Unfinished Business

Is America Really a Nation of ‘Soon to Haves’?

By Juliet Eisenstein, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Our country was founded as a land of opportunity, and we have long upheld the ladder of success to be equally accessible to all. If everyone is created equal, however, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, how have some experienced much greater success than others, more so than merit can account for? “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver explored issues surrounding income inequality in a recent segment, saying, “Just because politicians can’t talk about income inequality doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.” In 14 minutes, Oliver explores the current economic divides permeating American society and introduces a system called “America Ball,” a version of the lottery where the wealthiest and most low-income citizens are really playing two separate games: one which easily grants some individuals continued wealth, and one system that struggles to operate, allowing little to no upward movement.

Oliver also shows a clip of Sen. Marco Rubio, R. Fla., testifying that America is “a nation of haves and soon to haves” to drive home frequent misconceptions of income inequality. Oliver uses Rubio’s terminology throughout the segment to question how accessible our nation’s ladder of success truly is, and to ask how “soon” those at the bottom of the income ladder may experience the successes of those at the top.

Watch the full segment here: