On Monday, we began a unique experiment:
I began forecasting five top values issues that will define 2012—and I invited you to share your ideas to help shape our overall conclusions. Then, at 6-month and 12-month marks, this year, we will check back on our collective conclusions. Please, take a moment to read today’s post—then add a comment, below, with your thoughts. Yesterday, I predicted a top issue: the economy.
Today, here is my pick for Number Two:
It’s a related issue, the enormous gap between rich and poor. Accompanying that in 2012 is sure to be political rhetoric of “class warfare.”
Here’s the background: Economic inequality is at the highest level we’ve seen in this country since the Roaring Twenties. The 1920s, however, was a period of economic prosperity coupled with a feeling that anything was possible. Now, we have high economic inequality coupled with economic malaise, pessimism and high levels of poverty. About one in two Americans now lives in poverty or low-income. Given the continuing cuts in the social safety net, we can predict that this situation will not improve soon.
What are Americans saying? Record economic inequality is one of the key issues behind the Occupy movement that grew and spread last year. The importance of economic inequality in 2012 will be heightened by Obama’s plan to make economic inequality a central focus of his political campaign. His opponents will counter with the refrain that he is fomenting “class warfare.” Fewer than half (45%) of Americans says the nation is divided into “haves” versus “have-nots,” according to the Pew Research Center. Just over half (52%) say it’s incorrect to think of the country that way. It’s not surprising that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say our nation is divided into haves and have-nots. But it may surprise you to know that the perception of an economically divided nation is much higher now than 25 years ago. As the Pew researchers note, Gallup polls of Americans back then revealed that large majorities of Americans didn’t see the nation as one of haves versus have-nots.
Do you agree?
Will economic inequality be one of the Top Five Values topics in 2012?
What’s on YOUR list for 2012?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.