President Obama recently delivered his Inaugural address at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration. The centerpiece of his 18-minute address was a call for greater economic equality, with the president saying that “For we, the people, understand our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it." The president further noted: "We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few." and "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."
The issue of income inequality is increasingly dividing our country. Those who consider inequality a great evil afflicting our society point out that today, more than ever, the rich are becoming richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the poorer seem stuck. In our increasingly stratified society, privilege begets privileges and the rest are locked out. Because of the inherent advantages the rich enjoy, it is often not possible for the less fortunate to simply work hard and move their way up the economic ladder.
On the other side, there are those who think perhaps the issue of inequality has been overblown: people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and not obsess about the lives of rich people. Plus, governmental attempts to redistribute income will only mess up the dynamism of our economy – creating, maybe, a more “equal” society– but also a poorer one. Inequality of outcome isn't so bad as long as there's a safety net and there’s still equality of opportunity.
What do you think? Should becoming more equal, income-wise, be a government policy goal? Is a more equal society a happier society? Why? Why not?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this question. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.
If you are interested in speaking for or against the motion or want to moderate, just email event organizer - Deborah – and let her know.