From AP News ~ "Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans ~ nearly 1 in 2 ~ have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income .... Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000."
Here are the official U.S. Census guidelines for poverty status in the contiguous United States ~
~ family of 1 ~ $10,890
~ family of 2 ~ $14,710
~ family of 3 ~ $18,530
~ family of 4 ~ $22,350
~ family of 5 ~ $26,170
~ family of 6 ~ $29,990
~ family of 7 ~ $33,810
~ family of 8 ~ $37,630
(each additional person, add $3,820)
By any measure of economics, politics, or morality, this is an untenable situation. The figures buttress what I've maintained often ~ that the gap between the wealthy top 5 percent and the remainder of the population has been widening for thirty years, to the point where not merely social unrest (like the Occupy movement) but social upheaval will occur unless our elected officials get off their collective behinds and institute revolutionary reform. Which is unlikely to happen, since most of those same officials are either wealthy themselves, or are in the pockets of the wealthy.
We frequently hear politicians and commentors (I refuse to use the term 'commentators', since it is a ridiculous construct to suppose that people 'commentate') describe our situation as varying degrees of economic recession. No one wants to be the first to use the D word, but I suggest that we are already verging into a very real depression ~ one created by Reaganomics to favor the wealthy, and one from which it will take us another thirty years to fully recover, even given the best of intentions by all parties. That latter given is a stretch in credulity. Most of the wealthy do not spread their wealth. A few donate to charitable causes (and then take the tax write-off), and even fewer voluntarily suggest that the American tax structure be revised to see to it that those making vast sums of money contribute a more significant portion to the common good. It is a disingenuous myth that these are the "job creators". They're in it for more, and more, and more wealth. Period.
Meanwhile, the numbers of impoverished continue to make up a larger and larger proportion of our population. It isn't so in every developed country. It is definitely so in America's distorted version of capitalism. We know that poverty is the foundation for poor education, poor health, and high levels of crime. It is in everyone's interest to hold the feet of the super-wealthy to the fire, and to hold them accountable for shouldering more responsibility for contributing to the commons. Failure to do so will only hasten our descent from the company of the informed and influential nations of the world.