The U.S. needs equal opportunity for all
The goal of many citizens, old and young, is to achieve the American dream. Many have different definitions of success: Some may say achieving the American dream means becoming a millionaire, while others think it means just being able to provide for their families. So what does it take to achieve the American dream, especially if you are born out of poverty? Equal opportunity.
According to Pew Research Center, 51 percent of low-income high school grads are enrolled in college, while 81 percent of high school grads from high income backgrounds are enrolled in college. There are obviously several factors as to why this disparity exists, but they all point to the conclusion that students from high income backgrounds have an advantage when it comes to seeking higher education.
There is no need to blame these students for taking advantage of their opportunities; any student would take advantage of higher income opportunities. The problem is those who start from the bottom do not receive these opportunities. Their paths are likely more difficult, and as a result, less are able to achieve their dreams.
There’s one solution — a fair start — but it’s open to several interpretations.
Some say that a fair start means equal opportunity for all in America. I happen to be one of those people. To me, equal opportunity means fair income regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or religion.
This also means equal opportunity in public education and in the workforce. This does not mean you are given a job just because you want one, but you are guaranteed to have a better chance at getting a job regardless of whether you come from a poor or wealthy background.
This is not necessarily meant to be taken as a meritocracy in practice, but rather a way to protect the opportunities of those who have indeed shown their merit. The goal of equal opportunity is to promote any program that benefits the least well-off in society. A program that benefits those least well-off may include more responsibilities for those who are already well-off — for example, higher taxes.
Higher taxes can be used for domestic programs such as welfare, education, highways and healthcare. A tax system that decreases marginal tax rates for non-well-off people while increasing marginal tax rates for those who are already well-off is a necessary program.
Would this be considered class warfare? No, because those who have already succeeded financially are not being punished with taxes. They are meeting the public demand for a program that benefits those who are not well off yet.
It does not make sense to create a public program at the expense of the poor that benefits citizens who already enjoy opportunities because of their financial backgrounds. It’s morally responsible to create a public program that benefits the poor so they can have the chance to become wealthy. It is morally right to give the poor the chance to have similar opportunities down the roads of their working lives.
Some, however, have different views on what a fair start in America means.
Is it the government’s responsibility to help citizens achieve success, or should citizens take advantage of the rights that are already recognized by the Constitution and hope for the best of their situations?
Achieving your dreams should require some sort of struggle, but when opportunities are presented to you, you should be able to take advantage of them no matter what background you come from. If we really want everyone to have the chance to achieve the American dream, then we must have equal opportunity in achieving it.
Opinion columnist Samuel Pichowsky is a political science sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]