The wealth gap in the United States is staggering. The top 3 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 50%. (Forbes). 2018 created more millionaires than ever before, yet millions of individuals are struggling with consumer debt, rising housing costs, inflation, and stagnant wages. The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening every day. COVID-19 is the beginning of 2020 only brought the issue of wealth inequality to light. In truth, the majority of the millions who we first to have their income impacted by coronavirus were front line workers that had little financial stability in the first place.
When the wealth gap becomes staggeringly large it becomes a threat to the longevity of a society. Indeed, the great nations that no longer exist succumbed under tensions between the haves and the have nots. The spread of coronavirus may just hasten America’s demise to the same fate.
Housing and food are the two monthly household expenses that are fundamental basic human needs. Without them, our very survival comes into question. Hunger and poverty became such a dire concern in the 3rd world that the World Bank made eradicating hunger one of the global goals. With diligent effort, they were able to meet their first goal five years ahead of schedule. The truth is that if we don’t address housing with the same pragmatic action, it will threaten citizen livelihood and the (relative) political stability Americans enjoy today.
Solving housing availability will simultaneously address a real, root issue in American society: a lack of dignity and respect for all people and the belief that everyone has the right to a quality life. We are in dangerous territory. When people feel threatened and disempowered, they will take radical action. As of spring 2020, we have already seen instances of this becoming more commonplace in society.
One of the most famous examples of how this played out was in the French Revolution. In the ten-year period that it lasted, everyday citizens decided they were fed up with reckless government spending and not having their needs met. Before the Revolution, the French had a caste system where the groups were known as “Estates”. The First Estate was for the clergy, the Second Estate was for noble people and the Third Estate was for common folk. The Third Estate included most of the population paid most of the taxes and did not have access to the luxury afforded higher Estates.
Members of the Third Estate first demanded rights from the King but found that was not enough. Ultimately they overthrew the government, took control of the country, instituted the Reign of Terror, and famously executed thousands of people including Queen Marie Antoinette. The French Revolution ended when Napoleon overthrew the revolutionary government and established the French Consulate.
The ideas and reforms from the French Revolution forever left their mark on the French social and political structure. The new ideas of freedom for the commoner and women’s rights have stayed in France and have influenced other European governments as well.
Here’s the point: when the poor feel they have no future, they protest, they boycott and they rise up against the leadership. In today’s mix of government debt, corporate debt, and personal debt – not to mention a new, rare virus that threatens normal social interaction – civil unrest is next up on the agenda.
In addition to debt levels, we have increasing social unrest and the public’s inability to decipher who is telling the truth these days between politicians and the media… all of which make it difficult for a capitalist system to thrive.
The link between a lack of financial opportunity and civil unrest is clear.
Let’s remember that safe, stable housing is the first step towards shifting the dynamic back into the hands of the people. When a person has a home they have pride. With pride comes hope.
Furthermore, increasing the supply of housing addresses the economic uncertainty issue in two ways. An increase in supply will temper the outrageous growth in rent rates. Second, renters regain dignity and power with quality housing at a budget-friendly rate. All it takes is a few conscious property owners to take an interest in these properties.
If we can address the housing gap, working-class Americans could actually consider the American Dream a real option for their families.