Amber Waves of Green - a fascinating look at income disparity in the U.S. by Jon Ronson for GQ
Jon Ronson wanted to look at income disparity in America in a more organic, interesting way than just statistics. The resulting article is deeply personal, fascinating, and alarming all at the same time.
I’d worked out that there are six degrees of economic separation between a guy making ten bucks an hour and a Forbes billionaire, if you multiply each person’s income by five. So I decided to journey across America to meet one representative of each multiple. By connecting these income brackets to actual people, I hoped to understand how money shapes their lives—and the life of the country—at a moment when the gap between rich and poor is such a combustible issue. Everyone in this story, then, makes roughly five times more than the last person makes. There’s a dishwasher in Miami with an unbelievably stressful life, some nice middle-class Iowans with quite difflcult lives, me with a perfectly fine if frequently anxiety-inducing life, a millionaire with an annoyingly happy life, a multimillionaire with a stunningly amazing life, and then, finally, at the summit, this great American eagle, Wayne, who tells me he’s “pissed off” right now.
The scariest part of this, for me, was placing my family on this income scale. If Tier 6 is the poorest and Tier 1 the wealthiest, I would place my parents somewhere between Tiers 4 and 5. They take vacations, have retirement funds and rainy day funds, and they put me through college.
My family is very comfortable, and we rank in the bottom half of Ronson’s income tier system! When I think about the amount of wealth just sitting up there in Tiers 1 and 2, and all the good it could be doing, I am disgusted. It’s past time to raise the tax rates on the wealthiest in this country.