Inequality Defines the American Election

Marianne Schneider-Petsinger

Chatham House

Marianne Schneider-Petsinger is a Geoeconomics Non-Resident Fellow at AICGS. She is geoeconomics fellow in the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House, responsible for analysis at the nexus of political and economic issues. Before joining Chatham House, she managed the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue – an international membership body representing consumer organizations in the EU and US. She also worked on transatlantic economic issues at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) in Washington, DC and at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the German state of Thuringia. Her research interest lies in the area of trade and transatlantic economic cooperation. Marianne completed her graduate studies focusing on international trade and finance at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University) and the John F Kennedy School (Harvard University). She holds a BA in International Affairs and Economics from the University of Maine. Marianne is originally from Germany and spent almost ten years in the US. She is now based in London.

She is a 2016-2017 participant in AICGS’ project “A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation: Global Responsibility, Joint Engagement,” sponsored by the Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi).

The U.S. election is less than a month away. With so much focus on the large gap between the rich and the poor in this year’s race, a slightly altered version of James Carville’s 1992 mantra captures the election quite well: “It’s the inequality, stupid.”

Inequality divides the United States. In 2015, the top 5 percent of Americans earned about 16 times more than the bottom 10 percent. There has been some recent positive news on closing the income gap from the Census Bureau, indicating that the median household income rose by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015. This was the first increase since 2007 and the largest one-year gain on record. Income gains were stronger for those at the lower end of the income distribution. But another look at the data offers a much more sobering perspective. Accounting for inflation, the average American is bringing home 2.4 percent less than in 1999. The adjusted incomes of poorer households have been stagnant for even longer — approximately 40 years — while households near the top of the income scale have seen their living standards rise. Continue reading on Real Clear World.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.