“The large and growing wealth gap between a tiny fringe of super-rich Americans and most of the rest of us robs all of us. It means that people in poverty struggle to live with dignity, the middle class is eroded, and every person’s wellbeing declines. It affects our health, our children’s educational performance, incarceration rates, levels of debt and financial insecurity, participation in our economy and our government, and our sense of equal opportunity and community.”
So begins a petition to President Obama to convene a White House summit “to explore the causes and consequences of the current wealth gap in the United States, and develop a response,” adding:
“We believe that enormous wealth concentrated in the hands of the elite few is cracking the democratic foundation of our nation. It gives disproportionate political power to those who have the most economic power and weakens the ability of our government to serve the common good.“The petition is being circulated by Network, a Washington group founded in 1971 by 47 Catholic sisters to speak out as “one voice on behalf of justice for all. “ Since then its membership has grown to include other Catholic religious congregations, as well as thousands of lay people (I am one of them).
The huge disparity in wealth is a crucial moral issue, and documented by a wide variety of authoritative sources, such as the Economic Policy Institute, which recently reported:
“Wealth, or net worth, is a measure of a family’s total assets, including real estate, bank account balances, stock holdings, and retirement funds, minus all of their liabilities such as mortgages, student loans, and credit card debt. Although economic inequality is often described in terms of income inequality, the distribution of wealth is actually more unequal than the distribution of wages and income….America’s wealthiest households in 2009 had net worth that was 225 times greater than the median family net worth.”