Most Americans are failing to benefit from the growing economy, in which gross domestic product has risen 26 percent since 2000 because median income dropped by about 6 percent in the same period.
For the three decades after World War II, America’s economy worked to share prosperity with that broad spectrum of workers, but policy changes since Ronald Reagan’s time have focused almost all the benefits of economic growth to the top 10 percent of households, and a staggering share to the not just top one percent but the richest fragment of that super-rich class.
The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s overall income in 2012, the highest proportion recorded in a century of government record keeping.
A study by economists Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman reports that at the very top, wealth is distributed as unevenly as it was in the early 20th century, with the wealthiest 0.1 percent, and especially the 0.01 percent, leaving the rest of the top one percent in the dust.
Numerous studies have shown income inequality growing since the late 1970s, when earnings started falling for many families as globalization, the decline of unions and technological innovations eroding workers’ wages.
None of those factors explain why earnings have soared among households with more than $20 million in wealth – and especially among those with more than $100 million.
Those dramatic increases in wealth at the very top of the distribution, show mounting inequality caused by political factors such as tax cuts for the super rich, elimination of inheritance taxes, increased government debt to fund spending that enriches the wealthy and a refusal to make the top income families pay a fair share for government costs.
Even as government contracts for corporations, war action to enable the rich to expand their holdings, loosened rules on corporate political spending and other changes tilt to scales of power away from the vast majority of Americans, people at large simple refuse to confront the obvious problems that result from income inequality.
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and soon the middle-class with be extinct… but even progressive supposedly politicians as President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are protecting the status quo while such genuine reformers as Sen. Bernie Sanders remain obscure,poorly funded and unable to make much of a political impact.
Case in point, Obama and Clinton have close connections to Wall Street that show no signs of fading even as ‘too big to fail’ banks grow larger and a new economic disaster looms for the global economy. Republicans like Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and others would make matters worse but the left wing political factions are silent and impotent as the 2016 election season looms.
The American Dream of economic comfort, relative independence and home ownership is a fading notion but almost nobody is making a credible case to revive that kind of system and voters wildly reject the few candidates who have seriously suggested a return to shared prosperity.
The emerging generation may never forgive modern adults for allowing this to happen but they will probably be followed by children who could be ignorant of the period of freedom, justice, and prosperity as the growing inequality threatens a dark age where slavery and environmental catastrophe will obscure our sinful inaction.
America and democracy, as we know it, are dying but then, who cares?
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