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Achieving the American Dream – Economic Inequality in the 2016 Presidential Election

By Renee Baharaeen, AASCU Civic Engagement Intern and Truman State University Student

With the upcoming 2016 presidential election approaching, several politicians have recently declared their candidacy for President of the United States. Although it is still early, it is important to pay attention to the ideas each candidate holds in regard to their vision for the country.

A pressing issue facing America is economic inequality. ADP and TDC recently launched their joint Economic Inequality initiative, making this a timely issue. Although some argue economic mobility is not of public concern, others say the issue is gaining attention and that Americans believe there is a problem with the wealth gap (Nyhan, 2015; Blake, 2015). In past years, this issue has not received a lot of focus by a majority of candidates; however, current presidential candidates from both major political parties have recently addressed the topic.

The following information is an overview of some of the front runners’ thoughts from each major political party in regard to inequality, which is likely to remain a key topic in the 2016 presidential race.

Republican Candidates:

jeb bush.PNGJeb Bush has taken a stance on economic inequality that differs from the usual Republican position. Instead of citing unemployment statistics, Bush’s approach has been discussing the economic advancements in the country and how they have only been working for the more affluent families (Martin, 2015). His website discusses issues of poverty as a concern. He believes if Americans are working harder, then the government leaders need to offer a plan to fix the situation, or step aside. Voters should be aware of the rhetoric in Bush’s approach. When asked about specifics of his policies, he did not offer a clear explanation as to if he would work to develop policies focused on assisting those at the bottom or favor cutting taxes across the board.

donald trumpDonald Trump, currently leading in the Republican polls, has made comments in response to his opponents’ platforms relating to economic inequality. However, Trump has not released any information regarding his own economic platform other than these brief comments. In his announcement speech he claims, if elected, he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” It is important voters pay attention for details about how Trump plans to improve the economy and address issues of inequality if elected president.


scott walkerScott Walker has been running his campaign thus far on his previous experience as the Wisconsin Governor. His website currently has no information on where he stands on any issues. However, as he has been on the campaign trail, Walker has referenced his policies for the state of Wisconsin as a success and therefore believes he can bring his skills to the table as president. While Walker emphasizes the success of his policies, others in Wisconsin disagree with the success (Bauer, 2015). Voters should pay attention to the results of how his economic policies in the state of Wisconsin turn out and if the economic platform he creates for his presidency addresses any of the concerns.

Democratic Candidates:

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton believes the economy is stacked in favor of those at the top. In order for Americans to get ahead, Clinton has developed ideas on how to improve the economy to provide Americans with a strong foundation that leads to social mobility. Some of these economic changes include raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable, providing quality childcare, and lowering health costs. Additionally, Clinton’s platform indicates wanting to rein in Wall Street after the bailout of 2008. An important note that voters should pay attention to is Clinton’s past work with Wall Street in recent years.

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders is focusing heavily on economic inequality, as his platform currently shows the issue to be one of his top concerns. Currently, there are no developed ideas listed on his website about specific ways he intends to address the economic inequality issue. However, as a senator, his economic agenda has included raising the minimum wage, taking on Wall Street, making college affordable and making healthcare a right for all. Sanders is also currently working on a bill to break up big banks. It is important for voters to watch for specific ideas on how Sanders plans to achieve economic equality if elected as president.

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