It seems likely that two factors go to the widespread lack of concern regarding income inequality in the U.S. The first is linked to actual awareness and relates to the media. More exactly, media today is so pervasive that any presentation it offers about how people live has an impact that completely overshadows any reporting of the reality. This translates to a double effect; Americans rarely have the opportunity to gain real knowledge about the inequality, while advertising, films, and television consistently create a false impression. This impression is not necessarily based on ideas of all people earning the same. Instead, it usually distorts differences in living caused by lower incomes. For example, poverty is often shown as either glamorized or very severe; even in the latest movies, the “poor” people are attractive and rarely actually suffer for lack of money. Conversely, and importantly, when low income is presented by the media as causing extreme deprivation, social and individual factors are usually attached as causal agents. This type of “poor” is rarely only poor because of unequal earnings, as crime, bad character, and drug issues are associated with it.
This last element of the media as falsely representing how low income translates to living then reflects the other cause of American lack of interest: ideology. It is not coincidental that poverty is typically seen as arising from criminality and/or base character in the media, because the American ethic of work as providing all that is needed is still very much in place. If income is low, as most Americans perceive it, it is because the individual is lazy, unintelligent, of low character, or addicted to drugs. America has always insisted upon the ideal of the “American dream,” and that dream is rooted in the belief that decency and hard work must reward the American who embraces the effort. It is in fact remarkable how persistent this ideology is. Even as media reports do reveal that major corporations pay wages too low to meet the needs of families, there remains the sense that the workers, and not the corporations, are the problem. In the enduring American perception, limits of any kind, including pay, are challenges any responsible, ambitious person may overcome.