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U.S. Wealth Gap Widens: Top 1% of Americans’ Income Soared 275% in 30 Years

New income figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are sure to add fuel to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ wildfire burning across the nation.

The rich are getting a lot richer while the middle class and poor have seen only marginal gains.

“The distribution of after-tax income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf wrote. “The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined.”

From 1979 to 2007, the inflation-adjusted after-tax income of the top 1% of U.S. households rose 275%. For the middle class, the gain was 40%. For the poor, it was 18%. That might sound decent, but take a look at these actual dollar figures:

* TOP 1%           made $165,000+ in 1979; $347,000+ in 2007.

* TOP 20%         made $51,289+ in 1979; $70,578+ in 2007.

* BOTTOM 20% made $12,823+ in 1979; $14,851+ in 2007.

And if you look at income as a pie, the piece that the rich are getting keeps getting bigger, while the poor are left to scrap over the scraps. In fact, the slice “earned” by the top 1% more than doubled while the bottom fifth’s piece shrunk:

* TOP 1%         got 8% of the pie in 1979; 17% in 2007.

* TOP 20%     got 43% of the pie in 1979; 53% in 2007.

* BOTTOM 20% got 7% of the pie in 1979; 5% in 2007.


These figures should suffice to explain to even the most hard-headed trickle-down conservatives what the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests are all about. But the “fuck-the-poor” bunch is a notoriously tone-deaf lot. While screaming bloody murder about Obama stoking “class warfare” (while failing to mention that he’s a member of the 1% himself), the real class war is being waged by those who would perpetuate this growing inequality.

How bad have things gotten in the “Land of Opportunity?” According to the United Nations, the United States ranks 73rd in income equality, just below Turkmenistan and just above Senegal. The annual per capita incomes in those two countries, by the way, are $1,706 and $1,080 respectively.

The latest CBO report blames the growing income gap partly on government slashing of aid to low-income Americans such as Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, income taxes have been lowered, especially on the wealthiest Americans. Indeed, despite all the conservative grumbling about how high taxes are, in 2009 they were at their lowest level since 1950.

“Composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less progressive payroll taxes,” the CBO report said.

Some in government have taken notice of the growing income disparity. Rep. Sandy Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, is quoted in the International Business Times as calling the new CBO report “the latest evidence of the alarming rise in income inequality in this country.” Rep. Levin said the current tax code is “doing less to level the playing field than it was in the past.”

Try telling that to Republicans.

Witness Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, who attacked President Obama’s intention to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund his sorely-needed (yet still inadequate) jobs plan as “class warfare.”

“Telling people they are stuck in their current station in life, that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, and that the government’s role is to help them cope with it– well, that’s not who we are,” Ryan said, completely ignoring the statistics that prove lower-income Americans are indeed victims of such circumstances and that government, or at least government policies, are to blame for much of the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots.

Witness, too, Texas governor and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who when told that his proposed tax plan would dramatically reduce the tax burden on the 1% while raising taxes on the poor and middle class, flippantly declared: “I don’t care about that.”

And there you have it. Many of the rich, and the conservative lawmakers who slavishly do their bidding, just don’t give a shit about the rest of us. Especially not the poorest among us. By their twisted reasoning, detached as they are from the trials and tribulations of the hoi polloi, the poor have nobody to blame but themselves for their precarious predicament. They, too, could be gazillionaires if they just work harder, say the 1%ers. It’s the Amurrikin Dream.

You know why they call it the ‘American Dream?’ Because these days, you’ve gotta be asleep to believe it.

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