According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, America is no longer the land of opportunity. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in any advanced country for which there is data. The US had an increase in GDP in 2009-2010, but 93% of the income growth went to the top 1% of income earners. Income and wealth is being concentrated at the top, and poverty is getting worse at the bottom.
Stiglitz goes on to argue that those who are earning the high incomes are disproportionately doing so through rent-seeking such as by abuse of monopoly power, failings of corporate governance, and failings of government fiscal control. The poor have been exploited through predatory lending and credit card practices. Most Americans now have a lower income, after adjustment for inflation, than they had 15 years ago.
Inequality of opportunity results in decreased efficiency. The barriers which protect the privilege of the rich and prevent the poor from bettering themselves mean that people’s abilities are not fully utilised, and the whole country’s economy suffers as a result. The wealthy use political influence to get lower taxes and reduced government spending, so that essential services and infrastructure are not provided and the country stagnates.