Moral Low Ground

Economy

Six Walmart Heirs Worth as much as Bottom 30% of American Workers

Some people just don’t get it. They still think that the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve taken to the streets to swell the ranks of the Occupy Wall Street movement are nothing but lazy bums looking for a handout. Tell them that the top one percent of U.S. earners saw their incomes soar 275% over the last three decades while the income of the bottom 20% pretty much remained flat over that same period, and they’ll shrug it off. Gently inform them that the richest 400 individuals in America– billionaires, every last one of them– control as much wealth as the bottom half of the country combined, and they’ll respond with a yawn.

But this one they cannot ignore: according to ThinkProgress, the six children of Walmart founders Sam and James Walton had the same net worth as the entire bottom 30% of American workers– in 2007. That’s before the worldwide economic meltdown; that figure is certainly much more grotesque in 2011. Think about this for a moment… with a total labor force of approximately 150 million people, that means the six Walmart heirs are worth as much as 45 million American workers.

6 = 45,000,000.

Worse yet, the Walmart heirs have spent millions lobbying Washington lawmakers for lower taxes on gazillionaires and an end to the estate tax, which they refer to as the “death tax.” Sadly, politicians on both sides of the aisle have been bought off, and under the supposedly “progressive” Obama administration, Bush-era tax cuts for the super-rich have continued.

Meanwhile, nearly half of all Americans struggle to make ends meet. The U.S. median income has fallen to 1990s levels, with the working class worse off today than in 1980. One in six Americans– 47.8 million people— are poor. One in seven Americans uses food stamps.  More than one in five children is living in poverty. For black children, that figure is nearly double.

And some people still wonder what Occupy Wall Street is all about?

Fortunately, the growing chasm between rich and poor is finally front and center in the national conversation. The majority of Americans now believe that income inequality is a problem and that our nation’s tax system is unfair. And a recent study by researchers at Harvard and Duke University found that most Americans want a more equitable distribution of wealth similar to that found in Scandinavian countries.

But still there are those who just don’t get it. These are the people, bless them, who drank champagne and laughed and mocked as they watched the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. These are the Chicago Board of Trade brokers who dropped McDonald’s job applications down on Occupy demonstrators. And these are the millions of ordinary working folks who don’t yet realize that they, too, are victims of the one percent’s rapacious plunder and insatiable greed. The good news is, every day more and more Americans are awakening from their slumber to realize something is terribly wrong in this great country and that it’s up to them to do something about it. As Alexis de Tocqueville said nearly 200 years ago: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

The Waltons and their gilded ilk would be wise to take notice.

income inequality

 

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