Sunday, August 5, 2012

For Richer

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The article entitled “For Richer” by Paul Krugman, published in the New York Times Magazine on October 0. 00 discusses Krugman opinions on the increasing economic inequality gap in America and the effects it has on the economy. Krugmen belives in the effects of the extremely unequal distribution of income lowers the standards of living for Americans. I will discuss how the economic inequality affects the general standard of living for Americans.

The distribution of income in America has been widening over the past 0 years from a large concentration of the income and wealth going to an extremely small percentage of the population. “It has been estimated that the 1,000 richest families in America have almost as much income as the 0 million poorest households.” (Krugman)

It is evident that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. What’s hard to see are the effects this has on the standard of living in America. It is common for Americans to believe that because we have the richest, most advance nation, with real GDP per capita higher than any other major nation that our standard of living should be better off than any other country. This is not true. Americans generally work more hours per year and have a lower life expectancy than most other developed countries. The Swedish, who has a lot less of an inequality in their income distribution than the US, can expect to live an average of three more years, work less hours per year, get higher average wages, and take longer vacations than Americans. Families living in Sweden who are in the poorest 10 percent have incomes 60 percent higher than Americans in the same percentile. (Krugman) This shows how Sweden, who has less economic inequality, has a better overall standard of living than America. It has been proven that Americans have a lower life expectancy that most of the other major industrialized nations and this is a major cause of the lower standard of living in America.

The more inequality in the distribution of income, the more health related problems America will see which will lower the standard of living. “The more equally wealth is distributed the better off the society” according to an article in the British Medical Journal. It seems obvious that poor people are more likely to be sick, and die at an earlier age, compared to rich people. What might not be as obvious is that overall health of a society is in direct proportion to the size of the gap between the rich and the poor. It is not the level of poverty that matters in a society, it is the level of the gap between the rich and the poor.(Montague) The socioeconomic status of an individual determines the access that person has on economic resources that are important to their general health such as nutrition, medical supplies, and housing. (Lawerence) The British Medical Journal did a study measuring the different income inequalities between the states in the U.S. and compared it to the various rates of disease and other health related issues. The study concluded the greater the gap between the rich and the poor, the greater the chance people will be sick and die young. As the economic inequality continues to grow within our nation, the overall health will continue to deteriorate. The medical health of our nation is not the only thing affecting the standard of living by the inequality gap but the general safety is as well affected.

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The level of crime in America is affected directly by the level of unequal distribution in the economy. “The United States is one of the most violent societies in the industrialized world today.” (Amburgey) One of the main reasons America has such a high crime rate is because there is so much income inequality. In times of increased inequality in the United States, there were increases in prison population as well. (Grabmeier) The opportunity cost of fighting crime in a society has a significant effect on the standard of living. In America there is more money spent on prisoner housing than on crime prevention. (Amburgey) Krugman states that “crime, and the fear of crime, divert resources away from productive uses” When spending more and more money and time on protecting themselves and their belongings, Americans are in turn, lowering their standard of living. Decreasing the level of inequality in America and allowing for more money to be spent on public goods, such as crime prevention, would in turn raise the standard of living for Americans.

The article “For Richer” by Paul Krugman stimulates one to consider how the distribution of income affects the standard of living in America. Krugman and I both agree that the inequality gap negatively affects the health and safety of Americans today. Having a greater gap in the allocation of income in the United States greatly affects the overall health and the safety of Americans and in turn lowers the standard of living.

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