United States. one. The “Declaration of Independence” indeed stated: “We believe that the following truth is self-evident: all men are created equal…” However, please note that the “Declaration of Independence” does not say everyone (now includes all women) In fact, they have always been equal, and there is no saying that they should have equal income. On the contrary, the declaration merely states that all people are granted certain inalienable rights. Against the background of 1776, this more moderate proposition was considered a great step. In that era, nobles, peasants, and clergy in European countries had different legal rights. If they needed to be tried, they had to Trial in different courts. Therefore, the “Declaration of Independence” does sublimate equality in the legal sense to a core value of the United States, at least in theory. So, at the economic level, what is the state of equality in the United States?
  The degree of economic equality within a country can be measured in several different ways. One of the issues that people pay attention to is what quantitative indicators are used to measure the economic differences between people: is it people’s unadjusted gross income or adjusted income, such as taxation, social security and welfare subsidies, and food stamps. Factors to be taken into consideration, or are people’s wealth or total assets? The difference between people in these different quantitative indicators can also be measured by other methods, such as the so-called Gini coefficient, the income difference between the richest 1% of a country and the poorest 1%, and the richest 1%. The proportion of income in the country’s total national income, as well as the proportion of billionaires in the country’s total population.
  Now, let us limit our comparison to the major Western democracies. Take Equatorial Guinea, a non-democratic country, for example, where most of its national income and wealth are in the hands of one person (the president). Among the major democracies, the most equal countries that can be calculated are different according to different measurement standards. However, for the question of which major democracy is the most unequal, all quantitative indicators and measurement methods point to the same answer: the United States. This fact has existed for a long time, and the level of inequality in the United States is still increasing.
  Some measures of increasing US economic inequality are now frequently mentioned and widely known. For example, the income of the wealthiest 1% of the United States as a proportion of unadjusted gross national income has risen from less than 10% in the 1970s to more than 25% today. Even within the wealthy class in the United States, inequality is increasing: the income increase of the richest 1% group is much greater than that of the richest 5% group; the income increase of the richest 0.1% group is greater than that The wealthiest 1% group. Moreover, the three richest Americans at present-Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, their net worth is equal to the total net worth of 130 million poorest Americans. The United States has the highest proportion of billionaires in the total population, twice that of the second-ranked major democracies (Canada and Germany), and seven times that of most other major democracies. As early as 1980, the average income of an American CEO was 40 times that of an ordinary employee in the same company. Today, the income of an American CEO has reached hundreds of times that of an ordinary employee in the same company. Although the economic status of the rich in the United States is higher than that of the rich in other major democracies, the economic status of the poor in the United States is also lower than that of the poor in other major democracies.
  The widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States can be attributed to the government’s policies and American attitudes. In terms of government policy, the redistribution policy of the United States, that is, the government policy of transferring wealth from the richer to the poorer, is less powerful than other major democracies. For example, the personal income tax rate in the United States, as well as social transfers and expenditures (such as vouchers, subsidies for low-income people), are lower than most other major democracies. Part of the reason is that Americans believe more than people in other countries that the poor can only blame themselves for being poor. They can reap wealth as long as they are willing to work hard and sweat, and they believe that the government supports the poor (such as through The abuse of food stamps) is very common, allowing the poor to obtain wealth that they should not get (such as the so-called “welfare queen”). Another part of the reason is the restrictions on voter registration and voting, as well as the issue of campaign funding. These problems make it easier for the rich to participate in voter registration and vote than the poor, which in turn affects politicians and enables the rich to control most of the political power.
  Closely related to the issue of economic inequality just mentioned is the issue of socio-economic mobility, that is, the possibility of individuals overcoming economic inequality and becoming rich from the poor. Compared with people in other countries, Americans believe that their country is “on merit”, that is, people’s rewards are tied to their personal abilities. There is an idiom “made from scratch” that represents this belief: Americans believe that an immigrant who came to the United States with nothing and nothing can become rich through his own efforts, but can this core belief really be realized?
  Social scientists have used a method to test whether this belief can be realized, that is, to compare the correlation coefficient between the income of adults in different countries (or the income ranking in the same generation) and the income of their parents. The correlation coefficient is 1.0, which means that the relative income of adults in the country is completely related to the relative income of their parents: the parents of all high-income groups are also high-income earners, and the parents of all low-income groups are also low-income earners with low backgrounds. Children from income families do not have any chance of obtaining high income, and socioeconomic mobility is zero. At the other extreme, if the correlation coefficient is 0, then children from low-income families have the same chance of obtaining high income as children from high-income families, and socioeconomic mobility is high.
  The conclusion of this type of research is that the social and economic mobility of the United States is lower than that of other major democracies, and the intergenerational correlation of income is higher than that of other major democracies. For example, if an American’s father belongs to the poorest 20% of the same generation, then there is a 42% chance that this American will also become the poorest 20% of the same generation, and a person will become the United States by starting from scratch. The probability of the richest 20% group is only 8%. In contrast, these two indicators for Scandinavia in the Nordic countries are approximately 26% (lower than the US’s 42%) and 13% (higher than the US’s 8%).
  Regrettably, this problem in the United States has fallen into a vicious circle: In recent decades, the degree of economic inequality in the United States has been deepening, while social and economic mobility has been declining. All levels of government in the United States are increasingly influenced by the rich. As a result, the government will pass laws that cater to the rich (such as voter registration rules and tax policies), which improves candidates who represent the interests of the rich to win the next game. The possibility of elections. After winning the election, these people will pass more laws that cater to the rich, which will cause the US government to be more influenced by the rich… This sounds like a bad joke, but it is contemporary American history. A true portrayal of.
  In short, our self-made beliefs are not realistic. The feasibility of starting from scratch in the United States is actually lower than in other major democracies. One possible explanation is that American parents with better financial conditions usually have received relatively better education, so they invest more money in the education of their children, and compared to parents with relatively poor financial conditions, they can give Children provide more useful career contacts. For example, children from wealthy families in the United States are 10 times more likely to complete college than children from poor families. Richard Reeves and Isabel Sohill once wrote: “You must be cautious about reincarnation!”