Previously published on BillMoyers.com.
Some people say inequality doesn't matter. They are wrong. All we have to do to see its effects is to realize that all across America millions of people of ordinary means can't afford decent housing.
As wealthy investors and buyers drive up real estate values, the middle class is being squeezed further and the working poor are being shoved deeper into squalor -- in places as disparate as Silicon Valley and New York City.
This week I point to the changing skyline of Manhattan as the physical embodiment of how money and power impact the lives and neighborhoods of everyday people. Soaring towers being built at the south end of Central Park, climbing higher than ever with apartments selling from $30 million to $90 million, are beginning to block the light on the park below. Many of the apartments are being sold at those sky-high prices to the international super rich, many of whom will only live in Manhattan part-time -- if at all -- and often pay little or no city income or property taxes, thanks to the political clout of real estate developers.
"The real estate industry here in New York City is like the oil industry in Texas," affordable housing advocate Jaron Benjamin says. "They outspend everybody... They often have a much better relationship with elected officials than everyday New Yorkers do." Meanwhile, fewer and fewer middle-and working-class people can afford to live in New York City. As Benjamin puts it, "Forget about the Statue of Liberty. Forget about Ellis Island. Forget about the idea of everybody being welcome here in New York City. This will be a city only for rich people."
At the end of the show I say: "Tell us if you've seen some of these forces eroding the common ground where you live. Perhaps, like some of the people in our story, you're making your own voice heard. Share these experiences at our website, BillMoyers.com." Please use the comments section below to do so.
Moyers & Company airs weekly on public television. Explore more at BillMoyers.com.