When I came to San Francisco, I thought S.F. was a place of freedom, where if you worked hard enough you could get a better future and do what you wanted. I have actually been disappointed by the wealth gap. Classism is to blame for the wealth gap, and it seems to be getting worse. Rich people keep getting richer; poor people keep getting poorer.
The wealth gap isn’t talked about in our lives and many people don’t know that there is huge inequality. I watched a video for my economics class that is about what people think about the wealth gap. They show two pie charts about the wealth gap. One shows that wealth distribution is more equal and the other shows that wealth distribution is unequal. In the video, most people in the middle class chose the pie chart where wealth distribution is more equal, and most poor and homeless people chose the one that shows inequality. Through this, we can see that poor people are the most aware of the wealth gap. Rich people play a role in inequality happening because they can benefit from the wealth gap. They get more chances to grow their wealth than poor people because they have more money. The middle-class people are not suffering as much as poor people, so they think wealth is equal in America. My economics class teacher, Mrs. Riechel, says “I feel it is a product of our economic system. . .” Inequality has been happening for a long time in our country because of capitalism. This economic system provides more jobs to people, which is good. But rich people take money from poor people and through that have kept poor people in poor positions. This is how capitalism works against the poor.
The impact of the wealth gap is more powerful in San Francisco. We can see in the downtown area that there are poor people and rich people; it is visually obvious. The high-rise buildings next to homeless people in the streets show the contrast in income. City-data.com shows the number of families in S.F. with incomes greater than $200,000. 24.6% of San Francisco residents have this income versus the entire state of California where it is 10.6%. Some people have a high income in San Francisco, but most people do not have that high of an income. Young people and immigrants are especially impacted by those with a high income. It makes the cost of living in S.F. very high. For example, housing, transportation, and food are all more expensive here than in most places.
Many people who are living in S.F. are suffering from the high price of housing. Many people can’t save money and the medical expenses are very expensive. Also, many young people have come to the Bay Area because the Bay Area is near Google and other technology companies. Immigrants come here because they think that in the Bay Area it is easier to find jobs. In addition, after a lot of people come to S.F., they find that they cannot afford housing.
When those of us who are in between this wealth gap walk downtown, most of us intuitively feel a sense of danger, like we’re going to be robbed or attacked at any time. It can feel scary. You can vaguely see the dark side of the effects of capitalism because people who are struggling are desperate for money, food, and material things.
We often speak of homeless people with contempt and put them in the same class as beggars, but how many of us can honestly say that homeless people did not work hard enough or that they are just lazy? San Francisco is full of homeless people. Homeless people have become a phenomenal problem that we and the media are accustomed to. According to 2004 statistics, the number of homeless people of S.F. number is up to 7,000 people, because the local homeless population continues to increase.
In our city, there are a lot of institutions designed to help the homeless population. Kashmir Hill writes, “These services include dental care, eyeglasses, HIV testing, housing information, food, hygiene products, medical care, mental health services, SSI benefits, legal advice, California identification cards, voice mail accounts, employment counseling/job placement, wheelchair repair, addiction services, and more.” Many homeless people choose to come here because the weather is good, the local people are nice to them, and they can get more benefits because the government is open-minded toward them.
People don’t know much about the wealth gap if they are not suffering from it. For people who are in that situation, like homeless people, they are suffering and struggling and they want to change that, but they don’t have chances to because they are poor. Not all homeless people are lazy or mentally unstable; some of them are impacted by the wealth gap. This made them lose hope and their homes because they could not afford housing, especially in San Francisco. Wealth inequality is hard to change because of the capitalist system. What you can do is, if you see some organizations seeking funding, just do your best. Sometimes, we should ask ourselves, “What can we can do for them? What we can do make this city better?” Don’t be afraid to give help when needed. If each person in this city gives a little help, that will make our city a better place.