By Michael Gunther

Lately, there has been a lot of press on wealth distribution, income inequality and the increasing gap between the affluent and the less fortunate in our nation. I believe that government and nonprofit organizations are feeling pressures to provide a safety net for those who are in need. As a business owner, I wonder how these issues will impact the long-term sustainability of our community.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary called American’s Winter at a local fundraiser put on by United Way. The film highlighted many of the challenges that the working class is experiencing post-recession and their struggle to support their family with a low-paying job. The same week of the fundraiser, I came across two statistics that echoed the film’s message. The Forbes report stated, “over 3.5 million children are homeless in the United States” and “the 85 wealthiest individuals in the world have more wealth than half the world’s population.” Think about that!

In addition to these alarming statistics, there has been continuous media coverage of minimum wage workers who are rallying in support of being paid a higher wage. The government also released a report, showing that individuals who earn minimum wage are often being subsidized with food stamps, rent stipends and health care to support their families. As a result, tax dollars and funds are being diverted from other programs when they should be used to cover employee’s basic needs in the form of higher wages.

No matter what your political beliefs are – the system is broken – and I often think about the long-term impact this will have on our communities and our nation. I don’t know what the right answer or approach might be to resolve this growing issue, but I do know as a human being who is concerned for others we all need to think about how we can begin to slow down this trend. As a business owner, I believe it is our responsibility to ensure your employees are making a living wage and have access to health insurance. These basic life requirements are a thank you for their hard work and efforts.

It seems to me the more we earn as a society the more we are becoming a selfish nation. We hear the slogan money doesn’t buy happiness and yet, it seems that money is a driving force in our culture. Children are going hungry, homelessness is increasing at exponential rates, but the stock market continues to set new records. While the wealth gap grows larger, the working poor relies more on the food bank to feed their families than ever before.

We used to be a nation with the open arms as engraved on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Bottom Line

In this season of thanksgiving, be thankful for all that you have and I encourage you to think about how you, as an individual, can make an impact on someone who is less fortunate. Imagine if everyone did one act of support – how that one step could potentially begin to get our nation back on track.

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