From the State of the Union to the widely publicized study on income inequality produced by Oxfam, there has been a large focus on income inequality, not only in the United States, but on a global level as well.
In January, the World Economic Forum, where economic elites from around the world meet to discuss global issues, discussed the issue of rising income inequality. According to the Oxfam study, which was published on nearly every large media outlet, the 85 richest people in the world take in as much income as the 3.5 billion poorest on Earth.
Like most issues or debates in Washington D.C., the democrats and republicans are taking different stances on how to change the inequality that currently exists in the United States. Outside the Washington D.C. realm, some are even denying large income inequality while others claim that income inequality isn’t something new to either the world or the United States.
Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently said in a speech that “If there is inequality” the current administration is not addressing it correctly, which implies his doubt that such an inequality actually exists. While not fully believing that income inequality is a problem in the United States, Donohue also disagrees with President Obama’s large focus on wage inequality and increasing the minimum wage.
Much like what Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in the republican rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union, Donohue advocates that there is an inequality in opportunity rather than income. Opposite of Donohue, the President and congressional democrats believe that income inequality is the problem and that increasing the minimum wage will be the basic start to end it.
Not only did Obama publicly support an increase in the minimum wage during his address to the nation, he himself announced that he will be using his executive order privilege to increase federal worker’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and encouraged governors to take matters into their own hands on wages.
Whether one wishes to call it “income inequality” or “opportunity inequality”, there definitely seems to be some sort of inequality issue growing in the United States. Possibly, government leaders could stop arguing over what to title the issue but rather work together to fix it.
While Obama and Donohue may disagree on increasing the minimum wage as a solution, they both remarked in their recent speeches the importance of reforming education.
President Obama focused on training and educating the American workforce for a new, highly technological economy, while Donohue mentioned fixing the American public education system.
Making higher-level education more accessible to low-income Americans may also be a reasonable, agreeable solution to parts of the inequality debate.
Unfortunately, Donohue is not a member of Congress where his common ground with President Obama may do some good towards this issue and others on which they agree.
Just last week, congressional republicans announced movement towards a possible beginning of some form of immigration reform, something that both Donohue and President Obama think would help the current inequality issue.
This discussion on inequality is not something that is new to the political or social scene.
In more recent years, movements such as Occupy Wall Street introduced the idea to Americans that a small percentage of top earners in this country have been earning the majority of the country’s income, while other working Americans struggle on the brim of poverty.
Hopefully, 2014 will provide more bipartisanship and actual solutions to the income inequality issue in our country and world, and possibly on other pressing issues in the US and the world as well.