Bill Moyers: We Are Living in the United States of Inequality
From BIll Moyers.com:
The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable. In an extended essay, Bill Moyers shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless — who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years — are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps.
“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Moyers, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”
[Full Transcript below the video]
Inequality matters. You will hear people say it doesn’t, but they are usually so high up the ladder they can’t even see those at the bottom. The distance between the first and the least in America is vast and growing.
The Washington Post recently took a look at two counties in Florida and found that people who live in the more affluent St. Johns County live longer than those who live next door in less rich Putnam County. The Post concluded: “The widening gap in life expectancy between these two adjacent Florida counties reflects perhaps the starkest outcome of the nation’s growing economic inequality: Even as the nation’s life expectancy has marched steadily upward…a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder.”
That’s true across America. In California’s Silicon Valley, Apple, Facebook and Google, among others, have reinvented the Gold Rush. But down the road in San Jose it’s not so pretty a picture. Do the math: in an area where one fourth of the population earn an average of about $19,000 dollars a year, rent alone can average more than $20,000 dollars a year, and that difference adds up to homelessness. We talked to Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza, who brought this story to our attention.
MARTHA MENDOZA: I’ve been a journalist in this area for 25 years, and during that time it has gone from having a pretty robust middleclass to being an area where you see this great divide of wealthy and poor, and nowhere do you see that more than in the Silicon Valley, where 25 years ago this was a place of orchards and farms and ranching and small businesses, and it has completely changed now so that you have incredibly wealthy people and incredibly poor people and a growing gap. Homelessness has increased dramatically. In the shadow of Google, in the shadow of Oracle, in the shadow of Apple Computer, you have people who are hungry.
CINDY CHAVEZ: People had this believe that somehow Silicon Valley was paved with gold—and I would even say my parents, coming from New Mexico, all those years ago when I was very small, I mean they came here looking for opportunity. They wanted to be in a place that it didn’t matter what their ethnicity or culture was, it didn’t matter what their class was, that they really could put their stake in the ground, buy a home and grow a family. I think that’s a dream that a lot of people come to Silicon Valley with, and one of the problems is that it’s not like that for everybody. We have really been a tale of two cities for really a long time.
RUSSELL HANCOCK: Our economic expansion is pretty staggering, people have referred to it as the longest, most sustained, largest, legal wealth creation in the history of the planet. We have very high-income, highest in the nation. We also have very low. We’ve got both. And what’s actually happening right now is a hollowing out in the middle. Now, this is a national phenomenon, but it seems to be particularly acute in Silicon Valley. We’re still generating on the high end—engineers and scientists and coders. But the support positions, manufacturing, you’re not going to see that in Silicon Valley anymore.