Travis Waldron, Think Progress:
[The U.S. is] now more unequal than countries like Ivory Coast and Pakistan. While those numbers are startling, a study from two historians suggests that American wealth inequality may actually be worse than it was in Ancient Rome - a society built on slave labor, a defined class structure, and centuries of warfare and conquest.Historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen state that the top 1% of Americans control 40% of the country's wealth. In Rome, when the empire was at its population zenith (around 150 C.E.), that number was approximately 16%.
Income inequality is not only a problem in the U.S. The distance between the ultra-rich and everyone else has increased in 17 of the 22 countries for which the Organisation of Economic Development and Cooperation has long-term data. Those 17 countries include the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Israel, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Australia, and Canada.
Here are some pie charts and some facts:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% saw their incomes rise by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, while the incomes of the bottom 20% of earners grew by only 20 percent.
The total net worth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans is more than that of the bottom 60% of Americans.
The six heirs to the Walmart fortune had the same net worth in 2007 as the bottom 30% of Americans.
The richest 1% of Americans now earn almost 24 percent of the country's income. In 1976, that figure was 9 percent.
As noted above, the U.S.'s income equality is worse than in Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia. It is roughly on par with Uganda.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that the richest 1% of Canadians saw their share of total income increase from slightly more than 8 percent in 1980 to more than 13 percent in 2007. A big reason for that is the top marginal tax rate has dropped from 43% to 29% in that time period.
If two parents work 40 hours week for 52 weeks and earn minimum wage ($7.25/hour), they would bring home approximately $27,500. Even if three of the four family members worked full-time at minimum wage, they would not crack the "low income" threshold, coming in at only $41,350. If both parents earned $12/hour, the family would still be "low income" ($43,264).
Many families who you and I would consider poor - $55,000 for a family of four, for example - are "too rich" to qualify for numerous U.S. tax credits and social programs. As the number of poor people rises, I await Barack Obama's (or his successor's) lowering of the poverty line, which would magically mean a much lower number of poor people. It worked for Ronald Reagan. Prosperity! Yay!
(Speaking of Reagan, during his two terms, he lowered the tax rate for the top 1% of income earners by 14.4% and raised the tax burden of the lowest 25% of workers by 16.1%. The U.S.'s current transformation into a third-world country began with Reagan and accelerated under Bill Clinton's administrations.)
Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold ... because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family's income.Think Progress, December 20, 2011:
The Occupy Wall Street movement has put America's staggering wealth gap front and center in the national debate. Between 1979 and 2007, average after-tax incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 281 percent while middle class wages stagnated. The top 1 percent controls roughly 40 percent of the nation's wealth. At the very top of the income scale, the 400 richest Americans have seen their share of income quadruple in the last 12 years, while their effective tax rates were halved.In the 2010-11 school year, more than 31,000 homeless students attended school in Michigan - a 37% increase over the previous year. According to Jeff Seidel, an investigative reporter for the Detroit Free Press:
Overall, the number of homeless students in Michigan has jumped more than 300% in the last four years. Most experts say those numbers are low because many parents are embarrassed to admit they are homeless. And many school districts lack the resources to identify these kids, as required by federal law.In other Michigan news, Governor Rick Snyder on Monday signed into law bills lowering unemployment insurance and worker's compensation benefits - and regulations making it harder for workers to qualify for those ever-meager benefits.
Advocates say there's also a disincentive to find homeless children. Once a district finds them, it has to pay to transport them to school and provide other services - a tough job for many cash-strapped districts.
Bernie Marcus, on the people of Occupy Wall Street:
Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?