Both Republicans and Democrats say concern about the middle class is at the heart of the ongoing, vituperative debate over taxes, entitlements and fiscal discipline, but the political spat never seems to honestly address the gaping and growing class divide in the United States. As politicians in Washington slam one another over competing budget priorities, most avoid facing up to the disturbing question behind all the numbers: Is the American Dream temporarily stalled or permanently kaput?
Last Sunday, Parade magazine presented its annual survey, “What People Earn,” an exercise guaranteed to appall and infuriate readers as they compare their own salaries with the likes of
Sure, it seems a little insane that 19-year-old
It is more telling that
Economics columnist Jon Talton recently did a rundown of the facts about today's American economy. Among his findings:
• Worker productivity has increased nearly 23% since 2000, but hourly wages rose a pitiful 0.5% in that period.
• Taking a longer view back to 1973, productivity is up 80% between now and then, but pay is up only 11%.
• People at the bottom of the wage scale are earning less now than similar workers in 1979.
• Employees in the middle of the wage scale are getting 6% more than in 1979, but all that increase happened in the 1990s.
• High earners, meanwhile, are making 37% more than back in the 1970s, and the much-talked-about folks in the top 1% have enjoyed a 131% increase in earnings.
It is bad enough that we are going back to the income disparities of the 19thcentury’s Gilded Age, but Talton, like many other observers of the U.S. economy, notes that modern America is also becoming more stratified. We are moving toward the “
This is not the country we like to think we are and it is not the country our political leaders are willing to admit they have helped create. Thirty years of catering to Wall Street, big business and the