Currently, the United States has unprecedented levels of poverty and income inequalities compared to many other industrialized nations (Sklar, p. 308). The top 1% carry a disproportionate amount of the wealth in America, with many billionaires simply getting richer without more joining their ranks. This leads to a system in which the top 1% (usually CEOs and heirs of profitable companies) holds more personal wealth than the GDPs of entire countries, while more and more people slip into destitution in the same country. As a result, there is an enormous gap in income in America, preventing many successful people from even having the chance to make their way in the world. Because the wealth of the country (and the world) is being effectively hoarded and greedily kept by the 1%, who arguably do not need that much personal wealth to maintain very comfortable lifestyles, the other 99% are suffocating and not being given the faith they need to contribute to the American economy.
Many of the reasons why these CEOs were able to attain such substantial wealth boil down to the concept of American Exceptionalism. With this concept, which is unique to America, "history is not destiny: without a hereditary aristocracy or caste system or controls on internal migration, Americans are less constrained than others by their family background in shaping their own lives" (Ferrie, p. 1). Therefore, there should be the potential for people to have the chance to make their own way in America; by being exceptional, they can move up the economic ladder and enjoy the fruits of their success. However, with the Draconian policies that many CEOs and business leaders take to hold onto their own fortunes, these opportunities to excel are being robbed from the American people. To that end, policies like taxation on the rich and creating other job-creating initiatives will go a long way toward bridging the gap in income and status.
What can be done, then? Not since Reagan have we seen lower taxes on the rich; this allows the upper class to maintain an incredible amount of income, which they can then use to wield untold personal and political power. This is definitely not in keeping with the principle of the American Dream, and only serves to disenfranchise the 99% who live and earn to a level below them. "In the high-stakes environment of a society with rapidly growing income inequality, it is ever more critical that society provides its citizens with a fair shot at competing for the economic rewards that come with success" (Sawhill and Morton, p. 3).
Because this fair shot is no longer present, the mood of the nation is extremely somber, and people are not given the opportunity to work. CEO-enriching policies like outsourcing serve to pad their pockets while American citizens are having their jobs taken away. Despite the rhetoric of the rich being "job creators," the trend of increasing unemployment and continued economic stability indicates that CEOs, instead, remove jobs to pad their own increasing salaries. By taxing the rich, it is possible to create jobs and inspire other CEOs to focus their energies on more opportunities to help those not given the chance to succeed.
There are those who may still stand by the original definition of American Exceptionalism: since these CEOs and the wealthy are so rich, they likely earned it and should be able to keep every penny. However, the principles by which these CEOs have attained their wealth will not allow them to keep it; if these trends continue, there will be no one able to create and produce for them. Worse still, if they manage to effectively control the American economy, they will create the same caste system that many people leaving for America in the 18th and 19th centuries sought to escape. The idea of economic mobility is so central to the American ideal that it is absolutely essential that it be maintained, even if it has to be rescued from ourselves.
Ferrie, Joseph P. "The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the US Since 1850." NBER
Working Paper 11324. May 2005. Print.
Sawhill, Isabel and John E. Morton. "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and
Well?" Economic Mobility Project. 2008. Print.
Sklar, Holly. "The Growing Gulf Between the Rich and the Rest of Us." pp. 308-310. Print.