My outlook on it, while not very original at all, is multi-fold: fitness within a global market where the playing field isn’t even, heavy handed social welfare policies creating (or magnifying) a classist system, and education.
US Fitness for a Global Market
Over unionizing, strict labor policies, and some social welfare laws have decreased US ability to compete well in a global market. Manufacturing is nearly impossible in a global market with the inequalities that exist in other countries as it pertain to human right and labor laws/ethics.
Heavy Handed Social Welfare Policies
This this two part: internal and external causations of one overall outcome. 1. Internally as a nation companies are on the hook for abiding by rapidly increasing minimum wage standards. In Florida, we just voted through raising minimum wage to $15/hr. This is predicted to cause companies to get by with hiring less employees. So, for half it will help, for the other half they’ll possibly fall deeper into poverty through unemployment. Also, it’s debatable whether or not simply raising wages of low skill labor is effective in bettering someone’s life in than it is demotivating in acquiring other higher paying skills. I’m 50/50 on that last point, but none the less, those that get fired due to staff cuts certainly won’t have means to better oneself. Other social welfare programs could also be targeted as debate for effectiveness is improving the long term livelihood of those receiving. If social welfare programs are either not evolving continuously as efficacy is being analyzed or causing more folks to live comfortably (or adapt to be comfortable enough) on subsidized income, incentives for upward mobility into middle class can become minimal. Social welfare and viability of policies could be a whole new category of discussion.
Externally, many other high manufacturing countries in Asia aren’t providing many social welfare policies (at least relative to US standards). So, simply put, labor is cheaper and we have no way to substantively incentivize even our own companies from going overseas. Certainly, we’re on the right side of social welfare. But, many of the policies are of questionable efficacy.
In the end, antiquated, misguided, and/or ineffective social welfare programs are perhaps widening the gap within the income disparity issue. Those that can afford an education to learn skills can more easily maintain or grow their generational income level. Often those folks are from income stable families at a minimum. Those that can’t afford/have access to new skills or are disincentivized to break the cycle will remain in poverty.
Our education system is failing. Simply stated, we aren’t building a strong enough society to compete globally with the best and brightest. Often it’s poor communities that have poor education. More affluent areas have better access and more options. Obviously the more affluent have the better ability to maintain or grow while the impoverished areas fail and leave good minds behind and untapped in the market.
Points two and three start to paint a picture of a classist society. To brush another topic for discussion lightly, I would like to bring forward that the idea of the nation being racist to a large degree overshadows the pressing issue of it being a classist nation, which creates problems that can be misconstrued as racism. A system that holds poor people down (whether purposeful or not) and provides privilege with much easier routes to success or maintenance for the affluent can disproportionately effect minority communities.
Here is an article that hits most of the points regarding causes and solutions. Plus it includes snippets in the current status of US versus global income disparity:
Income Inequality Article