Martin Luther King Jr. Student EssaysJanuary 2015
Motherlode Martin Luther King Jr.
2015 Annual Essay Contest
5-6 / 7-8 Topic:
“This will be the day when we shall bring into full realization the dream of American democracy—a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few…” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., AFL-CIO Convention, 1961
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not only fought for civil rights, but he fought against economic inequality. Read the quote and write a 250 to 500 word essay answering the following questions.
- What do you think economic inequality (poverty) is?
- What does economic inequality look like in Tuolumne County or California?
- Have you seen or experienced economic inequality in Tuolumne County or California?
- What can you do as an individual to promote economic equality?
- What can the community do?
High School Topic:
Over 45 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that economic inequality was one of the most important problems in the U.S. How important is economic inequality today? What do you believe should be done about it?
“I still have a dream that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well being for their bodies, culture for their minds and freedom for their spirits.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ebenezer Church, July 4, 1965
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The problem is that we all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.” Though many years have passed, I still believe that economic inequality is a problem. Because of socialism for the rich, and rugged capitalism for the poor, the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. I believe the government should help regulate the economy so everyone is at least living above the poverty line. Economic inequality is the reason that so many people in America are living in poverty, because many people in power are not helping in the right ways.
Many people say that it should not be the government’s responsibility to make sure people are financially stable; they believe it should be a person’s own responsibility to take care of themselves. But through America’s system of free market capitalism, the successful sellers and producers of goods make substantial profit while the people working for them and actually physically making the products are often horribly exploited and not paid nearly enough to survive. Economic inequality is not something that can be fixed through a person’s own hard work. The government needs to change the way things are being done in our economy because the way it is now is only helping the rich.
I don’t believe the government is doing as much as they need to be doing to help regulate economic inequality. I believe it should be a government imposed policy that a set percentage of a company’s shareholders profits should be taken and then used to help raise their workers pay. Theoretically, that would also mean that companies that have higher profits would be able to pay their workers more, while smaller companies could possibly lose significant profit by doing this, and their workers would also be paid less than people working for larger companies. Of course, simply doing this would not completely solve the problem of economic inequality. Other than that, large, profitable companies should also move their factories from foreign countries to America to help provide jobs to unemployed American people, and in addition, moving factories to America would boost our economy and give us more self-sufficiency.
Personally, I have faced the effects of economic inequality. My mom has always had a full time job working 40+ hours a week, and we’ve always struggled to make ends meet. Economic inequality ultimately leads to poverty and less than ideal living standards. I believe this is simply because many jobs don’t pay enough to support a family of any size. Also more often than not, wealthy people in power may be very greedy, and unwilling to help others, due to the fact that they want to stay in the most elite social rank. I think the best way for economic inequality to be solved is for the government to constitute policies that would change the way wealth is distributed throughout any company that has many workers and shareholders.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” King’s economic dream was for the government to obliterate poverty by making sure every American had a guaranteed justifiable income. Poverty in the U.S. is a vast problem, the gap between upper and lower class is growing bigger. To even out this gap the federal minimum wage should be raised, not only will this help shorten the gap between rich and poor, it will put more money into circulation for our economy.
Before the French Revolution in 1789, during the Ancien Regime, only 2% of the population was considered upper class. These were people in the 1st Estate, the Church, and 2nd Estate, the Nobility. The other 98% were in the 3rd Estate, the lower class, due to their heredity. Although during the French Revolution, there was a section of the 3rd Estate called the Bourgeoisie, who were wealthy, most everyone in the 3rd Estate was poor. Like in the French Revolution, today in America the upper class is only 3.6% of the population, and they take home 20% of our country’s total income. The rest of America is in the middle, working, or lower classes. Obviously economic inequality is a big deal and something needs to change. After President Obama’s State of the Union address on February 12, 2013 he proposed raising minimum wage to $9 an hour from its current $7.25. Chairman Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio both strongly opposed. Paul Ryan stated during an interview the evening after the Presidents address, “The goal ought to be is to get people out of entry level jobs into better jobs, better paying jobs. That’s better education and a growing economy… I don’t think raising minimum wage — and history is very clear about this — doesn’t actually accomplish those goals.” Rubio said, “In fact, the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people…We have a lot of history to prove that the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage does not grow the middle class.” However they have history all wrong, raising the minimum wage results in high wages, more economic flow, and no proven job losses.
The Industrial Revolution was the first time that the working class had access to a steady source of income. Due to the fact that this type of large workforce and amount of work available was so new there was no labor laws in place nor minimum wages. Workers would work for almost nothing and be worked long hours. There was no middle class, only the poor working class, very upper class, and wealthy corporation owners. The gap between wealthy and poor was vast. If there had been a minimum wage would that have been different? Today If you’re an adult, with a family to look after and you are working a minimum wage job at $7.25 an hour for a 40-hour workweek for a full year, you’ll put only $15,080 in your pocket.. If you’re a two-person household that puts you right on the poverty line. For a family of three, if you’re working a minimum wage job, you’re below the poverty line, which is $18,287. What if you are a single mother? Trying to raise your children? The wage is barely livable. A study published in November 2010 in the Review of Economics and Statistics, found “no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.” Another study that was published in 2011 “found no impact on hours worked or employment levels.”A study of the minimum wage, done by economists David Card and Alan Krueger, found that job creation was actually strengthened by an increase in the minimum wage. This result has been found over and over again.
For America to fill the gap of economic inequality we need to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. This will help American’s single mothers, families down on luck, young couples, and college students. It will also put more money into our countries economic flow. This is the best solution, and 80% of America agrees.