Mississippi Delta Children, photo by Dorothea Lange 1936
Last night I watched the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS as I do most Friday nights. Sometimes it is more than I can handle as I can get very depressed about the truth of this world. But last night's show made me want to do something, made me feel like I can do something, I don't know what just yet, but I will do something.
He began the show saying,
"The other day, I came across a report in the October issue of a medical journal. It's a study done by Boston's Children's Hospital and the Harvard Medical School which found that uninsured children were over three times more likely to die from their trauma-related injuries than children who were commercially insured. In other words, it could be a matter of life and death, whether a child lives or dies depends on whether the family is rich or poor. The report is just one indication of a rapidly accelerating gap that cuts right to the core of democracy."
In this show Bill Moyers references several works on inequality in America. Among these is The Spirit Level - Why greater equality makes societies stronger, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett,
among their findings:
- The most unequal countries have more homicide, more obesity, more mental illness, more teen pregnancy, more high-school dropouts, and more people in prison.
- The more equal the society, the longer its people live.
- The United States has the greatest inequality of income of any developed country except Singapore.
The United States is one of the most economically stratified societies in the western world. As The Wall Street Journal reported, a 2008 study found that the top .01% — or 14,000 American families — hold 22.2% of wealth. The bottom 90%, or over 133 million families, control just 4% of the nation's wealth.
The discussion in inequality of wealth was blanketed by the deeper issue of racism and the lack of justice in this country for minorities. One of the authors is also a lawyer and he spoke of a young black man that he represented who is now in prison for life without parol under the three strikes law. The man had committed four misdemeanors - stealing a bike, urinating in public and two other insignificant violations. The discussion was the most eloquent one I have heard on the cultural impact of images, economics and misuse of broad laws that keep blacks down. We used to call people racist, but it isn't that simple - the society at large is racist and although we cannot point fingers we should do something about it.
You can read an edited transcript here.