Homelessness, wealth distribution, and voting controversies have plagued and still are plaguing the United States of America. Arguments have been made that the three of these problems are all interconnected and that taken together, these problems form a bigger picture that reflect the systemic issues that the United States of America is facing today. Homelessness is mainly a factor of the economy and the housing bubble and it also disproportionately affects veterans. Wealth distribution has led to a large gap in income and power between the classes. Voting controversies have been a part of United States history for as long as the United States has been a country.
Homelessness has been a systemic problem in the United States for a long time and homelessness among veterans up until recently has been increasing at an alarming rate. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), veterans account for 11 percent of the adult homeless population and that is after a 17 percent decrease in homeless veterans recorded by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While any homeless person being homeless is unfortunate, having it be people who sacrificed for our country when it was not required of them is even more sad, and the 45 percent of homeless veterans are of African American or Hispanic descent, despite only making up 10.4 percent and 3.4 percent of the veteran population respectively (NCHV). United States mental health facilities have been in dire need of repair in order to help the majority of veterans that suffer from mental illness, alcohol abuse, and/or substance abuse (NCHV).
A large factor in homelessness is the health of the economy. The debate over a minimum wage versus a livable wage is not a complicated one, if the major corporations of the country would give up a tiny portion of their hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and pay workers a wage with which they could use to increase their quality of life, the issue of homelessness would be greatly impacted (Wilds). An effective taxing system that makes people pay their fair share is required to help battle the homeless epidemic that plagues this country. Letting the corporations get away only paying a small amount of their profits and forcing the average American to pay an exorbitant amount of their paycheck is a completely unjust system. Furthermore, allowing corporations to find loopholes so that they do not have to pay the small amount that is asked of them is a crime against humanity (Wilds). A result of the unjust taxing mechanisms of the country that further the divide between the very rich and the very poor which emphasizes the homeless problem is income inequality. Income inequality is something that plagues the country and allows the rich to get richer and drives the poor into even further poverty and sometimes homelessness.
The housing bubble caused rampant homelessness and forced the average American into poverty while the one percent were bailed out and did not have to face any consequences. The Great Recession caused people to lose faith in many American institutions such as the banking institutions and in turn that caused a fall in availability due to banks metaphorically closing their doors in order to protect their assets and leave the common American for the wolves. The interest rates were artificially low which let people who otherwise would not be able to get a loan get a loan and caused the banks to lower their standards for handing out loans (Wilds). Subprime mortgages are mortgages that the banks hand out to people who have a poor credit rating and would not normally be able to get a mortgage. The lack of regulations caused the housing crisis and left so many Americans homeless. Regulations are a safety net that prevent disasters from happening and the lack of them in 2009 is one of the main factors in the crash that left so many people homeless.
A possible solution to homelessness is increasing funding for mental health facilities as well as substance abuse and alcohol abuse facilities. Lowering the pricing of housing in order to allow people who are not as fortunate as the rest of us would change the way that homelessness affects the country. Another possible solution is to have the government dole out housing to the needy until they can get back on their feet. Taxing the rich and using that tax money to benefit the less fortunate is another answer to the problem of homelessness.
Wealth distribution has caused a divide between the very rich and the very poor that has been growing for years. Wealth distribution is exemplified by estate taxes which are taxes that the estate of a recently deceased person pays the government because the beneficiaries of the estate did nothing to earn that money and will still be getting a fortune (Wilds). According to Domhoff, only 1.6 percent of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance (Domhoff). Domhoff also has very interesting numbers on home ownership, stating that among homeowners, whites have a median annual household income of $54,000 while blacks and Hispanics have $30,000 and $32,000 respectively (Domhoff). Income inequality is another driving force of the completely lopsided wealth distribution. While there are those that believe that having a progressive tax system will ultimately end income inequality completely, Domhoff argues that it really does not accomplish what it is supposed to because the one percent end up paying less than the next nine percent (Domhoff).
Differences in income are not the same as differences in wealth, income is what people earn from work as well as from dividends, interest, and any rents or royalties that are paid to them on properties they own (Domhoff). Wealth is the value of everything a person owns minus all of their debts (Domhoff). Income distribution is often used as a power indicator, meaning that people who have a higher income are often more powerful than people with a lower income. In a table shown by Domhoff, the top one percent made 17.2 percent of all income in 2009, which is a dramatic increase from just 12.8 percent in 1982 (Domhoff). In 2013, the top ten percent of wealth owners owned 84 percent to 94 percent of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and almost 80 percent of non-home real estate which can then be used to calculate that the same ten percent owned all of America (Domhoff). The minimum wage versus livable wage debate is one that could be easily ended by simply stating that from 1990 to 2005, the purchasing power of the minimum wage had decreased by 9.3 percent taking inflation into account, while during that same period CEO wages grew by just under 300 percent when adjusted for inflation (Domhoff).
Power in America is balanced on keeping the wealth distribution heavily in favor of the very rich in order to keep the rest of America in their grip. Taxes are one way that the powerful stay powerful in America, by lobbying members of Congress, they are able to create a tax system that is beneficial to them and only them. With President Donald Trump’s new tax “reform”, the mega-corporations of the United States will get 1.4 trillion dollars while the average American will see a noticeable increase in their taxes (Wilds). CEO’s have always been paid an exorbitant amount, but as shown previously in this paper, their wages have grown disproportionately compared to the rest of wages. CEO wages have increased because of the fact that they appoint their friends to the company board and have them vote for a higher annual wage for them as well as better benefits and in exchange, they do the same for their friends (Domhoff). The Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates for what is called soft money by allowing the corporations of America to donate to campaigns, declaring money a form of free-speech. The court case has allowed corporations to donate to campaigns which has had the effect of politicians becoming shills of their donors.
In my opinion, solutions to the problem of wealth distribution are not complicated, what is needed is a fair tax system that makes the rich pay their fair share and does not allow for loopholes in the system so that it would be impossible for the rich to get out of paying their fair share. Overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission would also do a lot in diminishing the problem of wealth distribution by stopping the funneling of money into campaigns from large corporations and breaking the dependency politicians have on large donors which lead to a feeling of servitude that they get towards their donors. Raising the minimum wage so that a family could have a decent living and not have to scrape the barrel to buy food is something that could impact wealth distribution.
Voting controversies have impacted the United States for generations, though there has been much to try and defeat these controversies; whether it is the 14th amendment, which gave African-Americans equal protection under the law and therefore the right to vote or the women's suffrage movement of the early 20th century and the addition of the 19th amendment all the way to the civil rights movement of the 1960’. and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People with evil intentions have always found a way to infringe on the rights of those who they believe to be less than human. Gerrymandering is something that has been used to suppress voting since its creation in the early 1800s by Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry. The process of gerrymandering is used to minimize the amount of votes that somebody of the opposing party gets while also maximizing one’s own votes. This is accomplished through the creation of oddly shaped districts that put people into the district based solely on a cold, political calculation.
In the past, poll taxes and poll tests have been used in the United States, mainly in the south, as a way to stop the African Americans from being able to cast their vote and have an influence on society. Poll taxes were payments that were to be paid for the privilege of voting, they were often steep prices that nobody, much less an African American of the time, would be able to pay. Since they would not have the money, voters would have to leave the polling station without having cast a ballot. Poll tests were similar to poll taxes except for the fact that a poll test was a test often comprised of deeply complicated constitutional questions that one would have to complete and get a certain score on to be able to vote. Though, even if one was able to get achieve the score required to pass, the test-giver would often lie and say that you had not gotten the number of answers correct required to pass. This was all put to an end with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which deemed poll taxes and poll tests illegal under the 14th amendment equal protection clause.
There have been court cases and legislative actions that have also exasperated the voting controversies of the country by striking down laws and allowing for the return of days when White supremacy ran wild. One case that does just that is Shelby County v. Holder which, in 2013, found that section 4b of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave the federal government the authority of local elections that had a history of racist and/or discriminatory behavior. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision “The Court held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act imposes current burdens that are no longer responsive to the current conditions in the voting districts in question. Although the constraints this section places on specific states made sense in the 1960s and 1970s, they do not any longer and now represent an unconstitutional violation of the power to regulate elections that the Constitution reserves for the states” (Oyez). There have been states that either move or close the polling center in order to stop people of the opposition from voting (Wilds). Stopping people from voting nowadays is most commonly accomplished by not accepting certain forms of identification and stopping same day registration. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been quoted saying “I guess I really actually feel that we shouldn’t change the voting process to accommodate the urban voter turnout machine.” (Wilds) When Mr. Abbott says “urban”, it is obvious that he is talking about African Americans and other people of color, as they are the ones that primarily live in urban areas. His goal is to suppress their vote as much as possible in order to fulfill his cruel agenda. Another plot to suppress voting is not accepting certain forms of identification such as student ID when concealed carry permits are acceptable forms of ID, since the majority of college students are left-leaning and the majority of concealed carry license owners are right-leaning, this stops one side from being heard and stops them from being able to voice their opinion.
Solutions to the problem of voting controversies are to reinstate section 4b of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and broaden it to stop people like Greg Abbott from achieving his goals. Another solution is making a federal law that forces states to accept many different forms of identification. A third possible solution is to make gerrymandering unconstitutional and give the power of drawing districts to a non-partisan board who create districts fairly or input the required data into a computer where it can be truly non-partisan.
In conclusion, the bigger picture of systemic problems in the United States is formed of many smaller, interconnected problems, three being homelessness, wealth distribution, and voting controversies. There are solutions to these problems, but people have to be willing to undergo an intellectual revolution in order for any lasting change to take effect.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Professor Leah Wilds
Who Rules America? By G. William Domhoff