Once widely admired for our egalitarian spirit, America has become a nation of both unbridled wealth and gut-wrenching poverty. Long thought of as `the Land of Opportunity', the last thirty years has seen that myth all but vanish as corrupt politicians passed laws giving ever more advantages to the already privileged, and transferring more and more of the meager holdings of the poor and middleclass into the greedy hands of the filthy rich. There has been a concerted effort by the Republican rightwing to drive down American wages by exporting jobs and importing cheap labor. Economic inequality in America is greater now than it has ever been since 1929, the start of the Great Depression.
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Prior to that (1975 or 1976), there was a protracted period when wealth inequality fell in this country, going back almost to 1929. So you have this fairly continuous downward trend from 1929, which of course was the peak of the stock market before it crashed, until just about the mid-1970s. Since then, things have really turned around, and the level of wealth inequality today is almost double what it was in the mid-1970s.
~ Edward Wolff, professor of economics at New York University and author of Top Heavy: The Increasing Inequality of Wealth in America and What Can Be Done About It
Fueled by rampant greed the rich have co-opted our government and attacked the middleclass with a viciousness that is hard to understand. While they may have once looked upon working Americans as the serfs who created their wealth, they now view us as suckers to be plucked and left for dead. It is both hateful and self-destructive, considering that the poor provide precious little fuel for a consumer-driven economy. You have to wonder what they're thinking.
The Wealth Gap: A Second Gilded Age?
The economic boom of the 1990s was highly uneven. Most people's wages remained flat or failed to recover the ground lost since the 1970s. The United States is now the most unequal society in the industrialized world. Wealth ownership is more concentrated now than at any time since the 1920s.
Our state governments are in serious financial trouble after a decade of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Vital public services are at risk.
Our democracy has been weakened because of the power of accumulated wealth. Sometimes our government seems most concerned with writing rules and administering regulations to serve the interests of its paying patrons.
This concentration of political power directly and indirectly undermines equality of opportunity in America. Too much economic inequality also undermines economic stability and growth, threatening prosperity for all.
As there is greater distance between haves and have-nots, we behave more like people in an apartheid society. For example, more people than ever are living in "gated communities" with entrances patrolled by armed guards. Is this the kind of nation we want to become?
Over the past two decades, the income gap in the U.S. has grown dramatically.
Demented out-of-control rightwing maniacs are rapidly turning us into a country of the have mores and the have nots. Who can forget the disgusting spectacle of our so-called President sucking up to his only real constituents whom he called the haves and have mores?
The United States is now the third most unequal industrialized society after Russia and Mexico. This is not a club we want to be part of. Russia is a recovering kleptocracy, with a post-Soviet oligarchy enriched by looting. And Mexico, despite joining the rich-nations club of the Organization for Economic and Community Development, has some of the most glaring poverty in the hemisphere.
In 2004, after three years of economic recovery, the U.S. Census reports that poverty continues to grow, while the real median income for full-time workers has declined. Since 2001, when the economy hit bottom, the ranks of our nation's poor have grown by 4 million, and the number of people without health insurance has swelled by 4.6 million to over 45 million.
Income inequality is now near all-time highs, with over 50 percent of 2004 income going to the top fifth of households, and the biggest gains going to the top 5 percent and 1 percent of households. The average CEO now takes home a paycheck 431 times that of their average worker.
In a time when what people most fear are attacks from without; we are being destroyed from within by the shameful actions of our own greed-besotted `government'.
America's Disease is Greed
by Andrew Greeley
The most serious spiritual problem in the country today is reckless and untrammeled greed. Greed caused the disgraceful corporate scandals that fill our newspapers. Greed is responsible for crooked cops and crooked politicians. Greed causes the constant efforts to destroy unions that protect basic worker rights.
Greed has produced rash tax cuts that have given money to the rich and in effect taken it away from the poor. Greed has led to the immigration policy in which hundreds of poor men and women die every year as they struggle across the desert for the jobs that el norte promises them. Greed accounts for the efforts to take profitability out of the pensions and health insurance of working men and women. Greed is responsible for the fact that so many Americans have no health insurance and the fact that the recent reform of Medicare was a fraud. Greed causes newspapers to overestimate their circulation.
Greed is responsible for the obscene salaries of CEOs. In the '90s the ratio of CEO compensation to average workers' compensation was 250 to 1, meaning that the boss earned on his first day of work during a year as much as the worker did in a whole year. In European countries the ratio is closer to 100 to 1. Recent estimates put the current ratio at 500 to 1 -- the boss makes as much before lunch as the worker does all year. Greed is the cause of the high wages paid to the bosses even if the company is failing.
Greed is responsible for the endless stress and ruthless competition of the workplace and the strains and tensions of professional class marriages. Greed (in this instance another name for relentless ambition) explains much of the cheating on college campuses. Greed is responsible for outsourcing, which is incapable of comprehending that the employees who lose their jobs are also the consumers who sustain the economy. Greed generates the reckless ventures that in part caused the bubble of the late '90s. Greed causes expensive wars that shatter the budget. Greed is the reason that only the wealthy are benefitting so far from the economic upturn that is allegedly happening. Greed drives loan sharks.
Greed is responsible for the success of big box stores that tax the poor with low wages to provide bargains for affluent suburban shoppers. Greed is the reason poor white Appalachians, poor African Americans and poor Native Americans must fight the wars that the wealthy start. Jessica Lynch joined the Army so she could go to college. Her Native American roommate, killed in action, joined so, single mother that she was, she could support her children. Greed is the reason why the country is being run by those whom the president has described, however inelegantly, as the ''haves and the have mores.''
by Julian Edney
Sign the tab in certain Midtown eateries and your neighbors' eyes slide over. Is that a $48,000 Michel Perchin pen? What's on your wrist - a $300,000 Breguet watch?
In Palm Springs and Bel Air, $100,000 twin-turbo Porsches and $225,000 Ferraris buzz the warm streets. In New York at an exclusive Morell & Company auction last May, a single magnum of Dom Perignon champagne was sold for $5,750. And there are the paintings of course - one evening at auction two Monets sold for $43 million (2). Hotel rooms, anyone, at $10,000 a night? Estate agents in suburbs of Dallas and Palm Beach have advertised baronial homes for sale at over $40 million (3).
These are prices paid by the exceptionally wealthy, the folks who skim the pages of the Robb Report (average annual salary of subscribers: $1.2 million) in whose glossy pages are reviewed the best of everything. In a recent issue a southern plantation is advertised, "everybody's dream," at $8.5 million.
Robert Reich points out that the superrich live in a parallel universe to the rest of the country: much of the time we don't see them because they live in walled estates, travel in private limousines and use different airports from the rest of us (4). There's lots of them. There are now more than 200 billionaires. Some five percent of American households have assets over $1 million. And we're back to levels of extravagant consumption not seen for 100 years (5).
By historical accounts this is a nation of persistent and resilient people with an unshakable mission: the pursuit of happiness. This idea of happiness is largely connected with wealth (and this connection has long philosophic roots). It is a nation of ambitious people with notions of unfettered future growth, a nation that celebrates abundance. There seems to be no reason anyone should be deprived of luxury, if he works hard. Indeed with this country's aggregate wealth, there should be no reason anyone should ever go hungry or suffer.
People are going hungry in America. A Los Angeles survey found more than a quarter of low income residents, many working, are not getting enough food to meet basic nutritional needs. And 10% are experiencing hunger(6).
Estimates are that 3 out of 10 Americans will face poverty sometime in their lives (7).
Misery is a word seldom applied to the contemporary scene. Like wretchedness it seems antique, an Old World term. But many Americans live in cold, dank slums; many do not earn enough for shelter, many sleep outside. In America's inner cities and at its lowest levels, under freeway bridges and in tubercular alleys, in stained and broken rooming houses and in torn-apart schools, misery exists and persists. All our largest cities contain neighborhoods where some people live day to day in apartments that could be mistaken for closets, some fearing to leave home on gang-terrorized streets, some sharing bus seats with people with drug-scarred arms. Every great metropolis has its skid row mired in fecal gutters, where whole blocks are awash in narcotics and violence, its inhabitants despised and flatly abandoned.
If you are among the fortunate who are still employed, insured, and not facing layoffs, or impending financial or medical doom; if you are managing to make ends meet, pay the bills, and put food on the table; if you have savings, investments, or prospects for the future; you may not be aware of just how many Americans are trying to cope with gut-wrenching realities.
Just last year, the national poverty rate rose to include 35.9 million Americans, 12.5 percent of the population. More than 36 million people were at risk of suffering from hunger in the United States, including 1 in 3 children. In addition, 3.5 million people were forced to sleep in parks, under bridges, in shelter or cars.
The combination of the high cost of living, low-wage jobs, and high unemployment rates only exacerbate these problems and force countless Americans to choose between food, housing, and other expenses. Studies show that money devoted to food is typically the first to be sacrificed. Families will often pay their fixed payments first, such as rent and utilities, rather than pay for food. Bread for the World reported that 35% of Americans had to choose between food and rent, while 28% had to choose between medical care and food, in the first half of 2004.
Unfortunately, these problems will only continue to grow if our society does not make it a national priority to address them in any systemic way. Source
Surprisingly, in the world's richest and fattest nation hunger is a persistent problem. Many people are shocked to learn how many people go hungry in this spoiled and bloated land. One thing you can be sure of, these assholes aren't missing any meals.
One of the most disturbing and extraordinary aspects of life in this very wealthy country is the persistence of hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, based on a national U.S. Census Bureau survey of households representative of the U.S. population, that in 2004 11.9 percent of all U.S. households were "food insecure" because of lack of resources. Of the 13.5 million households that were food insecure, 4.4 million suffered from food insecurity that was so severe that USDA's very conservative measure classified them as "hungry." Source
It is easy to forget the millions of Americans who lead desperate lives at the edge of the abyss: the hungry; the homeless; the hardcore unemployed; the uneducated; the sick; the elderly; the mentally ill; ex-convicts; drug addicts; war veterans who've received inadequate care; the laid off; people whose jobs have been exported; those who have suffered catastrophe or just plain bad luck.
We used to hear about homelessness, but we don't hear much about it any more. Could it be that we've solved that problem? Well...um...no.
Who is Homeless and Why?
The homeless population includes people from all walks of life:
* In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year.
* 35% of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest
growing segment of the homeless population.
* 25% are U.S. military veterans.
* 25% are children under the age of 18 years.
* 30% have experienced domestic violence.
* 20-25% suffer from mental illness.
* In urban communities, people experience homelessness for an average of eight months.
And families who are snug and secure in their own homes can be out on their asses tomorrow. All it takes is a layoff, a business failure, a divorce, a major medical claim denied, or any number of other disasters. Many of those who are making it, nevertheless teeter on the edge.
And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
All of this is happening because the disgracefully greedy among us are incapable of sharing or caring.
Sadly it seems that the greedheads are winning. I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked when Barbara Bush had her "let them eat cake" moment when she proclaimed the Katrina disaster good for the victims. Folks like her shouldn't have to "worry their beautiful minds" about all the human misery they have wrought. I cannot understand for the life of me how people ever become so callous and indifferent to the suffering of others. And while they la-di-da their way through life indulging themselves in decadent opulence at the expense of all the rest of us, the suffering of our own countrymen is increasing exponentially - and we are in danger of becoming a society utterly without compassion. How can people be so heartless?
KRISTA E., Westford, MA
My home can be
My daily meals
of anything or
are the clothes
I am a being.
I am human.
I am homeless.
If only people
where I stand.
Will this loneliness
Will I begin
I am a person.
I am alive.
I am homeless.
So have a heart brother - and could you please spare a dime?