Wealth gap breeds inequality

columnist olivia hunt.

columnist olivia hunt.

We hear it every day: We are approaching on a time where the middle class is dissolving and the wealthy are dominating society. The scary part is, there are no signs of this problem being remedied any time soon.

The people who are capable of evening out the class system arenot interested in doing so. Emmanuel Saez, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that the top one percent of American households now controls 42 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from below 30 percent two decades ago.

The wealthy are becoming content with class divisions, and it’s beginning to be clear that businesses are taking advantage of this segregation.

According to a New York Times article, a Norwegian cruise line’s newest ship is designed to cater about 275 elite guests who receive many services not available to standard guests. The wealthy on this ship enjoy not only a concierge and 24-hour butler service, but also a private pool, sun deck and restaurant, creating an exclusive paradise for the rich.

The former chief executive who helped design the ship was quoted saying, “That segment of the population wants to be surrounded by people with similar characteristics.”

Essentially, we are creating the type of division that existed a century ago during the time of the Titanic. The only difference between then and now is companies have become experts at pinpointing their customers and catering towards their needs. This company is only one of several that have begun giving advantages to the rich. For example, at SeaWorld you can jump in front of the lines for an additional $80. At the Los Angeles airport, there is a private firm that allows anyone willing to pay $1,800 to skip the lines at the terminals.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, an entire airline that wishes to remain anonymous is under scrutiny for deliberately rubbing the inequality between first and second class in passengers’ faces.

Additionally, the Royal Caribbean has a private resort in Haiti that allows for guests to have their own private part of the beach. These types of extreme privilege creates a sense of disparity between people and establishes an unnecessary hierarchy.

Comparably, in the 19th century, French railways refrained from putting roofs on third-class wagons so that passengers who could afford the more expensive seats wouldn’t hesitate to spend a little extra.

Not to say we are heading toward a path of ultimate segregation, but we are bordering on it. If we resurrect a modern type of the caste system, then we are on a slippery slope to our former standard of living.

The problem isn’t that there are different classes; those will always exist. The issue at hand presents a possible future in which people are discriminated against based on their social status in contrast to an egalitarian system.

As we continue to be divided by wealth we are doing ourselves a disservice as a society. Significant differences can be made if we reject the disunion that is slowly occurring in our everyday lives.

We shouldn’t have to live in a world where people are separated into categories and labels. The concept of unity shouldn’t be a foreign one.