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Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans.

October 25th, 2010 4:51 PM

Socialism? The Rich Are Winning the US Class War: Facts Show Rich Getting Richer, Everyone Else Poorer

The rich and their paid false prophets are doing a bang up job deceiving the poor and middle class. They have convinced many that an evil socialism is alive in the land and it is taking their fair share. But the deception cannot last – facts say otherwise.

Yes, there is a class war – the war of the rich on the poor and the middle class – and the rich are winning. That war has been going on for years. Look at the facts – facts the rich and their false paid prophets do not want people to know.

Let Glenn Beck go on about socialists descending on Washington. Allow Rush Limbaugh to rail about “class warfare for a leftist agenda that will destroy our society.” They are well compensated false prophets for the rich.

The truth is that for the several decades the rich in the US have been getting richer and the poor and middle class have been getting poorer. Look at the facts then make up your own mind.

Poor Getting Poorer: Facts

The official US poverty numbers show we now have the highest number of poor people in 51 years. The official US poverty rate is 14.3 percent or 43.6 million people in poverty. One in five children in the US is poor; one in ten senior citizens is poor. Source: US Census Bureau.

One of every six workers, 26.8 million people, is unemployed or underemployed. This “real” unemployment rate is over 17%. There are 14.8 million people designated as “officially” unemployed by the government, a rate of 9.6 percent. Unemployment is worse for African American workers of whom 16.1 percent are unemployed. Another 9.5 million people who are working only part-time while they are seeking full-time work but have had their hours cut back or are so far only able to find work part-time are not counted in the official unemployment numbers. Also, an additional 2.5 million are reported unemployed but not counted because they are classified as discouraged workers in part because they have been out of work for more than 12 months. Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2010 report.

The median household income for whites in the US is $51,861; for Asians it is $65,469; for African Americans it is $32,584; for Latinos it is $38,039. Source: US Census Bureau.

Fifty million people in the US lack health insurance. Source: US Census Bureau.

Women in the US have a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related conditions than women in 40 other countries. African American US women are nearly 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Source: Amnesty International Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.

About 3.5 million people, about one-third of which are children, are homeless at some point in the year in the US. Source: National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Outside Atlanta, 33,000 people showed up to seek applications for low cost subsidized housing in August 2010. When Detroit offered emergency utility and housing assistance to help people facing evictions, more than 50,000 people showed up for the 3,000 vouchers. Source: News reports.

There are 49 million people in the US who live in households which eat only because they receive food stamps, visit food pantries or soup kitchens for help. Sixteen million are so poor they have skipped meals or foregone food at some point in the last year. This is the highest level since statistics have been kept. Source: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

Middle Class Going Backward: Facts

One or two generations ago it was possible for a middle class family to live on one income. Now it takes two incomes to try to enjoy the same quality of life. Wages have not kept up with inflation; adjusted for inflation they have lost ground over the past ten years. The cost of housing, education and health care have all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries. In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52% of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47%. The share going to the poor has also fallen, with the top 20% seeing their share rise. Mark Trumball, “Obama’s challenge: reversing a decade of middle-class decline,” Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2010.

A record 2.8 million homes received a foreclosure notice in 2009, higher than both 2008 and 2007. In 2010, the rate is expected to be rise to 3 million homes. Sources: Reuters and RealtyTrac.

Eleven million homeowners (about one in four homeowners) in the US are “under water” or owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth. Source: “Home truths,” The Economist, October 23, 2010.

For the first time since the 1940s, the real incomes of middle-class families are lower at the end of the business cycle of the 2000s than they were at the beginning. Despite the fact that the American workforce is working harder and smarter than ever, they are sharing less and less in the benefits they are creating. This is true for white families but even truer for African American families whose gains in the 1990s have mostly been eliminated since then. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America (PDF).

Rich Getting Richer: Facts

The wealth of the richest 400 people in the US grew by 8% in the last year to $1.37 trillion. Source: Forbes 400: The super-rich get richer, September 22, 2010, Money.com

The top Hedge Fund Manager of 2009, David Tepper, “earned” $4 billion last year. The rest of the top ten earned: $3.3 billion, $2.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $1.4 billion, $1.3 billion (tie for 6th and 7th place), $900 million (tie for 8th and 9th place), and in last place out of the top ten, $825 million. Source: Business Insider. “Meet the top 10 earning hedge fund managers of 2009.” http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-top-10-earning-hedge-fund-managers-of-2009-2010-4

Income disparity in the US is now as bad as it was right before the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s. From 1979 to 2006, the richest 1% more than doubled their share of the total US income, from 10% to 23%. The richest 1% have an average annual income of more than $1.3 million. For the last 25 years, over 90% of the total growth in income in the US went to the top 10% earners – leaving 9% of all income to be shared by the bottom 90%. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America (PDF).

In 1973, the average US CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker; by 2007 that ratio had grown to $275 to $1. Source: Jared Bernstein and Heidi Shierholz, State of Working America (PDF).

Since 1992, the average tax rate on the richest 400 taxpayers in the US dropped from 26.8% to 16.62%. Source: US Internal Revenue Service (PDF).

The US has the greatest inequality between rich and poor among all Western industrialized nations and it has been getting worse for 40 years. The World Factbook, published by the CIA, includes an international ranking of the inequality among families inside of each country, called the Gini Index. The US ranking of 45 in 2007 is the same as Argentina, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivorie. The highest inequality can be found in countries like Namibia, South Africa, Haiti and Guatemala. The US ranking of 45 compares poorly to Japan (38), India (36), New Zealand, UK (34), Greece (33), Spain (32), Canada (32), France (32), South Korea (31), Netherlands (30), Ireland (30), Australia (30), Germany (27), Norway (25), and Sweden (23). Source: CIA The World Factbook.

Rich people live an average of about five years longer than poor people in the US. Naturally, gross inequality has consequences in terms of health, exposure to unhealthy working conditions, nutrition and lifestyle. In 1980, the most well off in the US had a life expectancy of 2.8 years over the least well-off. As the inequality gap widens, so does the life expectancy gap. In 1990, the gap was a little less than 4 years. In 2000, the least well-off could expect to live to age of 74.7 while the most well off had a life expectancy of 79.2 years. Source: Elise Gould, “Growing disparities in life expectancy,” Economic Policy Institute.

Conclusion

These are extremely troubling facts for anyone concerned about economic fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice.

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