Monday, July 30, 2012

America's inequal world

1% percent of America's richest individuals control 42 percent of the nation's wealth. The 400 richest people in America, according to Forbes, have more than one trillion dollars' of wealth. They each average $3.5 billion of net worth. There are nearly 150 million poor and near-poor people in America. Nearly one-third of the American so-called middle class - mostly families with children - have now fallen into poverty. There is an astonishing number of people work at low-wage jobs. Wages for those who work on jobs in the bottom half have been stuck since 1973, increasing just 7 percent.

 Most of the income of people in poverty comes from work. According to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau, 104 million people — a third of the population — have annual incomes below twice the poverty line, less than $38,000 for a family of three. They struggle to make ends meet every month. Half the jobs in the nation pay less than $34,000 a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A quarter pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually. Families that can send another adult to work have done better, but single mothers (and fathers) don’t have that option. Poverty among families with children headed by single mothers exceeds 40 percent. The census tells us that 20.5 million people earn incomes below half the poverty line, less than about $9,500 for a family of three — up eight million from 2000. In the mid-90s more than two-thirds of children in poor families received welfare. But that number has dwindled over the past decade and a half to roughly 27 percent. One result is that six million people have no income other than food stamps. Food stamps provide an income at a third of the poverty line, close to $6,300 for a family of three. At least we have food stamps, the number of recipients rising to 46 million today from 26.3 million in 2007.

What is astounding is the number of poor and middle class Americans supporting policies that will be their death knell voting for political parties that are wholly owned and operated by the wealthiest corporations in the world.  Facts seem irrelevant to many voters; the U.S. has lower tax rates than almost all of the other industrialized countries and government employment has dropped sharply in the past few years, yet the explanation for hard times is that the government is taxing too much and spending too much. There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement of presidential contestants that America is the greatest country in the world. It is 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality. It is time for the American people to connect the dots.

The world is a wealthy place and by any measure the North American region is among the wealthiest.  It clearly has the resources to provide a decent standard of living for its workers and its children and elderly.

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