U.C. Berkeley Study: Richest 1% Account for 93% of U.S. Economic Recovery’s Gains
A new study by a renowned economist has found that almost all of the gains resulting from the painfully slow U.S. economic recovery have gone to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.
The Huffington Post reports that University of California/Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, co-creator the World Top Incomes Database, analyzed 2010 U.S. income growth and found that that year– the first full year since the end of the Great Recession– almost all growth occurred amongst the richest 1%. Fully 93% of all income gains for 2010 went to the wealthiest earners.
This is bad news for the “99%,” who are already reeling from what is being called a “jobless recovery.” Nearly half of all Americans struggle to make ends meet. Often the ends do not meet, as reflected in the soaring number of homeless people on our nation’s streets and in its shelters. One in six Americans– some 47.8 million of us— is poor. One in five U.S. children are poor, and some 1.6 million kids are homeless today.
And the yawning chasm between rich and poor continues to grow ever wider. While the top 1% have seen their incomes soar by 275% over the past 30 years, the bottom 20%’s earnings have remained pretty much flat. The six heirs to the Walmart fortune are now worth more than the poorest 45,000,000 Americans combined.
Despite this shocking state of affairs, one in which the United States now ranks 73rd in global income equality (just above Turkmenistan and just below Senegal), conservatives and even some Democrats think everything is just fine. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has even publicly declared that he is “for income inequality.” Worse, Republicans– and some Democrats– want to slash social programs that keep millions of desperate or near-desperate Americans afloat. These programs keep Americans from starving and from sleeping on streets at night. But tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires are a higher priority for many Republicans, as is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on maintaining the prohibitively expensive U.S. empire.
President Obama called economic fairness “the defining issue of our time” in his 2012 State of the Union address. But in reality, he has done little or nothing to close the gap between the haves and have-nots in this country. To the contrary, Obama has proven to be a friend of Wall Street and the corporatist system that has hijacked our democracy with the help of odious Supreme Court decisions likeCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which affirmed that corporations are people and campaign spending is free speech. Citizens United ushered in a new era of political spending, as superpacs have become household names symbolizing the buying of our electoral process by the highest bidders.
None of this bodes well for the future wellbeing, both politically and economically, of the American people. Yet there is hope, as manifested in the massive grassroots Occupy Wall Street movement and other rejections of the unsustainable status quo. Millions of Americans have had enough, and as the weather warms and the 2012 elections approach, expect to see a renewed wave of mass demonstrations against the unconscionable and widening wealth gap in this, the world’s richest nation.
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