From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/28-0
Soaring inequality in the US and why it matters
The United States is, by every reasonable measure, the most unequal of the world’s rich countries. And this is not new development. For more than three decades, the US has been suffering from a crisis of inequality. The Democrats have not taken this crisis seriously enough. The Republicans seem hell-bent on making it worse.
Evidence of extreme and rising economic inequality in the US is quite overwhelming. In 1979, the top 1% earned about 9% of all income; in 2013, they earned 24%. The incomes of the top 0.1% have grown even faster. More than half of all economic growth since 1976 has ended up in the pockets of the top 1%. Meanwhile, the incomes of the shrinking middle class have stagnated, and the incomes of those with a high school education or less have fallen substantially. The purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by about 15% since 1979. One in five kids lives in poverty.
How have we responded to all of this? By cutting taxes for the rich, busting unions and vilifying the poor! Over the past few decades, effective tax rates on US corporations and the richest 1% have fallen by about a third. Among the world’s rich countries, US tax rates on the rich are near the very bottom. Since 1970, the percentage of private sector workers in unions has fallen from 29% to 7%.
It has not always been this way. Between 1948 and 1975, the income of the median US household doubled. The incomes of the bottom 20% actually grew a little faster than the incomes of the top 20% over this period. Between 1928 and 1950, the distribution of income in the US actually became dramatically more equal.
Why should we be concerned about inequality? America is about opportunity, not guarantees — right? Actually, no! Among the world’s rich countries, the US is tied for last in class mobility; an American’s economic success is in fact highly correlated with his/her parents’ wealth and status. Richard Wilkinson captures this sad reality perfectly: “If you want the American Dream, you’ll have to go to Denmark.”
Economic inequality inevitably means political inequality. The right-wing Koch brothers, for example, spent more than $50 million aiming to defeat Obama and the Democrats in 2012. Right-wing casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent over $100 million. Increasingly, legislation is literally being written by corporate lobbyists. The Koch brothers are entitled to their right wing views; they should not be entitled to the kind of outsized influence that $50 million will buy.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/28-0