According to a headline in a Wall Street Journal e-mail bulletin, based on IRS data, “the wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all national income in 2005 — a postwar record. The bottom 50% made 12.8%.”
According to the article, “academic research suggests the rich last had this high a share of total income in the 1920s.
“Scholars attribute rising inequality to several factors, including technological change that favors those with more skills, and globalization and advances in communications that enlarge the rewards available to ‘superstar’ performers whether in business, sports or entertainment.”
Meanwhile, “The data highlight the political challenge facing Mr. Bush and the Republican contenders for president. They have sought to play up the strength of the economy since 2003 and low unemployment, and the role of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts in both. But many Americans think the economy is in or near a recession. The IRS data show that the median tax filer’s income — half earn less than the median, half earn more — fell 2% between 2000 and 2005 when adjusted for inflation, to $30,881. At the same time, the income level for the tax filer just inside the top 1% grew 3%, to $364,657.”
What we don’t know from this article is how many people are working multiple jobs to accumulate even this relatively low income, or how many do so without benefits, such as health care or paid vacation. We don’t know how many do so with no hope of advancement or how many do so and spend most of their income on rent. For this, we need an article on Alternet, which describes working class prospects:
While the Bush administration and others on the right try to paint Americans’ growing economic insecurity as some sort of irrational manifestation of the Zeitgeist — a common claim is that the economy is going gang-busters but people are too down about the mess in Iraq to notice — the truth is that stagnating wages and rising costs for housing, food, healthcare and gas are driving working America’s pessimism. As one participant who hadn’t seen a raise in some time put it, “There’s no progress. There’s no option. No more salary. That’s it. We’re static there. We all [have a] fear of being dismissed … if you leave there’s like ten people in line waiting to get your job.”
Healthcare and retirement security are both key issues for working people that the business class in D.C. dance around but never address. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they are either now or have recently been without health insurance, and more than half believe that they will retire at a later age than they had planned just five years ago.
And things are only getting worse. Economic security is decreasing. Intergenerational mobility, a measure of the economic prospects between generation, is decreasing, meaning that today’s children have less opportunity to do better than their parents.