The income gap between wealthy and poor Americans continues to increase and one of the results is that the life expectancy of those at the top continues to grow, while those at the bottom are living fewer years than those who are benefiting from the country’s economy.
According to a report released last week by the Government Accounting Office, the income gap is a factor in the deaths of Americans who find themselves on the margins of our society. Some are dying from inadequate health care, poor nutrition and, in some cases, suicide.
The report found that 75% of wealthy Americans who were between the ages of 49 and 70 in 1992 were still living in 2014. However, slightly more than half of all poor Americans in the same age range in 1992 as the rich were alive in 2014.
The report found that poor women were actually living fewer years than their mothers, and that Black women and men who were poor lived fewer years than Whites.
The White House and its supporters are quick to point to a declining poverty rate in America, but they seldom bother to recognize that all people are not participating in the nation’s economy on an equal footing.
The administration seems hostile to increased funding for public schools, employment programs, affordable health care and livable wages, which are all recognized as steps that would allow people to lift themselves out of poverty, raise their families, purchase homes and educate their children.
Even though Americans are living longer lives, they are experiencing more difficulty as they live than those who were their age a decade or two before them. For instance, increasing numbers of senior citizens, even those who have reached retirement age, find it necessary to work just to pay their bills.
According to the report, the number of Americans over the age of 55 who are still active in the workforce has increased significantly. Twenty years ago, 30% of those over the age of 55 were still working. That percentage has increased to 40% today.
We must close the income and wealth gaps in our country. They are adversely impacting the health of our nation in very negative ways. It is unacceptable, and it is dangerously unfair.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. She also chairs the House committee on Science, Space and Technology.