By Michael Snyder - BLN Contributing Writer
Not everyone has been doing badly during the economic turmoil of the last few years. In fact, there are some Americans that are doing really, really well. While the vast majority of us struggle, there is one small segment of society that is seemingly doing better than ever. This was reflected in a recent article on CNBC in which it was noted that companies that cater to average Americans are doing rather poorly right now while companies that market luxury goods and services are generally performing exceptionally well. So why aren’t all American consumers jumping on the spending bandwagon? Well, it seems that there are a large number of Americans who either can’t spend a lot of money right now or who are very hesitant to. A stunningly high number of Americans are still unemployed, and for many other Americans, there is a very real fear that hard economic times will return soon. On the other hand, there is a significant percentage of Americans who are blowing money on luxury goods and services as if the economy has fully turned around and it is time to let the good times roll. So exactly what in the world is going on here?
Well, in 2010 life is very, very different depending on whether you are a “have” or a “have not”. The recent article on CNBC referenced above described it this way….
Consumer spending in the U.S. has turned into a tale of two cities in 2010, with an entire segment of consumers splurging confidently on the finer things in life, while another segment, concerned about unemployment and with little or no discretionary income, spends only on bare necessities.
So why is this happening?
It is happening because the rich are getting richer and they have plenty of money to buy stuff and the poor are getting poorer and have less money to spend than ever.
In case you haven’t been paying attention over the past couple of decades, what we have in America today is a system that is designed to funnel as much wealth into the hands of the elite as possible.
This isn’t capitalism that we have in America in 2010. Instead, what we have created is a system where the laws are set up so that the power elite and their big, dominant corporations always win.
Why do you think so many of America’s largest corporations pay so little in taxes?
Why do you think so many of them are showered with government subsidies, tax breaks and bailouts?
It’s not about competition anymore.
It’s about rigging the game in your favor.
The power elite and the giant corporations they control spend millions and millions on lobbying and campaign contributions and they expect a big return on that investment.
Let’s take a look at one example. Many people think that Barack Obama and the Democrats are supposed to be anti-business, right?
Well then why are some of Barack Obama’s biggest donors the very same corporations that are receiving giant bailouts, making record profits and paying their employees billions in bonuses?
Goldman Sachs was Barack Obama’s second biggest donor. Microsoft was number four. Citigroup was number six. JPMorgan Chase was number seven. Time Warner was number eight.Are you starting to get the picture?
Every single year, the U.S. Congress passes law after law after law that makes it easier for big corporations to dominate and makes it easier for the rich to get even richer.
America’s economy is not about competition anymore.
It is about eliminating competition.
And unfortunately for middle class Americans, the giant predator corporations that now dominate our economy are realizing that they don’t really need nearly as many American workers anymore.
Instead, they are slowly but surely shipping our jobs off to the other side of the world where workers are willing to work for about a tenth as much.
And yet we still run out to the “big box” stores and fill up our carts with a bunch of plastic crap made on the other side of the world by these giant corporations.
Meanwhile, those giant corporations are taking the profits they make out of our communities and they are taking our jobs and are shipping them overseas.
So in the final analysis, is it any wonder why the income inequality gap is growing?
Without small businesses having a legitimate chance to compete and without good jobs for American workers, the middle class in America is going to continue to get chewed up and spit out.
The following are 30 statistics that prove that the elite are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being destroyed in 2010….
The Rich Are Getting Richer
1 - As of 2007, the top 1 percent of all Americans was taking home 24 percent of the national income. This was a level that had not been seen since the days of the Great Depression.
2 – Incomes have been growing in the United States, but those at the very top of the pyramid have been gobbling up almost all of the income growth. According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
3 – Even official government figures bear out the fact that the rich are getting richer. An analysis of income-tax data by the Congressional Budget Office a few years ago found that the top 1% of all American households own nearly twice as much of the corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
4- Most Americans have suffered during the last few years, but not the boys and girls down on Wall Street. New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
5 – Even as the number of Americans living in poverty skyrockets, the number of millionaires just keeps growing. In fact, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million during 2009.
6 – The amount of money some of these Wall Street hotshots are making is incredible. Back in 2005, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned a total of 9 billion dollars. That would be bad enough, but even in these hard economic times the rich just keep getting richer. One year after the recent financial collapse the top 25 hedge fund managers earned a total of approximately $25 billion. That breaks down to an average of $1 billion each. The truth is that the United States has been experiencing uneven prosperity for quite some time and things just seem to get worse with each passing year.
The Poor Are Getting Poorer
7 – Government anti-poverty programs are exploding in size in response to the recent economic difficulties. USA Today is reporting that a record one in six Americans are now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.
8 – Over 50 million Americans are on now Medicaid. That figure is up more than 17 percent since the beginning of the recession.
9 – The number of Americans in the food stamp program rose to a new all-time record of 40.8 million in May. That number is up almost 50 percent since the beginning of the recession.
10 – The number of Americans who cannot afford even the basic necessities is absolutely staggering. A whopping 50 million Americans could not afford to buy enough food in order to stay healthy at some point over the last year.
11 – Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is doing very poorly. The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
12 – The saddest part of this is what we are doing to our children. According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010.
13 – But the American people cannot provide for their families if they don’t have jobs. Today there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone. In 2010, it takes the average unemployed American worker over 8 months to find a job.
14 – Approximately 10 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment insurance, which is a number that is nearly four times higher than what it was at back in 2007.
15 – The truth is that we are creating a permanent underclass of Americans that cannot get jobs. The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has increased over 60 percent in just the past year.
16 – Increasingly, the wealth of the United States is being held in fewer and fewer hands. One study found that as of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
17 – It is not a good time to be living in “the bottom half” in America. The size of “the pie” being divided up among those at the low end of the wage scale is becoming really, really small. In fact, the bottom 40 percent of all income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
The Middle Class Is Being Destroyed
18 – Even those Americans that still do have decent jobs are seeing their wealth fade rapidly. For example, U.S. families have $6 trillion less in housing wealth than they did just three years ago.
19 – Home ownership used to be a sign that one had arrived in the middle class, but in 2010 an increasing number of Americans are finding out that they simply can’t afford their homes anymore. One out of every seven mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.
20 – The reality is that incomes have just not kept up with housing costs. This has put an incredible amount of pressure on the middle class. Just how much pressure? Well, only the top 5 percent of all U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
21 – The debt binge middle class Americans have been on over the past couple of decades has drained many of them completely dry, and now more Americans than ever have bad credit scores. Over 25 percent of Americans now have a credit score below 599, which means that they are a very bad credit risk.
22 – A rapidly rising number of Americans are actually choosing bankruptcy as a way out of their financial problems. Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending this past June 30th.
23 – The middle class manufacturing jobs that once defined so many American cities are rapidly disappearing. Despite the fact that the U.S. population has dramatically increased, less Americans are employed in manufacturing today than in 1950.
24 – These days it seems like almost everyone is looking for a good job, but very few people are finding them. According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.
25 – Even many of those Americans that still have decent jobs have been hit hard by this economic downturn. A recent Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.
26 – The number of jobs that are evaporating is absolutely stunning. According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of 10.5 million jobs since 2007.
27 – So where are the jobs going? It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. China’s trade surplus (much of it with the United States) climbed 140 percent in June compared to a year earlier.
28 – The truth is that “globalism” and “free trade” have put middle class American workers in direct competition with the cheapest labor in the world. This is what middle class American workers must now compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
29 – Due to these difficult economic conditions, the middle class is being squeezed as never before. According to a poll taken in 2009, 61 percent of Americans ”always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck. That was up significantly from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
30 – So what kind of future do our young people have in front of them? Unfortunately, things don’t look pretty. Many fresh college graduates can’t even get a job that will allow them to be independent. One recent survey of last year’s college graduates discovered that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation. That was up significantly from 63 percent in 2006.
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