Call it what it is: A wealth and race gap

by Alyssa Woodard, University student

This letter is in response to Derek Olson’s March 5 column, “The reality of the 1 and 99 percent.”

Inequality in America has come into the public consciousness as one of the key issues of our time. Both President Barack Obama and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges have committed to closing the gap between the 1 and 99 percent.

Olson acknowledged that “the top 20 percent of households earn 15 times more income than the bottom 20 percent” but explains that because the very rich only consume four times more than the bottom 20 percent, there is not cause for concern. In fact, individuals who make more money should be putting that capital back into the economy to further generate economic growth. They can only spend so much in a given time period, and as a result, they continue to pool the wealth, which only hurts us all as a nation.

Of income inequalities, Olson also writes, “They are not set groups of people across time periods.” To the contrary, white males have predominantly enjoyed positions within the 1 percent, while women and minorities are more likely to occupy the 99 percent.

While some individuals, such as a medical student, may gain access to wealth over time, populations without race and class privilege are generally not as transient. A policy brief from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that over the past 25 years, the wealth gap between African-Americans and whites tripled from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009. This seems like something worth sounding the alarm about.