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The Hot Topic of Income Inequality in the United States

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As the buildup to the presidential primaries continues, the issue of income inequality in the United States has become a hot topic among candidates vying for support in the race. The focus on income inequality has in turn garnered larger questions about wealth. An article in The New York Times cites recent psychological research focused on wealth and the role it plays in politics and personalities.

The article,“How Wealth Plays Into Politics at a Personal Level” written by Anand Giridharadas poses a number of questions about the influence of money in politics. Of utmost significance is the question of how money affects politicians. Giridharadas references a study conducted by Michael W. Kraus and Bennett Callaghan wherein the researchers looked at the “wealth of members of Congress predicted their support for legislation affecting inequality.” (Giridharadas 2016) The results of the study were split according to political affiliation. The researchers determined that wealth among Republican members of Congress did not have an impact on how they voted. That is to say that among Republicans, the way in which the members voted was not altered by how much wealth they had. Among Democratic members the researchers observed that “poorer lawmakers were more likely to support such policies as raising the minimum wage or forgiving student debt (Giridharadas 2016).” Another conclusion Giriharadas notes is that the research also showed that wealth can affect an individual’s personality. Giriharadas also cites another study conducted by UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto in which researchers observed traffic and made observations that indicated that luxury drivers were more likely to violate driving folkways. In general luxury car drivers were more aggressive than drivers “of the humblest vehicles” (Giriharadas 2016). Finally, Giriharadas points to two more studies conducted by Michael W. Kraus. In the first study, Kraus used a mock interview process to assess individual’s abilities to pick up social cues. The result determined that poor people tended to be better at judging emotions. In the other study, Kraus evaluated individual’s response to a “video of distress and suffering, and a neutral control video. (Giriharadas 2016)” The vitals of the poorer students indicated a physiological response to the video, whereas rich students “remained consistent” (Giriharadas 2016).

The way in which the research is presented by Giriharadas largely ignores the process of the research. Rather, each reference to a study is a synopsis of that study. Giriharadas briefly mentions the researchers, method, and conclusion. I feel that this approach is wholly inadequate. Giriharadas argument comes off as a contrived amalgamation of points that barely lend credence to his main point. Most troubling is that Giriharadas provides nothing to challenge his viewpoint. A more cohesive argument would include detracting opinions and an attack on those points. The author does himself no favors in building his argument, and in the end this comes off as little more than a fluff piece.

Harsh criticisms aside I did find the general idea of the research presented to be interesting. I must say I have always felt biased towards wealthy people, coming from a poor upbringing myself. The idea that wealthy people are less in tune and more callous than poor people would easily play into my own preconceived notions. Still, in the end I feel that the author did not offer enough evidence for me to say unequivocally that this is fact. I picked this article specifically for it’s relevance. As a democratic voter I’ve seen these sorts of parallels drawn among the two major candidates currently running for the nomination. I do believe that money has an influence on a person’s character, and I suppose that I was looking for some validation of that belief. I think that if anyone is in tune with the politics of this country then this article will resonate with them.

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