We all know the world’s unfair, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. If our government looked out for everyone, we could improve the country drastically. Time after time, the country passes legislation that favors giant corporations and the super-rich.
We don’t expect things to change anytime soon, but the first step toward making those changes is educating ourselves. Here are four situations that should upset everyone and inspire us to fight for change.
1. America allows child brides if the parents and judges sign off.
It’s a common thought that child brides are only a problem in developing countries and not the richest country in the world. However, in many U.S. states, 16- and 17-year-olds simply need parental consent to marry. Those under 16 can still tie the knot if a judge approves their marriage license.
According to a New York Times op-ed, 91 percent of child brides marry adults. The reasons that parents gave for approving these marriages range from protecting their “family honor” to economic gains from marrying into a richer family.
In New York State alone, 3,853 children got married from 2000–2010. A parent, and often a judge, signed off on every one of those marriages. Considering that parents and judges continue granting exceptions, the only way to end the practice of child marriage is to eliminate legal exceptions.
2. The capital gains tax is about half of the ordinary income tax rate.
Have you ever wondered how the super-rich pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes? The trick is to not make money through a job, but with investments.
Our country’s lawmakers have deemed that it is necessary to tax the income from 9-to-5 jobs at significantly higher rates than income made from the stock market. Of course, those who were born rich and live entirely off of trust funds love this rule.
This rule has come under fire after several highly-publicized events. One of the most notorious occurred several times when Warren Buffett announced that he pays the lowest tax rate in his office. He memorably pointed out that his secretary even pays a higher rate than him. Buffett is a proponent of making the rich pay a higher rate on their investments for the good of the country.
Mitt Romney’s presidential run was another occasion to wonder about the fairness of capital gains tax. Romney, who is worth an estimated $250 million, said he paid around 13 percent on his $22 million per year salary. A single person making as little as $15,000 could expect a similar tax rate, and those making $40,000 should expect a jump to around 25 percent (though the actual rate is difficult to determine because of all of the variables).
3. Poverty in America is as bad as ever.
A Stanford University report determined that 1.6 million American households make less than $2 per day per person. These staggeringly low incomes result from a variety of factors, such as health problems, unemployment, and other unfortunate circumstances (for instance, retired grandparents forced to take care of grandchildren).
The effects of such extreme poverty are far-reaching. Inadequate nutrition causes health problems and can exacerbate the developmental problems children face in school. Luckily, many schools provide free breakfast and lunch; unfortunately, those are the only meals some children get.
4. Many Americans don’t have access to basic utilities.
By now, everyone has heard of the Flint water crisis. A move from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River was designed to save the city money. Unfortunately, the move resulted in high levels of lead in the drinking water for over 100,000 residents.
And it’s not just Flint. In El Paso County, Texas, there are communities with no sewage systems or running water. This situation led to outbreaks of diseases including leprosy and tuberculosis.
The government has long said that people shouldn’t have bought land if they couldn’t afford to install the proper utilities. Finally, the state has begun to link these communities with existing water and sewer systems, but progress continues at a slow pace.
The country can only change once its citizens hold lawmakers accountable. Knowing about the issues and demanding change from those in power is a surefire way to make our country prosperous for all citizens.