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35 soul-crushing facts about American income inequality

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The money given out in Wall Street bonuses last year was twice the amount all minimum-wage workers earned combined.

Larry SchwartzAlterNet / Salon

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Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 | While Hillary Clinton occasionally gives some lip service to the problem of extreme inequality, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate really hammering away at it. He has even blasted the orthodoxy of economic growth for its own sake, saying according to Monday’s Washington Post that unless economic spoils can be redistributed to make more Americans’ lives better, all the growth will go to the top 1% anyway, so who needs it? Sanders might know his history, but the rest of the candidates could use a little primer.

The United States was not always the most powerful nation on Earth. It was only with the end of World War II, with the rest of the developed world in smoldering ruins, that America emerged as the free world’s leader. This coincided with the expansion of the U.S. middle class. With the other war combatants trying to recover from the destruction of the war, America became the supermarket, hardware store and auto dealership to the world. Markets for American products abounded and opportunity was everywhere for American workers of all economic means to get ahead. America had a virtual monopoly on rebuilding the world. Combined with the G.I. Bill of 1944, which provided money for returning veterans to go to college, and government loans to buy houses and start businesses, the middle class in America boomed, as did American power, wealth and prestige. Between 1946 and 1973, productivity in America grew by 104 percent. Unions led the way in assuring wages for workers grew by an equal amount.

Larry Schwartz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and American history.

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