US citizens would gain 3.7 years in life expectancy if social spending was raised to equal other rich countries (subsidized housing, transit, child care)

The US needs to increase social spending. And that money should come from decreasing the income gap through taxation. Elizabeth Bradley at Yale was the first to compare social spending and medical-care spending among countries. And what you see is the healthier countries prioritize social spending, whereas we in the US focus on medical-care spending. The reason the other countries are healthier is they subsidize housing, early childhood education, transportation and so forth, which reduces inequality between rich and poor. And they have policies that support their citizens. You know, the United States has no national paid vacation law and all the other rich countries do. We have no paid parental leave laws at the national level. One study showed that if we had the average level of social spending of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — that’s the rich countries of the world — we would gain over 3.7 years in life expectancy.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, The pandemic is accelerating the racial wealth divide. Here’s how we turn it around, If we want justice, we must help Black families invest in themselves. MarketWatch. June 27, 2020

Economic justice is needed. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Behind the anger in the streets at police abuse is the awareness that Black, brown, and Native people are disproportionately disenfranchised, suffering, and dying. It’s not just police brutality or the inequality of the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly as those are. It’s also the ongoing crisis of socio-economic marginalization faced by people of color in this country, most dramatically illustrated by our racial wealth divide. Median white families own literally dozens of times more wealth than Black and Latino families, who have far fewer resources to endure disasters like the pandemic and recession.

While we are several years away from understanding the pandemic’s impact on racial asset holdings, the most recent pre-pandemic data is alarming.

Between 1983 and 2016, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after adjusting for inflation, down to a minuscule 2% of white wealth. Latinos saw only a marginal increase, to just 4% of median white wealth. White households, by contrast, increased their wealth by a third.

Also read:A Juneteenth revival: we must end economic violence, too

The Great Recession — and the inadequate response to it — made all this much worse. Back then, the government bailed out corporations but ignored distressed homeowners and low-wage workers who were disproportionately Black and Latino. It would be a crime not to learn from these mistakes.

Eight solutions

In a new report, we identify eight solutions to recover from the pandemic while reducing the racial asset divide.

In the short term, millions of families desperately need cash. Stimulus aid has been a critical, but insufficient, support during this time. With much of it set to expire soon, we’ll need immediate, emergency income support that could gradually evolve into a universally guaranteed income or federal jobs guarantee, like the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.

We could also expand the mandate of the U.S. Postal Service to include basic financial services, which would help the “unbanked” in rural and inner-city communities get access to basic financial services — and avoid predatory lenders. According to the FDIC, Black households are five times more likely, and Latino households are four times more likely, than white households to be unbanked or underbanked. In a crisis, that makes them prime targets for exploitation.

As we emerge from the crisis, other universal social programs could have a profound impact on closing the racial wealth gap.

For instance, we could delink health insurance from employment and guarantee universal health coverage through a program like Medicare for All. With Black and Latino workers losing their jobs at higher rates than white workers in the current crisis — and with Black Americans dying from COVID-19 at more than double the rate of other groups — this pandemic shows how inequities in health care and the broader economy are closely linked.

Baby bonds

Another idea? Baby bonds. That is, Congress could seed savings and investment accounts for every child born in this country, which they’d get access to as adults to get an education, start a business, or otherwise fund their next steps. This step alone, researchers suggest, could reduce the racial wealth gap tenfold.

Finally, paying for these programs with a more progressive tax structure — including more progressive wealth, income, and estate taxes — would also narrow the racial wealth divide, as the sharply declining tax burden of America’s wealthiest 0.1% over the last few decades has enriched an economic elite that is almost entirely white.

These ideas, along with programs to expand homeownership and other wealth-building opportunities, would lift up millions of households of all races that have been left behind in this unequal economy, but they would especially lift up Black and brown people who are poorly served by the current health and financial systems.

While these programs would be universal, some initiatives should be targeted to those historically excluded, due to racially based practices, from past wealth-building programs. For example, we advocate for a rigorous “racial wealth audit” for each new federal policy to ensure programs reduce racial wealth divisions, not worsen them.

Americans of all colors are hurting right now. But because white supremacy is the pre-existing condition — and in the face of a massive uprising for racial justice — our path out of this crisis must have a strong racial equity lens. The health of our country, and countless lives, demand it.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is the chief of race, wealth, and community at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. They are coauthors of the report, “White Supremacy Is the Pre-existing Condition.”

** Lola Butcher, America the Unhealthy: Inequality Kills, Knowable Magazine. The best interview yet on the link between inequality and life expectancy explains why the United States can have about the lowest smoking rate in the developed world and the shortest life expectancy.

Q&A — Health services researcher Stephen Bezruchka

America the Unhealthy: Inequality kills

Smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise? Yes, but that’s not all. A researcher tells us what really hurts US life expectancy.

By Lola Butcher 06.23.2020

In the United States, life expectancy at birth, a common way to measure a country’s health, rose steadily for decades — it was 69.9 years for a baby born in 1959 and 79.1 years for one born in 2014. Then it dropped for three consecutive years.

That did not surprise Stephen Bezruchka, a University of Washington health services researcher who wrote about the deterioration of US health status, as compared with other nations, in the 2012 Annual Review of Public Health. Nearly two decades ago, Bezruchka came up with the idea of a “Health Olympics,” in which the nations of the world compete on life expectancy. Japan is the current champion, with a life expectancy of 84.5 years, far ahead of the US.

Earlier this year, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that US life expectancy ticked up slightly — by 0.1 year — in 2018. (There are several ways to estimate life expectancy, which yield slightly different numbers. But the trends remain consistent.) We checked in with Bezruchka, who is also a medical doctor, for an update on his perspective. Have we turned the corner?

How are we doing in the Health Olympics?

If the race is how long we will live, the most recent data published last December in the United Nations Human Development Report, which ranks countries by length of life, puts us at number 36, meaning that 35 nations have longer lives than the US.

A baby born in the US in 2018 has a life expectancy of 78.9 years. Is life expectancy the most important indicator of a nation’s health?

It’s the easiest one for most people to understand. I think infant mortality — death under the age of 1 — may be a better indicator. But since everybody that you talk to has survived infancy, that’s not so meaningful to them. It’s the same with child mortality.

Graphic showing countries ranked by life expectancy (2018). Japan is first; US is 36th.
Stephen Bezruchka’s “Health Olympics” rank countries according to life expectancy at birth. The US currently places 36th, and some researchers predict it will fall to 64th by 2040.

The US has a child mortality problem?

In the US, the child mortality rate — that is, the proportion of children who die before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births — is 6. Compare that with Slovenia’s child mortality rate of 2.6, which shows what is achievable.

If the US had Slovenia’s child mortality rate, we would have 43 fewer children die every day in this country. That shows we tolerate a large number of deaths that needn’t occur. I have my students do this calculation because they are more likely to believe it if they look up the data themselves. I choose Slovenia because it has a longer life expectancy than we do and it’s also the country of birth of our First Lady. Slovenia doesn’t have the lowest child mortality rate, by the way; Finland and some other countries have lower rates.

How does life expectancy for whites in the US compare with that of other racial and ethnic groups? Do you see the same pattern in other countries?

Hispanic or Latinx life expectancy in the US is a little better than that of non-Latinx whites. African-American life expectancy is lower than for whites although the gap has been narrowing. The difference is now about three years, and that has come down from much higher.

We are the only country that systematically collects data by race; race is not a biological construct, so what is race? So to compare the US with other countries you have to get at the question indirectly. Brazil, the United States and Cuba are countries in which the largest segment of the population is white, but each has a relatively large black population. There was a study done by a Harvard professor in the 1990s that looked at life expectancy differences among blacks and whites in each of those countries. The difference was about one year in Cuba, but six or so years in Brazil and also in the United States.

In the 1950s, the US was one of the top 10 nations for life expectancy. What happened?

We have changed from a country that, in the 1950s, believed in economic justice. We had high tax rates on the rich, and we had welfare programs for other people. But we have changed from a community focus, or a collective focus, to one in which today we have to pursue our health as individuals.

I make two points about this. One is that early life — probably the first thousand days after conception, or up to around age 2 — is incredibly important for our health as adults. The risk for disease — heart disease, lung disease and others — is programmed in early life. You can’t give somebody a pill to redress childhood abuse and you can’t put a stent in a coronary artery to redress the stress resulting from the lack of support your parents gave in your early life. Every country in the world has a national policy that gives working moms paid time off work after they have babies, except for Papua New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific Island nations and the United States. We also have the most child poverty of all rich countries in the world. We don’t invest in the part of life that really matters.

We have learned that inequality kills.

Inequality kills?

The higher the income gap between the rich and the poor, the more stress we feel if we’re not on top. There are studies in the US showing, at the county level, that if you have a big gap between the rich and poor and you have high incomes in a county, you’re going to have more mass shootings, defined as four or more victims. Stress and frustration get acted out in different ways among different segments of the population. Obviously, not everybody is going to grab a gun and start shooting people. Anne Case and Angus Deaton at Princeton found that mortality rates were going up for white people in the 45-to-54 age range, unlike African-Americans and people in a half-dozen other rich countries. They looked at causes of death for these people and found high rates of alcohol-related illnesses, suicides and other conditions that they call “deaths of despair.”

Do your fellow doctors agree with you that inequality is to blame for America’s poor health status?

I think that has changed over time. When I first presented this at a conference of doctors in 1995, it made sense to some, and to some it was nonsense. About 10 years ago, these ideas became more acceptable. More doctors recognize our poor health status and some know it’s due to more than personal behavior. We have the health of a middle-income or poor country, in many respects.

If income inequality is the culprit, does that mean well-off Americans with good health habits are protected from our nation’s relatively short life expectancy?

Stress is the 21st century tobacco. We have learned that inequality kills.”

There are a couple of ways to look at this. Yes, richer people are going to have longer lives than poorer people. But studies comparing richer people in Europe versus richer people in the United States show longer life expectancy among the richer in Europe than here.

I want to read a quote from a book by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine — “US Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” — that came out in 2013: “Americans with healthy behaviors or those who are white, insured, college-educated or in upper-income groups appear to be in worse health than similar groups in comparison countries.”

That may be because of the tremendous amount of stress and frustration in our society, and everyone is affected. The nature of relationships changes in big-income-gap situations: We drive bigger cars to show that we are superior to others, and we wear designer clothes to make a statement. Some of these things may be harmless, but we have higher rates of heart disease and lung disease and almost all other causes of mortality, except for cancer, than comparable countries.

In a study that compared pain levels among different countries, the people in this country report more pain than people in the other rich countries. We consume more than half of the world’s opioids. Pain comes in two varieties, social pain and physical pain. And the stress and frustration that I’m talking about is a manifestation of social pain.

So better health habits aren’t the fix to our problem?

We tend, in this country, to think that the choices you make are what determine your health. But individual behaviors are less important for the health of a society than we think. Diet and exercise are important, but not as important as other factors in a society. We have the lowest rates of smoking on the list of 30-odd countries that I track in the Health Olympics, and Japan has the highest. In most of the European countries, people smoke much more than we do. And yet their lives are longer. It seems to matter which country you smoke in. We are now getting confirmatory evidence of this with a study that shows Finnish women are less harmed by cigarette smoking than women in the United States.

Perhaps we should spend more money on health care?

We spend more on medical care than any country in the world. Since our mortality and other health indicators are not so good, then it is logical that more medical care is not the solution.

The US needs to increase social spending. And that money should come from decreasing the income gap through taxation. Elizabeth Bradley at Yale was the first to compare social spending and medical-care spending among countries. And what you see is the healthier countries prioritize social spending, whereas we in the US focus on medical-care spending. The reason the other countries are healthier is they subsidize housing, early childhood education, transportation and so forth, which reduces inequality between rich and poor. And they have policies that support their citizens. You know, the United States has no national paid vacation law and all the other rich countries do. We have no paid parental leave laws at the national level. One study showed that if we had the average level of social spending of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — that’s the rich countries of the world — we would gain over 3.7 years in life expectancy.

How will Covid-19 affect our life expectancy in the US?

During the Great Depression, mortality dropped precipitously, and the same thing happened in other major recessions. It’s counterintuitive, but mortality tends to go up when business is booming. The reasons are variable, but when there is a recession people are not working as hard and have more time to spend with friends and family. Social support is really an important part of producing health.

So it’s quite possible that although there are many excess deaths from the pandemic, there may also be fewer deaths because the economy is tanking. Whether this will be true in this situation is hard to say at this point. This is quite speculative.

In 2018, US life expectancy increased slightly after three consecutive years of decreases. Are we heading back in the right direction?

We have the highest rate of opioid deaths of all high-income countries, and our opioid death rate, which has been rising, went down slightly from 2017 to 2018. That may be one of the explanations for our not falling further in 2018.

Here at the University of Washington, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation used some models to predict US ranking in life expectancy by 2040. They forecast that Spain will edge out Japan for first place in life expectancy by that time, and the United States will fall to 64th.

So I don’t think we’re going to see great improvements soon.


Lola Butcher, who writes about health-care policy, has a newfound interest in Japan. You can find her at and @lolabutcher.


Robert Reich, When Bosses Shared Their Profits, New York Times. Since the 1980s, profit-sharing has declined. It deserves to make a comeback.

Morris Pearl, Rich Americans like me should use our money and influence to end systemic racism, USA Today. Many rich people have no problem calling out police violence because the police play a scant role in their daily lives. These rich have a much harder time rethinking how their own economic success rests on the oppression of others.

Jason Solomon, In Minneapolis or Tallahassee, people of color are arrested while the wealthy white walk, Tallahassee Democrat. Only rich white people can get away with murder.
Editorial board, The Jobs We Need, New York Times. A compelling analysis of why the influence of the wealthy must be curbed for the voices of working people to be heard.

Ryan Bradley, The Social Codes of the Crazy Rich, Atlantic. The author of Crazy Rich Asians reflects on the dynamics of snobbery, the dance people take part in to prove they’re richer or smarter or better-stationed than someone else.

Nouriel Roubini, The Main Street Manifesto, Project Syndicate. Our racially and socially segregated educational system fosters the myth of meritocracy while consolidating the position of elites.

The Main Street Manifesto


The historic protests sweeping America were long overdue, not just as a response to racism and police violence, but also as a revolt against entrenched plutocracy. With a growing number of Americans falling into unemployment and economic insecurity, while major corporations take bailouts and slash labor costs, something had to give.

NEW YORK – The mass protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer are about systemic racism and police brutality in the United States, but also so much more. Those who have taken to the streets in more than 100 American cities are channeling a broader critique of President Donald Trump and what he represents. A vast underclass of increasingly indebted, socially immobile Americans – African-Americans, Latinos, and, increasingly, whites – is revolting against a system that has failed it.

  1. The Main Street ManifestoNOURIEL ROUBINI sees a new iteration of class struggle driving the wave of protests and revolts in America and elsewhere.62Add to Bookmarks


This phenomenon is not limited to the US, of course. In 2019 alone, massive demonstrations rocked Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, France, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Malaysia, and Pakistan, among other countries. Though these episodes each had different triggers, they all reflected resentment over economic malaise, corruption, and a lack of economic opportunities.4

The same factors help to explain populist and authoritarian leaders’ growing electoral support in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis, many firms sought to boost profits by cutting costs, starting with labor. Instead of hiring workers in formal employment contracts with good wages and benefits, companies adopted a model based on part-time, hourly, gig, freelance, and contract work, creating what the economist Guy Standing calls a “precariat.” Within this group, he explains, “internal divisions have led to the villainization of migrants and other vulnerable groups, and some are susceptible to the dangers of political extremism.”

The precariat is the contemporary version of Karl Marx’s proletariat: a new class of alienated, insecure workers who are ripe for radicalization and mobilization against the plutocracy (or what Marx called the bourgeoisie). This class is growing once again, now that highly leveraged corporations are responding to the COVID-19 crisis as they did after 2008: taking bailouts and hitting their earnings targets by slashing labor costs.

One segment of the precariat comprises younger, less-educated white religious conservatives in small towns and semi-rural areas who voted for Trump in 2016. They hoped that he would actually do something about the economic “carnage” that he described in his inaugural address. But while Trump ran as a populist, he has governed like a plutocrat, cutting taxes for the rich, bashing workers and unions, undermining the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and otherwise favoring policies that hurt many of the people who voted for him.

Before COVID-19 or even Trump arrived on the scene, some 80,000 Americans were dying every year of drug overdoses, and many more were falling victim to suicide, depression, alcoholism, obesity, and other lifestyle-related diseases. As economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton show in their book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, these pathologies have increasingly afflicted desperate, lower skilled, un- or under-employed whites – a cohort in which midlife mortality has been rising.


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But the American precariat also comprises urban, college-educated secular progressives who in recent years have mobilized behind leftist politicians like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. It is this group that has taken to the streets to demand not just racial justice but also economic opportunity (indeed, the two issues are closely intertwined).

This should not come as a surprise, considering that income and wealth inequality has been rising for decades, owing to many factors, including globalization, trade, migration, automation, the weakening of organized labor, the rise of winner-take-all markets, and racial discrimination. A racially and socially segregated educational system fosters the myth of meritocracy while consolidating the position of elites, whose children consistently gain access to the top academic institutions and then go on to take the best jobs (usually marrying one another along the way, thereby reproducing the conditions from which they themselves benefited).

These trends, meanwhile, have created political feedback loops through lobbying, campaign finance, and other forms of influence, further entrenching a tax and regulatory regime that benefits the wealthy. It is no wonder that, as Warren Buffett famously quipped, his secretary’s marginal tax rate is higher than his.

Or, as a satirical headline in The Onion recently put it: “Protesters Criticized for Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First.” Plutocrats like Trump and his cronies have been looting the US for decades, using high-tech financial tools, tax- and bankruptcy-law loopholes, and other methods to extract wealth and income from the middle and working classes. Under these circumstances, the outrage that Fox News commentators have been voicing over a few cases of looting in New York and other cities represents the height of moral hypocrisy.

It is no secret that what is good for Wall Street is bad for Main Street, which is why major stock-market indices have reached new highs as the middle class has been hollowed out and fallen into deeper despair. With the wealthiest 10% owning 84% of all stocks, and with the bottom 75% owning none at all, a rising stock market does absolutely nothing for the wealth of two-thirds of Americans.Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday

As the economist Thomas Philippon shows in The Great Reversal, the concentration of oligopolistic power in the hands of major US corporations is further exacerbating inequality and leaving ordinary citizens marginalized. A few lucky unicorns (start-ups valued at $1 billion or more) run by a few lucky twenty-somethings will not change the fact that most young Americans increasingly live precarious lives performing dead-end gig work.

To be sure, the American Dream was always more aspiration than reality. Economic, social, and intergenerational mobility have always fallen short of what the myth of the self-made man or woman would lead one to expect. But with social mobility now declining as inequality rises, today’s young people are right to be angry.

The new proletariat – the precariat – is now revolting. To paraphrase Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto: “Let the Plutocrat classes tremble at a Precariat revolution. The Precarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Precarious workers of all countries, unite!”7

  1. No More Free-Lunch BailoutsJun 25, 2020 MARIANA MAZZUCATO & ANTONIO ANDREONI
  2. The China “Constrainment” DoctrineJun 25, 2020 CHRIS PATTEN
  3. The Great Debt CleanupJun 23, 2020 DARON ACEMOGLU
  4. What the Global Pandemic Response Is MissingJun 22, 2020 ANNE O. KRUEGER
Nouriel Roubini

NOURIEL ROUBINI Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business and Chairman of Roubini Macro Associates, was Senior Economist for International Affairs in the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration. He has worked for the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve, and the World Bank. His website is

David Sirota, The Supreme Court Is A Corporate Star Chamber, TMI. The high court has become one of the most powerful weapons of billionaires and the businesses they run.

Alan Macleod, Covid-19 Exacerbating America’s Massive Wealth Inequality and Racial Divide, MintPress. Extreme levels of concentrated wealth are breaking down our civic life.

Mihai Andrei, What will the economy look like after the pandemic? Past crises suggest rising inequality, ZME Science. In our rush to restart the economy, we must not forget that leaving people behind can create even more trouble down the line.

Michael Stott, Latin America’s taxing problem, Financial Times. A colossal fall in regular tax revenues has eight nations in Latin America, the world’s most unequal region, warming to the notion of wealth taxes.

All Americans have been promised the right to pursue their own happiness. Implicit in that promise is a guarantee that we should all have the opportunities to make the most of our abilities and our effort.

The promise of the Declaration of Independence isn’t the certainty that we will all live happily ever after, but that we’ll merely have the chance to pursue our happiness. It’s the opportunity, not the outcome, that’s an inalienable right.

But, sadly, our nation is still a long way from providing equal opportunities for everyone. The circumstances of birth still matter more than they should. Being born into poverty — or being born black, or female — is still a handicap, no matter how brilliant and hard-working you are. And being born into privilege (such as being born wealthy, or white, or male) still gives some people a head start.

Race and class still matter a lot in America.

If you are skeptical, you should take note of two recent books that illustrate my points about race and class in sharp detail. The first is “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute, who shows how the federal government was instrumental in creating and maintaining the system of housing segregation that still denies African Americans equal opportunities to participate in the economy.

The segregation that was institutionalized by Washington (aided by state and local governments as well as by powerful industries such as banking, insurance, and real estate) in the 1920s through the 1960s meant that whites got lots of privileges not available to blacks.

CBO Scorecard: Senate Health Bill Leaves Millions Uninsured

Those privileges have persisted, generations after the policies were changed. The legacy of racist government policies still segregate the races.

With government-subsidized mortgages, whites could buy suburban houses, away from the pollution and crime of crowded slums, giving them access to better schools and a head start in amassing some wealth, and putting them close to convenient transportation to jobs. Blacks could not take advantage of those programs, because they were for whites only by design.

Zoning regulations, and policies about where to build schools, factories, highways and toxic waste dumps further divided the races.

By and large, the housing patterns established in the 1940s and 1950s still influence where people live today.

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It’s no wonder, then, that the median white family had $95,000 in wealth in 2013 (the most up-to-date data available), while net worth of the median black family was just $11,000. For most people, “wealth” means “home equity.”

Even after stripping out the effects of occupation, education, income, age and family structure, the wealth gap between black and white is apparent. It’s not effort or skills; it’s the legacy of racism.

The wealth gap means white families are more secure financially. Their wealth allows them to better weather the storms of joblessness or illness or family stress, and it gives them assets to invest in a small business, or for retirement, or for their children’s education. It keeps families together. It gives children a head start.

That brings us to the next book, “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It” by Richard Reeves, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Both poverty and privilege are partially inherited. Children born at the bottom are unlikely to rise very far, regardless of their skills. Children born at the top tend to stay there. BROOKINGS INSTITUTION

Reeves notes that it’s very difficult for children born into poor or working-class families to move into the top tier of the economic elite. Generally, those born into the top fifth of families in terms of income have a good chance of staying at the top, even if they don’t have the skills or drive to make it there on their own. There’s very little intergenerational economic mobility.

The top 1% or even the top 0.01% have much of the wealth in America. But those elites employ an army of professionals — lawyers, bankers, journalists, technocrats, academics, managers, bureaucrats — who collectively have a lot of political and economic power.

The top 1% has lots of money, but the top 20% has lots of votes. It’s no surprise that many government policies benefit them. They see free trade, easy immigration, and dog-eat-dog capitalism as good things, not understanding that those less privileged have good reason to think otherwise.

Most of the assistance the government dishes out to help citizens pay for housing and to help them save for retirement or college goes to the top 20% — the people who don’t need the help.

Reeves charges that the top 20% are hoarding all the opportunity, hoarding all the dreams. It’s not that they are bad people; it’s that they feel entitled. They feel they have earned what they have on merit. They are smart, hard-working and successful, unconscious of how much they owe their success to winning the birth lottery.

They want to give their children every opportunity to succeed. So they buy houses in the best school districts. Their children attend the best universities, even if they don’t deserve admission on their own ability. Their children get the unpaid internships that are an essential pathway into the elite world of law, finance, academia and the media. Their children have the connections gained from traveling in the right circles their whole lives.

The top 20% perpetuate their privilege, which perpetuates inequality.

If resources were unlimited, it wouldn’t matter, because anyone who could take advantage of an elite university education would have the opportunity. But resources are limited, so every opportunity taken by the top 20% is one less available to a brilliant, talented, hard-working kid from a blue-collar background.

The top 20% have convinced themselves that they deserve their place at the top. Yes, they have the skills and work ethic necessary to succeed, but they don’t realize that others less fortunately born could also develop those skills if given the opportunity.

Most importantly, where you live often determines which educational opportunities are available for your children. We’ve always believed that education is the great equalizer, but segregated housing across racial and class lines means the best schools are only available to those who are already privileged to some degree.

As we celebrate the 241st anniversary of the founding of our nation, let’s remember why we are still struggling with inequality.