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Economic Crisis and Inequality

Low-wage workers have to face a wide range of difficulties; the greatest of them is the fear of losing their jobs. This sphere is characterized by constant turnover of the personnel, thus every employee feels uncertain about his or her position in the company. In her book Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich argues that these people have to endure the disrespect of the society; in particular there is a widely-held opinion that they do not have skills and do only menial tasks. The author points out that this is just a common stereotype because some jobs such as work in restaurants, manufacturing enterprises demands proficiency, psychical strength, patience and so forth, but only very few can appreciate it (Ehrenreich, 2001). Apart from that, they run great risk of workplace injuries, but they are not always insured against them. As a rule, this layer of the population cannot even receive appropriate medical services. The major problem is that society is quite content with such situation and practically no one seems to be concerned with their hardships.

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President Franklin Roosevelt proposed new policy, which is now known as the New Deal in order to stabilize the economy of the United States. From modern standpoint, it can be considered as planned economy, which means that the government takes control over large and small companies. The essence of this course lied in the restriction of leading corporations and antimonopoly policies. In turn, this gave rise to the growth of small businesses in the country (Himmelberg, 2001). At that moment, it was arguably the only way to bring the US from the brink of collapse. In sharp contrast, modern community can be called the Ownership Society. Its major features are free trade and laisser-faire capitalism. The state does not interfere into private business that operates practically independently. Unlike the New Deal, this type of society is very unstable, financial crisis of 2008 is the brightest example of this instability (Skolnick et al, 2007). As a result average citizens are not secured against unexpected layoffs and losing their assets. However, the New Deal could be effective only in case of emergence like the Great Depression but in normal conditions constant intervention would have led only to the stagnation of economy.

Current economic policy of the United States can be defined as laisser-faire capitalism, which is non-intervention of the state. It often produces detrimental effects especially on low-wage workers who can be made redundant due to the constant off-shoring of American jobs and illegal immigration (Gianaris, 1997). Nonetheless, this approach still remains the dominant one. There are several reasons for such attitude of the state: first laisser-faire capitalism is beneficial to the key policy- makers, i.e. leading companies, which affect the decisions taken the President, Senate and Congress. Secondly, there is practically no alternative to this economic policy. Provided that the state decides to impose restrictions on private business, the economic and financial systems of the country would decline as it once happened in the Soviet Union. In addition to that, this will stifle the competition among companies and overall productivity will diminish. Yet, in some cases the government, which is responsible for the well-being of the nation, turns into a passive observer of events and this is undoubtedly impermissible.

The period of 1980-2000 was marked by dramatic changes in the distribution of wealth in the US. At the present moment eleven percents of the population hold approximately seventy six percents of the nations wealth, while some layers of the society do not have even 1 percent (Commons, 2008). It should be borne in mind that at the beginning of eighties the distribution of income was much more dispersed. In other words, there were no such disparities between the rich and the poor. There are several theories that explain this growing inequality. Some scholars claim that during these decades the US government adopted several legislative acts that reaffirmed the principle of governmental non-interference. They gave private business a free hand and this course was contrary to the New Deal. Eventually, leading companies became virtually uncontrollable (Gianaris, 1996, Skolnick et al, 2007). In point of fact, they have turned into the key drivers of American policies in recent years, while social protection has weakened. This has brought benefits only to a very limited circle of the US citizens.

It is rather difficult to compare the standards of living among American and European children. On the one hand, both these regions have been significantly affected by the recent economic crisis, which certainly was not conducive to the well-being of the growing generation. Moreover, the income rate in the United States and Western Europe was relatively the same. However, we should pay attention to the demographic structure of the US society: many ethnic minorities especially children of African-Americans or Hispanics lived beyond the line of poverty even before the recession (Commons, 2008). Afterwards their living conditions only aggravated. This statement can be applied to the spheres of education and medicine. In Europe these ethnic differences are not as noticeable as in the US. It is almost impossible to predict the development of the situation in the future, but we can say for a fact that current administration has to take urgent measures in order to raise the standard of living in inner cities or ghettos, inhabited by people who have always been excluded from the community.


Commons. J. R (2008). The Distribution of Wealth. BiblioBazaar, LLC.

Ehrenreich B (2001). Nickel and dimed: on (not) getting by in America. NY. Metropolitan Books.

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Gianaris N (1996). Modern Capitalism: Privatization, Employee Ownership, and Industrial Democracy. Praeger Publishers.

Himmelberg. R (2001).The Great Depression and the New Deal. Westport. Greenwood Press.

Skolnick, Jerome H, Currie. E (2007). Crisis in American Institutions. 13th ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

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