The marked inequality of wealth in the United States has threatened our Republic since its founding, and represents the single greatest internal threat to our nation at this time.
Let me quote here from my January 18, 2009 OpEdNews article "The Forty Percent Solution:"
"At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, it has been estimated that fifty-six percent of Americans "could not make ends meet," i.e., lived in poverty (Stanley Lebergott, The American Economy: Income, Wealth and Want, 1976; p. 508). In 1928, that number had fallen to an estimated fifty percent (from the late Steve Kangas' web site Liberalism Resurgent: Myths About Welfare; Welfare increases poverty; derived from Internal Revenue Service data cited in Donald Barlett and James Steele, America: Who Really Pays the Taxes; Simon & Schuster, 1994; pp. 66-7). By 1959--the first year the Bureau of the Census kept official statistics--the poverty rate had dropped to 22.2% in the United States. "
"When President Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1965, it had dropped to 17.3%. In 1973--that pivotal year when America's middle class saw their wages (after inflation) start their current slide--poverty in the United States reached its lowest historical point, 11.1%. The last official figures I saw put poverty at 12.6% (2005 Census Bureau Table 689) of the population, although some sources place it as high a 17.7% (Creating a Consistent Poverty Measure over Time Using NAS Procedures 1996-2005; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Working Paper 417). "
I believe the 17.7 percent number was probably closer to correct in 2005, due to two simple facts. First, this is roughly the number which is given for the total unemployed and underemployed in the United States at the time of the survey. Second, there is a $27,500.00 discrepancy between median and average income, ($43,200 versus $70,700, a difference of almost 64%). This tells me that the money earned in our country is weighted heavily to the right of the median line of our population's income, which means that the number of people living in poverty--at the far left of that median line--is much higher than the official numbers. (I found these numbers originally in Barbara Ehrenreich's book, This Land is Their Land, "That Sinking Feeling," p. 92. She got the numbers from U.S. Census Bureau data for 2004.)
This percentage means that more than one out of six Americans are living in poverty. According to United Nation's statistics, it was not until the recession of 2001-2, and its jobless recovery, that any of the Western Democracies other than our next door neighbor, Canada, had double digit poverty. (Report of the United Nations Development Program, 2004; Where We Stand; Michael Wolff, et al., 1992.)
It appears to me as if the wealthiest people in this country would prefer to see the rest of us hanging on by the skin of our teeth, so we can't oppose them or their predations. They see no disadvantage (and numerous advantages) in having fifty percent of the American people living in poverty, the way that we did eighty years ago.
"You say you want a revolution, well you know, we'd all love to change the world." The Beatles, "Revolution," 1968.