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Unequal: Sad American gap

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another national study confirms what everyone already knew: Rich Americans rapidly are growing wealthier, while the vast majority of U.S. families sink lower.

After the Great Recession ended in 2009, the top 7 percent of U.S. households quickly gained 28 percent in net worth by 2011 -- in a mere two years -- while the other 93 percent of Americans sank by 4 percent, the Pew Research Center found.

In that brief period, the average family in the wealthy group enjoyed an asset increase from $2.5 million to $3.2 million -- while the lower group dropped from $140,000 worth to $134,000. This spreading gap presumably increased after 2011, the latest year for which complete income and asset figures are available.

It's distressing that America is more unequal than other advanced nations. It's distressing that Republicans in Washington serve mostly the elite, fiercely opposing any tax increase for millionaires and billionaires. U.S. policies give the rich bountiful advantages.

Part of the worsening American gulf stems from the new Information Age -- the high-tech economy that lets better-educated, privileged people seize more opportunities. But their edge shouldn't be augmented by government favors.

The Economist of London recently noted that America's gap between haves and have-nots represents "simply more steps along paths that began to diverge for rich and poor in the Reagan era . . .  . No other country has seen such extreme shifts."

Researcher Richard Wilkinson was quoted on the Bill Moyers Journal on public television:

"The United States has the greatest inequality of income of any developed country except Singapore.  . . . The most unequal countries have more homicide, more obesity, more mental illness, more teen pregnancy, more high school dropouts and more people in prison . . .  . These are not just a little bit worse in more unequal societies, but are much worse."

As America relentlessly grows more unequal, the only hope we can see is for Democratic leaders to redouble their efforts to help average families and struggling folks, to offset economic forces that leave them behind.


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