Mind the [Wealth] Gap!

Guest blog post by Stephanie Niedringhaus

Each day, as I walk between Washington’s Union Station and my office, I see people who are either homeless or in difficult housing situations. I buy Street Sense from some, chat with others. Whether I am walking past or stopping to talk, I am always conscious of the U.S. Capitol just behind me. The contrast between what happens there and the circumstances of people on the street couldn’t be starker.

Many of us know there is an enormous wealth gap in the U.S., but too few recognize this gap as a moral and political issue. Each day, super-wealthy individuals and corporations use their influence in Washington to increase their wealth and power. So where is the power of all the people I meet on the street? How have things gotten so out of balance in a democracy such as ours?

First, a few statistics, taken directly from my organization’s wealth gap campaign website:

  • The wealthiest 1% of our population own more than 90% of us combined.
  • The wealthiest 10% of our population own more than three-fourths of our nation’s wealth.
  • The median African American household has less than ten cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the median white family.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth. The problem comes when disparities grow so enormous that they create harm – and that is what we are seeing now. When I see limousines and motorcades driving by people selling Street Sense, I realize how far down the road of inequality we have traveled.

On Capitol Hill right now, politicians go out of their way to push for budget cuts that decimate housing and other programs for people in need. Could we instead lower budget deficits by increasing taxes on the super-wealthy? House Speaker Boehner replies that tax increases are off the table.

On May 19, my organization launched an education campaign – called “Mind the Gap!” – to address the wealth gap. Within the first 24 hours, we received far more visitors to our website than ever before so there is clearly pent-up anxiety about this issue.

We invite you to check out our Mind the Gap! campaign website at http://www.networklobby.org/campaign/mind-the-gap and to speak out for economic justice.

Guest blogger Stephanie Niedringhaus is the Communications Coordinator for NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

About Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless envisions a just and inclusive community for all residents of the District of Columbia, where housing is a human right and where every individual and family has equal access to the resources they need to thrive. Our mission is to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. Combining community lawyering and advocacy to achieve our clients’ goals, our expert staff and network of volunteer attorneys provide low barrier, comprehensive legal services at intake sites throughout the District of Columbia, helping our clients to access housing, shelter, and life-saving services. Rooted in the experiences of this client work, we effectively blend system reform efforts, policy advocacy, community education and client engagement to advocate for long term improvements in local and federal programs that serve the low- and no-income community.
This entry was posted in Budget Cuts, Homelessness, Poverty, Take Action, Wealth Gap and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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