A member of the Oklahoma congressional delegation has been tabbed to be part of an effort to study and offer possible solutions to the nation’s worsening problem of wealth inequality.
Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) was recently chosen to serve on the newly created House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth.
The 14-member panel “will study the causes and consequences of economic disparity,” according to a description on the committee web page. “The Committee will listen to academic experts, community leaders, the private sector, and most importantly, everyday Americans. Its Members, drawn from every corner of America, will recommend solutions to the Congress, the Administration, and society at large.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Bice said she looks forward to serving and sharing her insights, some of which, she acknowledged, are colored by her own life experience and specifically by the success story of her immigrant father who came to America, she said, with virtually nothing.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to really highlight that there are a lot of people in this country, including my own father, who came to this country with hopes of the American dream and work successful in that,” Bice said.
The Oklahoma City Republican also acknowledged there are likely to be very divergent opinions that emerge during the course of the committee’s work. Among the Democrats serving on the committee are Reps. Primala Jayapal (D-WA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
“Wealth inequality certainly is something we can have a conversation around and make sure that we understand the dynamics, but I think that some of the members on this committee are looking for maybe wealth redistribution instead of wealth discussion, so we’ll see,” Bice said.
Statistics show wealth inequality in America -- the wealth gap -- is only getting worse.
According to published reports, the wealthiest 10% of American families now own 76% of nation’s total wealth.
Another publication showed how the top three richest Americans would combine to own more wealth than the bottom 50% of all Americans combined.
Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), spoke on the House floor Monday evening and gave another example of how the situation is only getting worse.
"When my parents were born, more than 90% of American children could make more money -- or expect to make more money -- than their parents. Today, fewer than half of the children will out-earn their parents," he said.
Each member of the committee had the opportunity to offer comments and Bice used her time to mention several issues she believes the committee should focus on in trying to solve such a difficult problem.
"We need to reform our nation's criminal justice system, and reinvigorate efforts to re-habilitate the nearly 95% of prisoners who will eventually be released from prison. Sadly, all too often we hear of individuals released with just the clothes on their back and a one-way bus ticket. This level of support doesn’t set up individuals for success," Bice said.
Bice also said the committee look at and unwind policies that are dis-incentivizing people from returning to the workforce and should improve the country's workforce development programs.
Bice said the committee has already begun working and could potentially propose legislation sometime next year.