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‘Inequality for All’ discussion panel examines hard economic truths

03/05/2014

Inequality is considered by many to be a growing problem in the United States.

On Monday, February 24, students and teachers alike gathered in the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library to attend a follow-up panel on the film “Inequality for All” by Robert Reich, shown at the Leon Cole Auditorium Thursday, February 20th.

The movie as well as the film was put on by the American Democracy Project, a creation of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

According to Dr. Lori Owens of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, JSU has been involved with the ADP since 2007. The film was displayed at all ADP colleges, but the follow-up panel was created by JSU in January.

The panel consisted of three JSU faculty members: Dr. Tim Barnett, Department of Political Science and Public Administration; Dr. Doris Bennett, Department of Economics; Dr. Jeremy Ross, Department of Sociology.

“According to a study by the Congressional Research Service in 2012, the poorest 50 percent of Americans own just one percent of the national wealth,” said Dr. Barnett. “The richest 400 families in our economy have more wealth than the poorest 80 million families,” added Dr. Bennett. “Income inequality is a reality.”

The United States ranks just 64th in income equality. According to Dr. Bennett, most Americans are unaware of just how large the equality gap is. “Seventy percent of our economy depends on consumption of goods,” said Dr. Bennett. With people not being able to buy these goods, she said, the economy has difficulty growing.

Dr. Ross spoke about the relationship between income inequality and other forms of inequality, such as gender and race. “We need to see it (income) within its social and especially its historical context, because these things really matter,” said Dr. Ross. According to Dr. Ross, issues such as a decline in labor unions and the lack of a “living wage” have widened the gap.

A PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Barnett explained the inequality situation, as well as displaying two viewpoints from opposite ends of the political spectrum: Robert Reich with his book “Beyond Outrage,” and Mark Levin with his book “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic”.

After discussing these ideas, Dr. Barnett proposed some of his own solutions for solving inequality.

After the presentation the panelists were able to answer questions from members of the audience.

The discussion panel was well-received by the students present. “I liked it. I disagreed with a few of them (opinions), but I can see the light in them as well. It gives me something to want to go back and study further into, formulate some more of my own opinions,” said Drew Long, a sophomore at JSU majoring in Political Science and History. “I already knew there was extreme inequality; I just didn’t know it was that great.”

Carlos Acosta, a graduate assistant at the Political Science Department involved in the ADP, also had a favorable opinion: “I thought it was a good presentation; it brings a lot of issues to light that a lot of people, especially young people, are going to be facing in the not-too-distant future.”

The ADP has more events, such as one celebrating Constitution Day, planned for the future.

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