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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: email@example.com
Introduction: November 2011
Latest on The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps
January 30, 2014 Wealth gap: A guide to what it is, why it mattersSource: Seattle Times
WASHINGTON — From the White House to the Vatican to the business elite in Davos, Switzerland, one issue keeps seizing the agenda: the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.
January 29, 2014 Income Inequality Is a Sustainability IssueSource: Harvard Business Review
This evening, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address, and it is widely reported that it will focus on the issue of income inequality. He will be “on trend,” as they say in fashion — in recent months, leaders...
January 28, 2014 Wealth Gap: A Guide to What It Is, Why It MattersSource: ABC News
From the White House to the Vatican to the business elite in Davos, Switzerland, one issue keeps seizing the agenda: the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else. It's "the defining challenge of our time," says...
January 27, 2014 Let’s Talk About the Wealth GapSource: NY Times
WASHINGTON — Much of the substance and tone of President Obama’s State of the Union address this week are predictable. So is the reaction: It won’t change many minds or political stands.
Source: International Business Times
Billionaire Thomas 'Tom' Perkins has slammed the "progressive war on the American 1%" by claiming the US super rich are being persecuted in the same way that Jews were treated by the Nazis in World War II.
January 24, 2014 Boehner backs GOP bill to send water from delta to farms
San Francisco Gate - Amid the worst drought in California's recorded history, House Speaker John Boehner stood in a bare dirt field near Bakersfield to declare his support for taking more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin...
January 24, 2014 Davos 2014: There’s only one way to close the wealth gapSource: Telegraph
I’m in Davos this week, where more than 2,500 chief executives, government ministers and NGOs are assembled for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. After years of permafreeze, a thaw seems finally to have taken hold....
January 23, 2014 Inequality threatens the rich
CNN - (CNN)-- When President Barack Obama proclaimed the fight against income inequality is "the defining challenge of our time," you might have dismissed his words as the effort of a struggling president to revive his political...
January 22, 2014 Pope urges Davos elite to serve humanity with wealthSource: Reuters
Pope Francis challenged business leaders assembled in Davos on Tuesday to put their wealth at the service of humanity instead of leaving most of the world's population in poverty and insecurity.
January 21, 2014 Davos debates income inequality but still invites tax avoidersSource: The Guardian
Those on the outside might imagine that the business leaders who gather in Davos each year to chew the fat are concerned only about enriching themselves. Critics might imagine that the company bosses, jetting to the World...
The Risk of Wealth and Income Gaps
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