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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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction: November 2011
Latest on The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps
January 21, 2013 China’s Income Gap Narrows to Level That Still Risks UnrestSource: Bloomberg
China’s income gap narrowed for the fourth straight year in 2012, the country’s statistics chief said today, the first time in a more than a decade the government has released the politically sensitive figure.
January 18, 2013 China lets Gini out of the bottle; wide wealth gapSource: Reuters
China's statistics chief declared on Friday there was an urgent need for reforms to narrow the income gap between rich and poor, addressing head-on an issue that officialdom has ducked for years.
January 16, 2013 Number of working poor rises amid widening wealth gap, study showsSource: NBC News
The number of U.S. families struggling with poverty despite parents being employed continued to grow in 2011 as more people returned to work but mostly at lower-paying service jobs, an analysis released on Tuesday shows.
January 14, 2013 Survey: Income disparity, debt among top global risks
Courier-Post - FRANKFURT, GERMANY â The widening income gap between the rich and poor and burgeoning government deficits are the risks most likely to have a global impact over the next decade, according to experts surveyed...
January 11, 2013 Billionaires gain as living standards fall
World Socialist Web Site - The Stoxx; Europe 600 index is up 19.6 percent since June, when investors judged that the Greek debt crisis would not bring about the immediate collapse of the eurozone. The United States accounted for...
January 8, 2013 Income Inequality: Is It Good for Everyone?Source: CNBC
Income inequality has been on the rise for three decades in the United States, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" currently at its widest point since 1967.
January 2, 2013 Does government create a wealth gap?Source: USA Today
In a town that has more people per square mile talking about income inequality than probably any other -- you also find really striking examples of, well, income inequality.
December 31, 2012 Why the 99 per cent still matter in Canadian politicsSource: The Star.com
A year after the Occupy movement focused public attention on the income, wealth and opportunity gap between the top 1 per cent and the 99 per cent, the issue is attracting the attention of conservatives in Canada.
December 31, 2012 France Seeks New Path to High Tax Rate .Source: Wall Street Journal
PARIS—The government of Socialist President François Hollande on Sunday said it would consider other ways of imposing a top income-tax rate of 75% on high-wealth individuals after the country's top constitutional authority...
December 30, 2012 France's 75% 'supertax' thrown out as unfair and unconstitutionalSource: Guardian.co.uk
France's constitutional council has dealt a blow to beleaguered Socialist president François Hollande by rejecting the new 75% rate of income tax due to come into effect on Tuesday.
The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps
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