Since the Wall Street market crash in 2008, the series of frustrating headlines and stories have really morphed the business of news reporting. While the motto once was, if it bleeds, it leads, the motto now is, if it is about income disparity and the disappearance of the middle class, it leads. Sadly, it’s not getting any better.
Yet another blow to American society was revealed in a recent study based on the latest census data, showing that nearly one in two Americans is poor or low income. The data shows that around 97.3 million Americans fall into the low-income category ($45,000 per year for a family of four) and 49.1 million fall below the poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four). Those who are low income or below the poverty line total 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the population. That is an increase of 4 million for those at or below low income, compared to the population in 2009.
This news comes on the heels of the Occupy movement, where Americans protested the disparity between 1 percent of the population that controls 40 percent of the country’s wealth and the other 99 percent. And though the unemployment rate is dropping nationally and in Ventura County, this doesn’t take into account the fact that people are getting paid less for the same jobs they were working before the Great Recession and even just a year ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly earnings fell 1.5 percent from November 2010 to November 2011 and average weekly earnings dropped 1.2 percent during the same period. One can’t help but wonder, if there is so much wealth in this country, why do so few have it while so many are impoverished?
It has been said that people in this country should make as much money as they possibly can. The error of that statement lies in the reality that one person can’t make a dime without someone else, and in the end, we are all dependent on each other for our own wealth, health and quality of life. But the evidence shows that those who hold the money and the power clearly aren’t acknowledging and rewarding those who got them there and help to keep them there. To think that one man’s yacht may have sacrificed dozens of workers’ pay raises to get them out of poverty or low income status is truly a sad state of affairs.
This holiday season and with the coming of the New Year, America must refocus on being compassionate and on the well-being of others. While there is still much to be grateful for in this country, a fair and equitable shift in the dynamics of wealth distribution is a must to keep our country a strong and united.