Before watching the documentary, “Inequality For All,” I never took a moment to analyze how the wealthiest people in America view income and wealth inequality. Several of America’s richest CEOs were interviewed in the film, including Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist and CEO of Pacific Coast Feather Company. Hanauer’s family owns the largest manufacturer of bed pillows and down comforters, which has afforded him and his family a tremendous amount of wealth.
When Hanauer first introduced himself, I immediately got defensive. My muscles tensed up preparing for the mental and emotional blow that I thought would soon follow. But instead of declaring income and wealth inequality a modern day myth as I assumed he would, surprisingly, he offered criticisms that empathized with middle-class Americans (I still noticed how exclusionary his viewpoint was to Americans living below the poverty line, though).
He explained how there is only so much he can spend with his annual income, and whatever is left over is essentially saved and invested. His concern for the future of America’s economy surprised me, and made me question then how other wealthy Americans seem to lack the capability to adopt this point of view.
**DISCLAIMER: The following information cited is from mainstream media, and may carry subjective point of views on the subject of wealth and income inequality.**
According to Business Insider, the richest Americans are not in a rush to push income inequality to the top of their priority list because, to put it simply, they can afford to never come face-to-face with its unpleasant effects. In essence, wealthy people “subjectively experience” living in a different society.
If you have the money to do it, you probably move to a clean, safe neighborhood with excellent schools for your kids. Your neighbors are likely of a similar social class with sufficient means to make the same choices you made, and your kids’ classmates and weekend soccer teammates are your neighbors’ offspring. Even if you haven’t deliberately sought to make friends with other wealthy people, circumstances repeatedly throw you together, and the life you observe is roughly similar to the one you lead.
In such a society, it is also assumed the richest person simply played a better hand, or in other words, worked harder to gain what they have. A June 2015 study revealed that people with higher incomes who come from states where income inequality is more dramatic, and where there is a sharper divide between the rich and the poor, are less inclined to be generous. These individuals proved to be less charitable than low-income people.
People often forget that America was designed to be an individualist society. One may argue that yes, these individuals simply played the rules of the game and came out on top. In America, low-income individuals who operate on a collectivist mentality may never accumulate a tremendous amount of wealth because the society in which they live is structured to be self-centered, or selfish. So, are middle- and low-class Americans trying to fit a square block in a round hole? How does America’s economy plan to repair itself when the individualist system in place seems to only be working for 1 percent of the nation’s population?