Is Inequality in America Irreversible Reviewed By Michelle Kaye Malsbury of
Michelle Kaye Malsbury

Reviewer Michelle Kaye Malsbury: Michelle was born in Champaign, IL. Currently, she resides in Asheville, NC and is in her second year of doctoral studies at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale with specialization/concentration in conflict resolution and peace studies. She has over six hundred articles published on the web and one book published thus far with many more in the wings. Hobbies include; reading, writing, music, and playing with her Australian Cattle Dog, Abu.

By Michelle Kaye Malsbury
Published on April 4, 2018

Author: Chuck Collins

Publisher: Policy Press
ISBN: 978-1-5095-2250-7

Author: Chuck Collins

Publisher: Policy Press
ISBN: 978-1-5095-2250-7

Chuck Collins, author of Is Inequality in America Irreversible, directs programs on inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies where he is Senior Scholar. He also, co-edits the website

Collins states in his Introduction (2018) that he grew up in a wealthy suburb of Detroit, Michigan called Bloomfield Hills where he was recipient of every privilege that pedigree would afford. However, he noted that not all people he came into contact with were as fortunate as he was. Thus, he set out to research and determine whether this phenomena was reversible or not.

In Chapter one, Collins asks why inequality matters. (2018, p.11) To which he responds that all people ought to be interested in bridging this inequality chasm. To those who are directly affected by inequality the American Dream is most likely unachievable barring something near miraculous occurring. “Unequal wages and assets have a perilous impact on economic stability and growth, contributing to greater volatility, including major economic fluctuations and downturns, such as the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2008.” (pgs. 13-14) He goes on to state that economic inequality contributes to ill health which costs the USA far more money than it would if the economic landscape was not vastly differing for our people. Wages and access to opportunity must improve.

Collins offers many theories that pinpoint what is amiss and what can be done. The roots of this issue he believes are deeply imbedded in racism. (2018, pgs.21-22) To which he states that to reverse this problem of inequality we must change the balance of power. (paraphrase, p.26)  “The growth of income inequality between 1975 and 2000 was largely the result of differentials in earning power…”. (p.29) “…since 2000, the primary driver of inequality has been the surge of capital income…”.

Chapter two delves into the barriers to changing these dynamics. One thing he notes as responsible for continuance of inequality is the GOP redistricting. (2018, p.33) Redistricting he charges is responsible for creation of smaller democratic districts with less power. Despite these obstacles some people do manage to obtain wealth and status, but far fewer than could be if the playing field was more evenly distributed.

Chapter three is called “Changing the Rules: Raising Floors, Opening Doors”. (2018, p.44) Here, Collins speaks about some of the things that changed on the heels of the Great Depression to help people get back on their feet. These things range from investing in our infrastructure to legislation targeted at eliminating poverty, i.e. welfare. (p.46) While these things may have helped lessen inequality in the short term they fed this inequality in the long term. Collins cites the stagnation of wages and how the overall costs to survive have not moved upward in tandem, but instead of at cross purposes for all involved.  Rules, he says, must be rewritten.

In Chapter four Collins says that changing the basis for taxation would help flatten the distance between those with wealth and those with none. (2018, p.62-3) For examples, taxes on capital gains is currently taxed at a lower rate than wages earned from regular income. This he suggests need be taxed as the same. Loopholes in current tax laws need to be closed. If we do this and other things we can begin to see the tides change.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning about some ways we might be able to equalize wages and opportunity. I think you will too!