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Factors contributing to class division in the United States

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The United States of America was once a place where dreams were made. Immigrants would come to our welcoming shores in search of a new life, a chance to rise above their birthright and create a better life for their children. That dream is now dead.

We have reached a point in this country where a person is no longer likely to be better off than their parents. The problem with trying to resolve this issue is that there isn’t just one simple reason for this. There are many contributing factors and they are not related to each other, but the compounding effect of these factors all lead to greater socio-economic divisions.

Here we will break down all of the contributing factors that have lead us to this point.

Education
Education By firedoglakedotcom [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Education

Education is one of the greatest factors contributing to class division in the United States today. The education a person receives is mostly dependant on the socio-economic status of that person’s parents. Because most of the funding for public schools comes from local taxes, the wealth of a school district is dependent on the wealth of the community it serves.

This has created a system where the quality of a child’s education is directly tied to their parents wealth. A child born to poor parents is at a disadvantage to those born of wealthy parents from before they can even speak. This directly contradicts our notion of all men being created equal.

Higher education is also a contributing factor to our great class divide. It used to be that if you wanted a decent job, you would need a college degree. Now that college degree doesn’t mean anything, half the people you see in minimum wage jobs have a four-year college degree of some sort.

We also have a problem with the cost of this higher education. The only way to get a college degree for free is through scholarships. Most people have to pay for college, and the cost is outrageous, which forces people to start their career paths already buried under a mountain of debt.

If you think forcing the poor to start their lives in debt doesn’t divide them even further than their richer counterparts then you haven’t thought about it at all. This is a major problem for the future of this country, and one that is easily fixed. We just need to learn that there is value in things that don’t lead to instant profit.

A free education would be a very valuable investment for this or any country.

Housing
Housing By Montrose Patriot at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Housing

There was a time when Americans would buy a house and expect their children to inherit that house upon their passing. That time is mostly over. With the cost of living steadily rising and wages remaining stagnant, most people can’t afford to buy real estate.

When one does buy a house, they don’t own that house. A bank owns it while the resident pays on a mortgage rather than paying rent to a landlord. The bank is the landlord in this situation, but nobody refers to them as such.

The real estate market has been gamed by those seeking a quick buck. Instead of land being a birthright it is considered something you must work for. If you can’t afford it then you just aren’t working hard enough, says the ignorant right wing. And the elite become more powerful selling what’s not theirs to people who can’t afford it and profiting from the interest.

The deck is stacked against the poor and middle class when it comes to real estate dealings.

Healthcare
Healthcare By Claudia von Aponte, aponte@aon.at, www.aponte.at [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare

First things first, the Affordable Care Act is not a fix to our healthcare system. The ACA is more like a fresh coat of paint to cover the rotting wood. Overall, healthcare in the U.S. is still as unaffordable as ever.

The biggest contributing factor to this is the strange belief that nothing should be done without direct profit. A dying man who can’t afford to see a doctor is a “taker” who is drain on the system. Truthfully, it is the insurance companies that are the “takers” draining our system and ruining lives all for a quick buck.

Everyone only thinks about the poor and the destitute when it comes to the healthcare inequality, and even the poor in the U.S. have been taught to look down on the poor. But in reality, “middle-class” people become poor and destitute everyday in this country due to the expenses that unexpected health problems cause.

Having “insurance” to handle healthcare doesn’t even make sense. Insurance is for things that might cause major problems, but hopefully will never arise (e.g. fire or flood). Health problems aren’t unexpected, you know that you will have to visit a doctor in your life, and on more than one occasion.

When you tie someone’s health to their socio-economic status, you create more class division. Everyone deserves to benefit from our advances in medicine, not just the elite. Withholding life-saving, or even just life-improving, treatments based on who can most afford it is downright evil. There is absolutely no excuse.

Justice and the U.S. legal system
Justice and the U.S. legal system By Przykuta, DTR, Väsk , Klaus with K [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Justice and the U.S. legal system

America’s “justice” system is anything but. At the time of our founding we had one of the most progressive justice systems in the world. That has changed with, and been changed by, our continued class division.

The biggest factor in this is the separation of criminal and civil infractions. Police only enforce criminal infractions, which means if anyone wrongs you in a way that is only covered by civil law, then you have no recourse unless you can afford to hire a lawyer to enforce the law for you. The more money you have the more you can get away with.

Wealth also factors into criminal law. Poor people are “guaranteed” legal representation, but good luck with that. Public defenders are overworked and underpaid, virtually ensuring that the defendant's best interests are not met. Add to that a system where getting any conviction at all is better than getting no conviction and you find that prosecutors no longer care if they have the right man. They just want the conviction to help them achieve their numbers.

When you have a system where the prosecutors will do anything they can to get a conviction, then you get a system where the more you can spend on a lawyer the better your chances of being acquitted. Thus, we have more “unintended” class division at work.

Politics
Politics By Hhemken (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Politics

The American political system has become one of the most corrupt in the Western World. Nobody can go far in politics without money, which means that our politicians are either born into money, or sign their souls away to corporate sponsors. Either way, they no longer represent the will of the people.

With recent Supreme Court rulings making it possible for the rich and powerful to exert even more control on the system than they already had, this isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. Any attempt to fix this is met with misinformation from the corporate media and the scary warnings that any change will lead us to Communism.

The fact is, the “communism” that we’re afraid of is not communism. The USSR was not a communist country. It was an oligarchy, the same as the U.S., just with the elite using a different method to hold power than they do here.

Taking money out of the equation to level the playing field would not lead us toward a path to socialism. It would merely lead us to a path where more “undesirables” might end up in public office driving policy. That is something the elite don’t want to see, as they very much like maintaining control.

As long as there is so much money in politics, the wealth divide will continue to grow wider.

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