Arguing For The 99 Argumentative Essay

Published: 2021-06-22 00:27:08
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In order to discuss with my roommate the issues of Social Stratification and the 99%/1% debate, I have to know a few things about him first. I asked him several questions: Where did your parents immigrate from? How much money did they have when they got here? What did they do? What scholarship did you get to attend university? How do you plan to become part of the 1%? and so on. Here were his answers: His parents immigrated from India, they currently work as a low-level salesman and a secretary, respectively, and they do not make much money; they also did not have much money when they got here. However, he did get a scholarship that was based on his Indian ethnicity, in addition to his high grades. He plans to get a job out of college at a high-paying engineering firm and make his millions there, becoming part of the 1%.
My roommate believes in a 'just world'; that is, if you fail, than you did not deserve to succeed, or did not work hard enough to do so. All of this talk about the 99% and the 1% makes him angry, as he feels as though people are being ungrateful and entitled about what they think they 'deserve.' People who do not have jobs simply are not working hard enough, or are not smart enough to make it in American society. To that end, I have to convince him otherwise - that there are many social and economic circumstances that are holding people back, not the least of which are the efforts of the 1% to maintain their wealth at the expense of the rest of the country.
First of all, one cannot assume that people who do not have jobs, or have not "made it", are unwilling to work. There are a variety of reasons why people are not working - the 2008 economic crisis left millions of Americans out of work, with one in seven people below the poverty line1. This does not mean people are "lazy," or "entitled" - this simply means that people are not giving them jobs, or they are losing their jobs. Many people went into economic destitution due to the housing crisis, where the American Dream was sold to them in home ownership, and the people in charge of the banks made very poor investment decisions by offering subprime loans to those who could not afford them. This had the effect of crashing the housing market, and left these unsuspecting people without homes or jobs.
There is absolutely no correlation between lack of intelligence or laziness and income or wealth. Many intelligent people work hard every day to no avail; many 'unskilled' jobs actually take a great deal of physical and mental acuity, one large reason being that they are so uncelebrated that no support system exists for them2. While you say that these people simply "don't work hard enough" and "aren't smart enough," they are not afforded nearly the opportunities that others have. The fact that you came from poverty and are doing so well is fantastic, but that is also due to a bit of luck as well; very few people get the opportunities you have, and not everyone gets these lucky breaks. There are those with poor home lives whose schools were lackluster, and did not give them the quality education they would need to go out and succeed in the real world. It is extremely difficult for those of us in the bottom 20% to improve their lot in life due to the institutionalized racism, sexism, and lack of resources provided to them3. The reason they do not succeed is, first and foremost, they are not given the chance to.
In the meantime, median pay for executives has quadrupled, while ordinary jobs have dropped below 90% of what they were in the 1970s4. Low-pay workers are getting paid even less, to the point where they simply cannot sustain even a basic lifestyle without working another job. This is due to the increasing efforts by executives to increase their pay while taking it away from their workers, who desperately need it. Instead of being 'job creators,' as the 1% call themselves, they take away jobs to increase their bottom line. They have the means to create jobs, but are not creating them - they are not giving enough back to the workers and the public who help keep their businesses afloat. On a long enough timeline, this means that no one will be left who can afford to do business with them, and their own businesses will fail. The executives need their lower-level workers and their customers in order to succeed; if their consumers have no money to buy their products with, they will fail as well. This is the reason why social stratification needs to change; its current direction is leading toward an insular course of action that would lead to no one being able to do anything for anyone, and so the two groups must work together to create a more equitable distribution of wealth.
In essence, the income inequalities that are present in the United States are not due to laziness or failure. You are a rare case in that you did come from poverty and immigrated to this country, and you worked hard to get good grades. However, there is a system in this country that is designed to keep the disenfranchised from actually escaping their circumstances, while many people are born into money or are given privileges that others cannot benefit from. One cannot assume that, just because I could do it, everyone else can. If everyone who was intelligent and worked hard succeeded, there wouldn't be enough money in the country to go around. Instead, social stratification exists to create divisions and arbitrary distinctions by which people can be denied that success5.
Using labels like 'lazy' and 'dumb' because they are poor only serves to vilify them and rob them of any encouragement to succeed, while making those in power feel better for not contributing to society as a whole. You are using anecdotal evidence to apply your own specific circumstances for everyone, when not everyone gets the chances you do. It is not a matter of laziness or entitlement; they are only asking for the chance to make their own way, when social stratification and other factors are preventing them from even doing that.
Works Cited
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Metropolitan Books,
2001).
Massey, Douglas. Categorically Unequal (Russel Sage, 2007).
Rogers, Simon. "Occupy protestors say it is 99% v 1%. Are they right?" The Guardian Data
Blog, 2011.

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