Few conditions are more divisive and frustrating than income inequality. Even as rising profits and productivity have produced higher incomes for more affluent Americans, many middle- and lower-income families are struggling. That disparity resonated with voters in the primaries and caucuses leading up to this week's Democratic National Convention.
Executive pay is 276 times the average worker's pay. Meanwhile, average wages have steadily lost buying power since 1979 because they have not kept pace with the cost of living. Survival becomes a challenge when you only earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
The economy hasn't been working for too many Americans. With escalating personal debt, plus the cost of housing, health care, and college in some families, apprehension about the future can easily turn into panic - especially after you add disappearing retirement plans to your concerns.
No wonder so many Americans seem to have lost faith in the political institutions they have always counted on to take their side against wealthy interests that oppose increasing the minimum wage, repatriating jobs, narrowing pay gaps, and lowering the costs to obtain decent health care and credit.
Lacking faith in government, many alienated Democratic voters were attracted to Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, just as many Republicans saw Donald Trump as the candidate who could provide a needed change from the status quo. Both Sanders and Trump, in very different ways, have promised to radically reset the current system.
Goaded by Sanders, Clinton has placed more emphasis on closing income gaps. Like him, she now supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, particularly those with huge gaps between executive and worker pay and those hiding assets and exporting jobs overseas.
Clinton wants to invest in an infrastructure rebuilding program and pool research that links higher education and job training with employers to create higher-paying jobs. Rather than halt foreign trade deals, she says she would impose tougher protections for American workers.
Trump, of course, says he would make better deals. But he hasn't been very specific or consistent. He said he wouldn't raise the minimum wage but later said it was too low. He chastised the powerful for steamrollering lower-income families but also said he wants to slash taxes for the wealthy and corporations.
No doubt all of Trump's inconsistencies will be detailed by Clinton when she takes the podium to give her acceptance speech later this week. Expect her to mention Trump's criticism of the U.S. trade imbalance with China, which is rich considering that many Trump Organization goods, ranging from cuff links to eyeglasses, are made in China.
After all the speeches have been made and the confetti has fallen, it will be up to voters, many of them frightened and frustrated by their financial circumstances, to decide who will do more than talk about income inequality and making sure workers are paid fairly.