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Who cares about the economy? You

By John D. Sutter, CNN
June 13, 2013 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
<a href='http://www.cnn.com/changethelist'>Vote on which of these stories you like best</a> and CNN will send columnist John D. Sutter to the field to report on the top five as part of his new <a href='http://www.cnn.com/changethelist'>Change the List project</a>, which pushes for progress in places that need it most. Winning so far? <strong>Widest rich-poor gap:</strong> What's happening to America's middle class? One state may yield answers. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/changethelist'>Vote here.</a> Vote on which of these stories you like best and CNN will send columnist John D. Sutter to the field to report on the top five as part of his new Change the List project, which pushes for progress in places that need it most. Winning so far? Widest rich-poor gap: What's happening to America's middle class? One state may yield answers. Vote here.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vote on the stories you find most important and John Sutter will cover them
  • The vote is taking place as part of Sutter's new Change the List project
  • Sutter: Income inequality currently is leading the list of 20 topics
  • That could change, however; voting continues until Monday

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion. VOTE on what he will cover as part of the Change the List project. The ballot works best on desktop computers and tablets. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. E-mail him: ctl@cnn.com.

(CNN) -- When I asked CNN's readers and viewers to pick the five social-justice topics I'll cover for the rest of the year, I never expected so many of you to select the one with the Econ 101 title: "Widest rich-poor gap." I figured most of the country, or the world, would be sick of reading about the recession and bankers and bailouts. As a person with a job, it would be easy for me to say that's a 2008 story. Time to move on.

But that's why I trust the wisdom of the crowd: You tell me when I'm wrong. America's widening gap between the rich and poor -- and this country's fast-disappearing sense of security and progress and economic stability -- is so far the top pick among the 20 subjects I presented as part of a new project called Change the List.

That tells me that for many of you, it is the most pressing justice issue of our time. I wouldn't have seen that on my own, and I'm glad you did. You encouraged me to look deeper into the issue, and I'm excited that we might be delving into this story together.

John D. Sutter
John D. Sutter

The vote is part of a new CNN Opinion project that focuses on bringing attention to overlooked places and issues. I'm asking you to pick stories you find most compelling or important from a list of 20 -- and I'll report on the five winners. Voting closes at 2:00 p.m. ET on Monday, so there is still plenty of time for you to influence the outcome.

Here are the top five issues as of noon on Wednesday:

1. Rich-poor gap

2. Where rape is common

3. Poorest kids

4. Conflict is never-ending

5. America's most endangered river

About 23,000 ballots have been submitted so far, and only 916 votes separate the topics in fourth and seventh places, as of this writing. That's close. (While this story was being completed, "illegal animal trade" jumped into fifth place, for instance).

When I noticed rich-poor gap was such a crowd favorite, I was a little disappointed, to be honest. How could I stop an economy story from being dull and gray? But last night I started doing some research and started to see what many of you had already noticed: that this is a broadly important and interesting topic -- an underreported story, despite the never-ending flood of financial news headlines. (Friends at sites like CNNMoney and NPR's Planet Money have been doing a stellar job of covering the crisis; but does anyone want to read another jobs-report story? And just forget about the Dow.)

Beneath all the spreadsheets and wonkery, this seems to be a story about fairness and people. Is it one about rich folks who caused the recession and got off clean? About poor folks bearing the brunt of the recession? About a return to free market ideals? They're fascinating issues, and I'm undecided on them at this point.

Last night, I watched the documentary "Park Avenue," which focuses on the street in New York that's home to a building it says has more billionaires than any other -- and also a section of the Bronx with a high rate of infant mortality. The stats presented in the documentary are staggering: 1 in 7 Americans is on food stamps; a college degree is needed to compete, but the cost of college has soared since the 1980s; 400 of the richest people in the United States control as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans.

I'm glad it's a topic you highlighted for me.

CNN should continue to cover the war in Syria, whether or not you would vote for that. Same goes for this NSA madness. But with Change the List, I'm trusting you to choose. You deserve to have a say in what I cover -- and in what CNN covers. Not because this is a popularity contest, but because I firmly believe that stories are more meaningful for people when they're part of them. No one wants be on the wrong end of a bullhorn.

I'm excited to explore these topics -- any of these topics -- together.

That's journalism in the public interest.

So please vote. Think about which stories are most important, which could have the most impact and which you're willing to be a part of. Encourage others to do the same. And if you've got a few extra Econ books sitting around, send 'em my way.

Vote here: http://cnn.com/changethelist.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The views expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.

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