Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Inequality in America

You should definitely check out this column by Paul Krugman in Rolling Stone. He thoroughly dispatches many of the myths we hear from the Right about income inequality. As usual, the only people who are criticized for class struggle are those who point out which side is winning.

Here's a great image that helps to capture the realities of today's economy:

The widening gulf between workers and executives is part of a stunning increase in inequality throughout the U.S. economy during the past thirty years. To get a sense of just how dramatic that shift has been, imagine a line of 1,000 people who represent the entire population of America. They are standing in ascending order of income, with the poorest person on the left and the richest person on the right. And their height is proportional to their income -- the richer they are, the taller they are.

Start with 1973. If you assume that a height of six feet represents the average income in that year, the person on the far left side of the line -- representing those Americans living in extreme poverty -- is only sixteen inches tall. By the time you get to the guy at the extreme right, he towers over the line at more than 113 feet.

Now take 2005. The average height has grown from six feet to eight feet, reflecting the modest growth in average incomes over the past generation. And the poorest people on the left side of the line have grown at about the same rate as those near the middle -- the gap between the middle class and the poor, in other words, hasn't changed. But people to the right must have been taking some kind of extreme steroids: The guy at the end of the line is now 560 feet tall, almost five times taller than his 1973 counterpart.

2 Comments:

Blogger Alex said...

I think that this is one of the most important isssues facing the country right now, and I appreciate the way you keep bringing it up.

I picked up your "Global Rich List" from GMD and passed it around to friends...it caused a few jaws to drop.

What is interesting about this story is that even Conservative Democrats, like Rubin are reevaluating the evidence in light of this "rich-only" Recovery and changing their minds.

There was an article in The New Republic about this last fall.

March 09, 2007 2:24 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

PS-
Thanks for promoting my Impeachment discussion over on GMD...I don't expect find too many that agree with me, but it is very nice not to be dissmissed out of hand!

March 09, 2007 2:25 PM  

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