As explained in a previous blog post, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One and Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan’s Washington Post article “The Painful Truth about Teeth” similarly illustrate the severity and endurance of social divisions produced through income inequality. In addition to demonstrating the link between economic disparity and social fragmentation, Zone One and the Washington Post article also consider the causes of wealth inequity. One of the primary factors that directly generates economic inequality, or exacerbates it through discriminatory policies, is the United States federal government. By examining Jordan and Sullivan’s article, it is evident that the Trump Administration has betrayed its promise to improve the quality of life for the working-class. Instead the administration has facilitated the implementation of Republican policies that favor the affluent through tax cuts and harm economically disadvantaged Americans as a result of reductions in spending for education and healthcare. Analogously, in Zone One there is a revived federal government, the American Phoenix based in Buffalo, New York, that privileges the political and intellectual elite over the surviving masses. In this way, the Americans Phoenix resembles the Trump administration and Republican controlled congress discussed in the Washington Post article. Thus, both the Trump administration and the American Phoenix government manipulate the public to acquire support, yet then proceed to increase America’s wealth gap by enriching the elite at the expense of ordinary people.
Jordan and Sullivan’s article describes how a working-class American Dee Matello was suffering from a cracked molar that she couldn’t afford to have treated because she lacked access to private health insurance or underfunded government healthcare programs such Medicare and Medicaid. Due to her belief that Trump would help underprivileged Americans who were being ignored by the nation’s elite, Matello voted for him in the 2016 presidential election. For example, Jordan and Sullivan elucidated, “And although her toothache wasn’t why she voted for Trump, it was a constant reminder of one reason she did: the feeling that she had been abandoned, left struggling to meet basic needs in a country full of fantastically rich people.” Yet Matello became largely disillusioned with Trump as he contradicted his campaign promises by endorsing Republican policies. These policies were designed to further amplify the wealth of the socioeconomic elite, such as Trump, and consequently worsened income inequality. For instance, Matello questioned, “I am hearing about a number of people who will lose their coverage under the new plan…Is Trump the wolf in grandma’s clothes? My husband and I are now saying to each other: ‘Did we really vote for him?’… Was he just out to get our votes?” Therefore, the example of Matello’s despair reveals the method by which the Trump Administration and Republican politicians deceive the working-class to reinforce a socioeconomic system that benefits the rich over the poor.
There is a striking parallel between the Trump administration’s contribution to economic disparity analyzed in the Washington Post article and the abuses committed by Zone One’s American Phoenix government. The American Phoenix uses propaganda to portray itself as being a guardian of the American people. For example, the protagonist Mark Spitz mused, “…one had reason to dust off the old optimism. You only had to look at the faint movement in the ashes: surely this is the American Phoenix Rising. At least that’s what the T-shirts said, lifted from the biodegradable cardboard boxes fresh from Buffalo.” Thus, Buffalo ostensibly promoted unity within the American population. Yet in reality, its leadership segregated people by concentrating politicians and intellectuals in the government capital while diffusing ordinary survivors among settlement camps. For instance, Mark Spitz explained, “In the recent calm, experts of sundry persuasion reconnected with their professions, hoping to get out of custodial duty and earn a ticket to Buffalo with the rest of the royalty.” The socioeconomic elite living in Buffalo also allocated resources amongst themselves before dispersing the remains among the American military and other survivors. For example, Mark Spitz clarified, “Priorities: First Buffalo got what they needed, then the military, then civilian population, and finally the sweepers.” Hence, scarce resources were squandered by the American Phoenix government to maintain luxurious lifestyles for their leadership as well as propaganda to delude the public into supporting Buffalo. For instance, in regard to Buffalo’s plan to host a world summit in Manhattan, a governmental representative Ms. Macy confessed, “This is PR…It’ll be years before we’re able to resettle this island. We don’t even have food for the winter.” Thus, the American Phoenix government in Zone One shared commonalities with the Trump administration in its deceit of the public in order to preserve wealth inequity.
Americans are fortunate to live under a democratic government, yet this does not ensure that political candidates are honest with their constituents. Both Jordan and Sullivan’s Washington Post article and Whitehead’s Zone One convey the dangers of misleading government officials who claim they desire to help the working-class, yet in fact intend to protect their interests and the interests of their affluent peers. Therefore, it is vital that Americans scrutinize political candidates and their values to determine their genuine reasons for running for office. This is the only way to bridge the income gap that continually broadens in the contemporary Unitec States.