Sunday, April 26, 2015
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In today’s media-saturated America, everyone has an opinion. From Bill O’Reilly to Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow – there is no shortage of viewpoints. But how many of those perspectives bring you back to a place of passionate, persistent prayer for the nation?

“Viewpoint” allows the expression on the political, social and moral issues of the day. At times, you may not agree. But in the end, you will be energized to pray for America, with the prism of Scripture and a decidedly Godly direction as your guide. Plus, you can blog your comments to every article, have your say.

Read – then pray with an enlightened, more informed viewpoint for your nation and its leaders. 

The Rise of Sherwood Forest

View Point

Are Americans aware of just how rich the wealthy are?

By Louie Christensen

Do you remember the Occupy Wall Street Movement? Looking back on the media blitz, it is very obvious that its failure was self inflicted. The rush was so sudden, and so over the top that it quickly lost credibility among the majority of American citizens, especially Republicans. When it was all said and done, the term “Occupier” conjured up the same imagery as “Squatter.” But, is there a chance that some important facts about America’s wealth distribution were lost in the chaos?

Recently Frank Rich, an essayist who has held various positions within The New York Times, met with actor/comedian Chris Rock to discuss current events. Rich made the statement “For all the current conversation about income inequality, class is still sort of the elephant in the room.” Rock came back with, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the street.” This topic has become very difficult to separate from politics, but Rock brings up an interesting question. Do American’s really know how rich the wealthy are?

In a recent poll, Michael Norton (a business professor at Harvard) and Dan Ariely (a New York Times bestselling author) asked more than 5,000 Americans (varying in economical and political affiliation) to estimate the wealth held by each fifth of the American population. They were also asked what they believed to be an ideal wealth distribution, as well as what they estimated the distribution to be. Now, it is important to note that the term “distribution” is not meant in a take-and-give kind of way – ala Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest fame – but rather as a “current spread.” For example: the distribution of Green Bay Packers football jerseys is higher in Wisconsin than in New Mexico.

Before looking at the results, think for a moment…from the wealthiest fifth, to the poorest fifth, what percentage of wealth do you think each class holds?

In the study, each of the political/economical groups’ Ideal Distribution was very similar; the wealthiest had the largest percentage, and each of the next groups had smaller percentages respectfully. That’s right, people earning over $100,000 a year would like to see the wealth distributed in a very similar fashion to those who earned less than $50,000. Same for those who voted Republican or Democrat. When the groups were then asked to estimate the current state of the wealth distribution, the results were very telling.

Each group estimated the top fifth richest citizens earned between 20 to 30 percent more than their ideal distribution. The money was drained from the lower-middle class and the poorer class to feed the huge wealth increase at the top. The differences between the ideal, the estimated and the actual distribution is striking.

The common belief in the study was that the richest fifth owns 59 percent of the wealth, and the bottom two fifths holds nine percent. The reality is very different. The top fifth owns 84 percent of the wealth, the bottom 40 percent owns zero point three percent of the wealth. To put that sliver into perspective…the Walton family, the owners of Wal-Mart, have more wealth than 42 percent of American families combined.

Just last week Dan Price, the CEO and founder of Gravity Payments (a merchant service company with over 120 employees), announced to his staff that they’d all be getting pay raises. Everyone at the company would be making a minimum of $70,000 a year. For some, that means their pay would be doubled. Where is the money coming from? Price will no longer be pulling in his multi-million dollar yearly salary. He saw it as the right decision for his company, so he went for it. Do you think more CEO’s will follow suit?

It is just about impossible to talk about this topic without infuriating someone on either side of the argument. But, what the study shows without any reasonable doubt is that the average American doesn’t actually understand the reality of this country’s distribution of wealth. Everyone across the board assumed it was more equal than it truly is. Likewise, each group’s ideal spread ended up distributing close to 50 percent of the wealthiest’s money across the wealth spectrum.

This week pray that Americans seek knowledge and understanding before action. Pray that companies begin making the right decisions for their own employees and staff before those on the outside force them to make a change. But, more than anything, pray for discernment for both the business and the political world.

Louie has been writing articles, short stories and travel essays for several years. He is a guest teacher for honors English classes at a high school in Tucson and a frequent contributor to the Presidential Prayer Team. Louie currently lives and works in Phoenix as an Account Executive for a major tech company.

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