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The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps

The American Income and Wealth Gap

The issues and events represented in the broadening public discussions about “wealth and income disparities” or the “wealth divide” or the “1% and the 99%” are certainly top-of-mind for many people as we created this Hot Topic in October 2011.  These are certainly not new issues, but for many Americans the Great Recession is intensifying some of the troubling aspects of income inequality and certainly the obvious wealth inequality in the USA today.

 The essence of the American Dream has been about the assurance of equal access to quality education, the enjoyment of a good income (“living wages”), access to affordable healthcare, and the means to acquire a home of one’s own.

These have been the traditional pathways to building personal and family wealth at least since years of the Great Depression. In the “Era of Prosperity,” after World War II, the American middle class emerged in great numbers.  Thanks to equal access to credit and capital, steadily increasing wage levels for workers, and reasonably-priced housing and durable goods, attaining higher levels of education, among other things, each generation could expect to be better off than the previous.  Until now. What most Americans believed to be “financial fairness” for a rising middle class has been fading away since the financial sector crisis of 2008-2009, if not in reality, than in the perceptions of many people.

In contrast, the 1947 to 1975 years, as author Robert Reich points out in his book, “Aftershock,” was an era when the benefits of economic growth were more broadly shared.  But since 1975, the economic gains have been steadily concentrated in the upper income and wealth regions of the US economy, and the middle-class and lower income earners have been missing out on the dividends paid by (among other things) the end of the Cold War and the onset of globalization that followed.

Unemployment is stuck at the 9% level; and, many Americans are under-employed, working two jobs, or out of work for so long that they have given up on finding a job.  Which leads to more financial stress on millions of families.

As the former Secretary of Labor writes, “None of us can thrive in a nation divided between small number of people receiving an ever larger share of the nation’s income and wealth and everyone else receiving a declining share…”  We agree.

Real opportunity and access – and not that portrayed today by certain pandering politicos – has been slipping away for millions of Americans. The Capitol Hill rhetoric does not square with the facts on the ground --  the statistics and facts and consumer surveys paint a different picture, first in the facts, and more recently, in the perceptions held by many Americans.

Not About Wealth Re-Distribution

This reality of diminishing economic returns is not about income or wealth re-distribution, or pursuing socialist or left-leaning political ideologies or policies, or schemes to tax the rich.  This is about both the reality and perception of financial fairness and equity, and equal access to economic opportunity, which many middle-class and low-to-moderate income earners now believe is no longer the American Dream for them.  This is a potentially dangerous social condition and one that our policymakers – or the fortunate affluent and wealthy -- should not ignore. 

As this introduction is prepared, the Occupy Wall Street protests are in their third month, with hundreds of other cities and communities seeing demonstrations on their main streets.  The protests so far have been peaceful and civil if not raucous at times. 

The movement has spread to other countries.  Earlier in 2011, citizen protests were staged in the Middle East – in the Arab Spring, young and old protested against repressive government policies and the lack of economic opportunity for the masses in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria. A major part of the complaints: lack of jobs, and lack of or unequal opportunity  in terms of income and wealth-building, as well as the desire for more democratic rule.

There is now abundant news & commentary about the income and wealth divide in the United States, as well as a growing gap between rich and poor in many other countries.  We are bringing you the highlights of this issue in this Hot Topic, because we believe that everyone should be tuned in to this critical social issue, which threatens the well-being of the nation, and individuals in all socio-economic categories.  The solutions are not easy, or simple, or something government can prescribe.  All Americans have to address the issues – and some of us will have to give a little to get back on track. 

We cannot afford to lose the Millennial Generation (born 1975-2000) – the young people who seek the opportunities that their parents and grandparents enjoyed.

The editors have been focused on the issues surrounding the income and wealth divide for some time – this Hot Topic is being added to Accountability Central as the issues continue to gain momentum.  We will be offering commentary in a running series, “The Divide – Danger Ahead.”

We welcome your comments – send to:



Introduction: November 2011



Latest on The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps

April 7, 2015 The American people are clueless: Why income inequality is so much worse than we realize

Source: Salon

In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over...

April 2, 2015 McDonald's is raising wages by 10% for some of its workers

Source: Business Insider

McDonald's is raising wages by 10% for some of its workers.The Big Mac chain will also add benefits like paid vacation for workers, the company said Wednesday.

March 30, 2015 THE TRUTH ABOUT SHRINKING WALL ST. PAY: The rich are getting richer & the 'middle class' of banking is going away

The Business Insider - Getty Images / Alexander HassensteinStephen Schwarzman, CEO and founder of îThe Blackstone Groupî In some ways, Blackstone CEO and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman is like most of the folks who go...

March 29, 2015 America's shrinking middle class - They compare industries and occupations based on their exposure to Chinese offshoring after Chinaâs accession to the îWorld Trade Organizationî in 2001. They find that when exposure is greater, wage...

March 27, 2015 Guess What's Destroying the Middle Class?

Source: Bloomberg

Perhaps the biggest question in American political economy right now is why middle-class wages have been falling. There are three main hypotheses. Roughly, these are: Robots, unions and China.

March 24, 2015 Poverty rate in US drops for the first time since 2006

Economic Times - WASHINGTON: The poverty rate in the United States has dropped for the first time since 2006, bringing a bit of encouraging news about the nation's economy as President Barack Obama and Congress gear up for the...

March 24, 2015 Clinton: US Needs Solutions to Income Inequality

Source: ABC News

Approaching a likely presidential campaign announcement next month, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that income inequality and wage stagnation are problems that go hand-in-hand and the nation needs creative solutions to...

March 23, 2015 Study: World’s richest 1 percent about to control majority of world’s wealth

Source: Kansas City Star

The richest 1 percent are about to control a majority of the world’s wealth. That’s according to Oxfam America Inc., which said the slice of global wealth held by the world’s most affluent reached 48 percent last year, up from...

March 19, 2015 Target Said to Be Raising Hourly Wages to at Least $9 Next Month

Source: Bloomberg

Target Corp., the second-largest discount retail chain, will raise employee pay to at least $9 an hour this year, following in the footsteps of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and TJX Cos., a person with knowledge of the matter said.

March 18, 2015 The Rumpus Over Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage And Restaurant Closures

Source: Forbes

A couple of days back I gleefully leapt on the story about restaurant closures in Seattle and the effects of that city’s higher minimum wage. There has been a certain pushback from various people to that idea and we might now be...

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The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps

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  • RT @deanesmay: ..@EveKeneinan American conservatism has turned to a strain of economics and attitudes about poverty and wealth that are dis… 20:58
  • Hawkins Wealth Advisory Now Offers Pilots Loss Of License And Income Insurance 20:58
  • ..@EveKeneinan American conservatism has turned to a strain of economics and attitudes about poverty and wealth that are disgusting. 20:56
  • RT @SenSanders: We not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. 20:54
  • RT @SenSanders: The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral, economic and political issue of our time. 20:53
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