ON THE AGENDA | OCTOBER 12TH, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo
Most New York area residents say it's ok for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone else also has a good chance to get ahead. The problem is, people don't feel like they're getting that chance.
We're all aware that income inequality is growing, say the gap in income between the rich and everyone else is a serious problem in their community.
We were curious: in the New York region, do people have a problem with the basic premise of the rich getting richer? Or are they ok with it, as long as they have an opportunity to get ahead too? This is an issue our co-founder has opined on in the past, writing on his blog:
Americans are big fans of economic success. Unlike many Europeans, we are remarkably free of envy about some of us making zillions of dollars. But the legitimacy of their doing so comes with an all-important qualification: the insistence that all of us should be free to take advantage of our system of open-ended opportunity to improve our lot in life.
We wanted to test his hypothesis.
It turns out that residents of the New York metro region have complex attitudes toward the wealthy. Nearly three quarters – 73 percent – feel that it's ok for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone else also has a good chance to get ahead.
The problem is people don't feel like they're getting that chance.
As we noted in our last blog, area residents overwhelmingly say that the high costs of living, housing, taxes and education are a serious problem where they live. Two-thirds (66 percent) say the lack of well-paying and secure jobs is a serious problem where they live, and 58 percent say the lack of affordable health care is a serious problem.
Housing, education, jobs, health care: these are all pillars of opportunity. And people in the New York metro region fear they're becoming increasingly unaffordable. In fact, 73 percent of area residents say that the middle class is facing more insecurity than ever before and 30 percent say opportunities for people in their area to get ahead are shrinking.
At the same time, residents worry that the government is not doing enough to address the issues they see as the most serious problems. Half of New York metropolitan area residents (52 percent) say the government is doing a mostly bad job when it comes to addressing the gap between the rich and everyone else; just 14 percent say the government is doing a mostly good job. Residents are similarly dissatisfied with the government's performance addressing issues like the costs of housing and college.
To top it all off, seven in 10 New York area residents say, where they live, the wealthiest people have the most influence on government decisions.
The news isn't all bad, though. We also asked New York area residents about some possible policy solutions that would address the problems they're most concerned about. There are a number of policies that residents seem ready to embrace, and they're also ready to work with their neighbors to advocate or find solutions.
Tomorrow, we'll explore those solutions, on the blog and also with Brian Lehrer, on WNYC. We're chatting with Brian all week in fact, so be sure to tune in every day at 10 a.m.
It's naive not to be concerned about wealthy people getting wealthier. While better than the alternative, it's not enough if the rest of us continue to get ahead. As the wealthy get wealthier, and especially as they capture a larger percentage of the wealth created by the economy, their relative power increases. Many studies have established that the actions of elected officials closely match the desires of the top 1% and have little correlation to the preferences of the rest of their electorate. We are well on the way to creating the permanent aristocracy that our forefathers fought to escape.