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Americans unite on one thing: need for better wealth distribution

The findings of a recent study, entitled “Building a Better America — One Wealth Quintile at a Time,” blew the doors open on our national discourse about the economy. Authored by Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, the poll-study conducted via the Internet revealed some startling answers from more than 5,500 respondents.

First, the study makes clear that, across political, ideological, economic and gender lines, Americans underestimate the inequality of wealth distribution in America. Most Americans believe that the richest 20 percent control about 59 percent of our nation’s wealth. The real number is 84 percent — that is, the richest 20 percent own 84 percent of our wealth. In fact, most scholars say that wealth inequality is at an all-time high today, with the richest 1 percent holding nearly 50 percent of our wealth.

Second, this randomly selected group of Americans, which represents gender balance and our ideological, economic, political diversity, overwhelmingly believes that the top 20 percent should own only about 32 percent of wealth. Respondents with incomes over $100,000 had similar answers to those making less than $50,000.

The respondents were also asked to pick a pie chart that suited their views of proper wealth distribution. The pie charts unlabeled, 92 percent of those surveyed said they’d rather live in a country like Sweden, with its more equitable wealth distribution, the top 20 percent owning merely 36 percent of the wealth.

Ninety-two percent! Think about that. Across economic, political, ideological and gender lines, 92 percent of us believes a different system, a different approach, a more equitable wealth distribution, is needed, even necessary.

This is important. Because as we grow increasingly dissatisfied with both the Republican and Democratic parties in their failure to make change, due to their reliance on corporate interests, the voices we hear tell us that government is the problem. The Tea Party comes immediately to mind. Its narrative tells us that the federal government is the problem and to leave Wall Street alone. Many Democrats sing the same song in a different key.

Let’s be honest: Ultimately the two are so intertwined that distinguishing one from the other is nearly impossible. Through the continued bailout of the banks and the insurance companies, the Obama administration has given away much more of our money to mega-corporate interests than the previous Bush administration.

Know what? We’ll never see that money again. It’s gone. As are the trillions we’re spending on our various wars. Obama himself has consistently played the role of appeaser, not fighter, of the corporate powers-that-be.

But, amidst the growing anger, there is real hope out there. When you read the details of this recent poll/study, for instance, you begin to understand that we really are uniting, one little bit at a time, no matter what our media tell us. It’s high time we started taking care of each other and ourselves. Only, there is a whole bunch of crooks in Washington and on Wall and K streets who still don’t get it. It’s a way of life for these people.

So, as you enter the voting booths this November, remember what’s really important: our lives, health, homes, schools and economic security. Being able to eat! In the end, patriotism is global, not national. The real problem with the Tea Party is that any attention is being given it at all. Progressives of all stripes know the answer: It’s capitalism, stupid. And there are non-political groups of citizens beginning to form around the country determined to change things.

This year, vote with your heart, not your head. Look to outsiders, possibly, other parties, and then immediately hold their feet to the fire upon election. Or it’s off with their heads!

Peter Schaufele is a writer, producer, singer-songwriter living in Salisbury.

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