Tag Archives: barrier

Inequality as barrier

Instead of a “gap between rich and poor,” we’re far better served calling it a “barrier.” A barrier connotes a big, imposing wall behind which a few can hoard the goodies, while those on the other side are left wanting. When you barricade yourself in, you keep others out. Instead of asking to “bridge the divide,” let’s insist on dismantling the obstacles that keep too many from the gains produced of their own hard work.

The metaphor of inequality as a barrier, wall, or other obstruction highlights several critical truths about our economy. It tells us these objects are man-made. This conveys that inequality is not some God-given, inevitable, natural wonder. We have built these barriers, and we can bring them down. In other words, there’s another way our economy can be structured if we elect and work for it.

Conveying that the economic differences we see are a result of differential access to resources and opportunities that we don’t see accomplishes many things:
  • It implies all people are equally capable and deserving
  • It suggests inequality has structural and deliberate causes, “barriers” are generally understood as man made, not natural
  • It suggests a role for the audience, you can further develop and specify, in breaking down barriers
  • It’s tangible and part of lived experience, we’ve all faced impediments

What’s problematic about gap?

Suggesting inequality as physical division makes sense. It’s tangible and visual but focuses attention on
  • Rich and poor live in separate economies; if “two Americas” who cares what happens in that one?
  • Emphasis is on outcomes, not how division came to be
  • Allows audience to fill in what caused the gap

What’s problematic about top/bottom?

Conservatives favor this model and it’s no wonder why. It reinforces things like
  • The top (rich) good
  • The bottom (poor) bad
There’s a ladder so those at bottom are lazy and don’t climb.


Phrases to use

Talk of inequality as a barrier.
  • inequality blocks people from getting resources
  • inequality leads to holding people back
  • set in place obstacles for the rest of the population”
  • those who are excluded from the economy
When you eliminate barriers you create access, helping people go
where they want and enriching the economy overall.
  • access to resources
  • access to opportunities
  • participating fully in the economy

Avoid these

  • Racial wealth gap
  • Divide between rich and poor
  • Deepening chasm
  • Widening inequality
  • Bridge the gulf
  • A more hierarchical society
  • Money flows to the summits
  • Income pyramid
  •  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps


  • Equality
  • Fairness
  • Opportunity