Actual living, breathing Americans are still in the pits, according to the most recent supplemental poverty report issued by the Census Bureau. Factoring in such expenses as medical debt, and such regional variables as transportation, housing, clothing, and child care costs, nearly half of us --150 million people -- can be considered "near-poor" (incomes below twice the official poverty threshold). The official abject poverty rate is holding just about steady at 15.5%, or nearly 48 million Americans.
The poverty rate among older Americans is actually increasing, up by about four million people, largely as a result of medical expenses. And were it not for Social Security, more than half of all Americans over age 65 would be living in penury. In the population as a whole, according to the report, out-of-pocket medical expenses alone have sent an additional 10 million adults of all ages into a state of near-poverty.
In California, one in four residents is now deemed poverty-stricken under the supplemental measures listed by the Census Bureau. Ditto for New York City. Both locales also boast more than their share of billionaires, who have raked in an even greater share of global wealth in the past year. From The Guardian:
The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.
According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.
“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.Meanwhile, though, most Americans (besides desperately believing that there is not only still a middle class, but that they still reside in it) have no clue about how extreme the wealth inequality really is. According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business School, most people think that the average CEO makes a whopping 30 times the salary of the average worker, while believing that a fairer ratio would be more along the lines of 7:1.
The correct response is that, on average, the American CEO makes at least a staggering 300 times as much money as the employee. That would take the unacceptability factor into the outer limits of the stratosphere, to a level far above the comprehension of most of our brains.
And that, of course, is perfectly O.K. with the ruling elites.
Incidentally, the New York Times has today countered the Census Bureau's supplemental poverty report with a special supplemental section of its own. It is called, simply enough, Wealth.
Far from being a self-celebration of extreme inequality, this supplement frames its articles around the theme of what a headache and hardship obscene wealth truly is for its sufferers.
If, for example, you are an executive stressed out from making 300 times as much as your serfs, you can relax. Get rid of any vestigial guilt you might be feeling at a euphemistically titled plutocratic "boot camp" where you can yoga away all your cares and woes. And if you're an older woman who is royally pissed off about all the attention your dog food-eating impoverished peers are getting, the Times has some special advice to help you cope with the angst of having all that money. There are other stories about heiresses on horseback, and how to supplement the stressful happiness that wealth brings by coddling your brain chemistry.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a Harvard study to prove that there is more than enough cluelessness to go around in this wildly tilting world of ours.
|More Is Such a Chore|