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The two documents and one documentary film that were analyzed in class share a common thread. All these sources of information discussed three key points, which are listed as follows: 1) inequality; 2) oppression; and 3) the struggle between the rich and the poor. All three authors are in agreement that inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor are socio-economic forces that have created a widening gap between the affluent and the less fortunate members of society. However, these authors developed their analysis on these three key points from different perspectives.

Inequality in Society

All three authors discussed the root cause and significance of inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor in society. However, the description of the root cause of the mentioned social issues was done through a specific framework unique to the worldview of each author. For example, Howard Zinn in his book entitled A People’s History of the United States, retold the story of inequality, oppression, and the struggle of the rich and poor during the time of Christopher Columbus, when Columbus discovered the American continent.

The underlying principle in Zinn’s commentary was that the European colonizers were a group of greedy conquerors who took advantage of the naivety, kindness, and technological inferiority of the natives. As a result, the natives lost access to ancestral lands, and this was the reason why there was pervasive inequality in the New World. In addition, Zinn commented on the oppression experienced by the inhabitants at the hands of the conquistadors. Zinn added that after a short while the colonizers were the affluent masters of the New World while reducing the native inhabitants to a life of poverty.

He characterized the people from the Arawak tribe as simple-minded people because they were naked when they interacted with the foreigners, and yet they did not feel shame. The natives were mesmerized by the arrival of the Europeans, and they were very friendly towards the newcomers. Zinn depicted the natives as victims of oppression and this was a similar framework utilized by Porter and Reich.

In Eduardo Porter’s article entitled, The Politics of Income Inequality, the author blamed the same elitist class as the main reason why there was a growing inequality in American society. Porter also pointed out that poor families suffer from oppression; however, the tactics used were less obvious as compared to the strategies used by the colonizers. Porter said that they took advantage of their resources and understanding of how the American political system works to develop an environment that oppresses the poor, so that they are unable to correct the inherent flaws of the American political system. Moreover, Porter said that in the struggle between rich and poor, the less fortunate were able to experience some form of success during the Progressive Era.

Robert Reich discussed the same issues. He voiced out his concern regarding the significant gap between the rich and the poor. Reich said that the negative impact of inequality would continually weaken the U.S. economy. Furthermore, Reich addressed the oppressive strategies used by affluent businessmen. He said that oppression was manifested through low wages and the absence of appropriate benefits that employers are obligated to give to their employers. Reich said that the struggle between rich and poor could be seen in how the rich members of society tried their best to limit the ability of the less fortunate to develop mechanisms that will lead to wealth redistribution.

The three authors agreed on how the rich and powerful tried to exploit the weakness in the system. At the same time, they pointed out to the common thread that connects the strategies used by the colonizers, the robber barons, and the greedy corporate executives. The authors pointed out that the main weapon used in the struggle between rich and poor is ignorance. In other words, the rich and powerful members of society tried to keep people ignorant of their ability to fight back. Therefore, if the poor and the marginalized members of society have access to the right kind of knowledge, then, they will know more about the nature of inequality, oppression and the real issue regarding the struggle between the rich and the poor.

Different Perspectives

Although all three authors focused on three key issues: 1) inequality; 2) oppression; and 3) the struggle between the rich and the poor, the arguments on how to solve these problems were developed using different frameworks based on different perspectives. Zinn discussed the nature of inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor from the perspective of a historian examining the interaction of two cultures. In other words, Zinn developed his arguments minus the elements of modern American society. Zinn used terminologies that belonged to a bygone era.

Porter on the other hand outlined the issues related to inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor from the point of view of a modern historian. He examined an American society that was founded on a particular political system. In addition, Porter’s commentary was based on the period between the 19th and 20th century. As it was mentioned in the honesty and integrity essayIt was a turbulent period in American society. He framed his arguments against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, the social upheaval that was the inevitable consequence of the Industrial Revolution enabled American citizens to demand a redistribution of wealth.

The social changes that were present during the turn of the 20th century was not yet present in the time of the European colonizers, when they conquered the New World. Therefore, the native inhabitants were unable to make demands that would have led to their own version of the Progressive Era.

In the same manner, the social forces that were present in the turn of the 20th century are no longer in existence in the 21st century. Thus, Porter’s suggestion on how to transform the socio-economic landscape of the United States in order to deal with the issues of inequality, oppression, and the negative struggle between the rich and the poor is no longer relevant.

The ideas presented by Porter were a stark contrast to the ideas presented by Zinn and Reich when it comes to dealing with the three aforementioned issues related to the failure of redistributing wealth. Porter described a major transformation in American politics as a progressive federal income was enacted by Constitutional amendment. Moreover, he pointed out two major developments that were considered an impossible task before the Progressive Era. It referred to the government’s intervention to temper the power of conglomerates such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and the cartel-like behavior of the Chicago’s Beef Trust.

In the case of Zinn, there was no specific discussion on what should have happened in order to mitigate the impact of inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor. Zinn wanted to encourage the readers to know more about the past and to be aware of the abuses that were heaped on the natives of the New World.

Porter suggested that in order to deal with the problems brought about by inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor, the disadvantaged members of society must fihgt against the affluent members of the same society.

Porter focused his attention on a more general approach and his goal was to transform the political system of the United States so that it will favor the less fortunate members of American society. Reich on the other hand was interested in a more specific approach. Reich wanted change in labor laws, minimum daily wage, and strengthened unions to protect the interest of the workers.

Reich approach was made distinct by focusing on the fundamental difference between liberal and conservative ideologies. Reich believed that these fundamental differences are the reason why there is a growing inequality in the United States. Furthermore, he said that this is the reason why rich businessmen can oppress their workers. He mentioned that this was the reason why in the struggle between the rich and the poor, the more affluent members of society had the advantage when it comes to perpetuating the status quo.

There was an overarching theme in the works of the three authors. Zinn, Porter, and Reich abhorred the negative effects of inequality, oppression, and the struggle between the rich and the poor. However, the authors derived their analysis and insights about the problem using different lenses and perspectives. Zinn talked against the negative impact of these issues through the lens of a historian. Zinn created a distinct commentary because he examined the social forces present at the time of the colonization of the North American continent. Porter and Reich however provided a more contemporary description of the impact of these issues by looking at the influence of the current political system.

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Inequality in America