If you ask any American to name the “greatest country in the world” you ought to expect one predominant answer: America!
There definitely is value in patriotism, but at some point a proud nationalist becomes a blind evangelist. The United States of America was once the greatest nation on earth. It was once the most wealthy, most powerful, and most innovative nation on earth. Today, the U.S. has a middling and bloated economy, with socioeconomic stratification never before seen in the developed world.
The United States has no shortage of millionaires and billionaires, but the economy is not built upon the shoulders of the super rich. The working and middle classes build sound economies and those groups have never been worse off in the United States. The wealth gap between those who have money and those who struggle paycheck-to-paycheck has never been so wide. No economy can survive if the vast majority works day and night for the gain of a very few.
Americans are finally coming to terms with the facts. They are finally recognizing the plutocracy for what it is. In the past few days an inconspicuous video posted online has gone viral with a single simple message; Americans are being hosed.
The first step toward finding a solution is recognizing that you have a problem. The United States has a problem with wealth inequality. The wealthiest 1 percent controls 40 percent of the wealth in this country. That same 1 percent owns a full 50 percent of the stock options.
Perhaps the most shocking, and disgusting, economic statistics come from economist Emmanuel Saez. In a 2012 study entitled “Striking it Richer,” Dr. Saez revealed that in the year 2010–the first full year of the so-called economic recovery–the top 1 percent collected 93 percent of all income. Dr. Saez discovered that from 2009 to 2010 the top 1 percent saw their income increase by more than $105,000. During that time the bottom 99 percent saw their income increase by just $80. That is a not a typo. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent actually lost an average of $127. That is also not a typo.
For years the Republican Party has shouted from the rooftops that the ultra-rich deserve special political protection and favor because they are “job creators.” In 2010, the alleged job creators were swimming in excess while the rest of us struggled to buy groceries. The economy created jobs, but those positions came with weakened benefits and lower wages than those of just a few years ago.
Dr. Saez’s research team uncovered even more damning figures while updating their 2012 report. The most recent version of “Striking it Richer” (January 23, 2013) includes detailed metrics of the entire recovery period from 2009 through 2011. During that time, the top 1 percent collected an astounding 121 percent of all domestic income growth. The bottom 99 percent, a group that includes people making up to $350,000 annually, actually lost 0.4 percent of real income after accounting for inflation.
We now live in a country where the gap between the very rich and the ultra-rich is almost as wide as the gap between the poor and the wealthy. We live in a country where millionaires suffer for a billionaire’s gain. We live in a country where the gap between President Barack Obama and his 2012 Republican challenger Mitt Romney is so vast that the millionaire President of the United States of America is nearly included with the “Have Nots” on economic scales.
That is the 1 percent: a class so rich and powerful that only the most foolhardy would condescend to running for something so common as the White House.
That is the United States today: a nation so greedy and top-heavy that the gains of a few almost never “trickle down” to the masses.