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.