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The rich get richer while everyone else struggles

A couple of interesting news stories appeared today in the Los Angeles Times.  The first one is titled “Forbes' tally of billionaires jumps 16%; Buffett drops in list.”  The second is called “Nearly half of Americans are one emergency from financial ruin.”

Is there really a need to elaborate beyond the titles of these two stories?  The photo in the first story pictures Carlos Slim, who is a telecommunications mogul from Mexico who has an estimated net worth of $73 billion with Bill Gates, who is in second place, with a net worth of $67 billion.

A total of 1,426 individuals made Forbes' 2013 list, which is a record-setting number. The average net worth of these people came to $3.8 billion, up 3% from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the other story tells a more typical tale of struggling American workers.  Noting that 44% of Americans are “one emergency away from financial ruin” they story cited a recent report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development.  The report notes that “as many as 44 percent of American households – about 132.1 million people – don’t have a basic personal safety net to prepare for unplanned emergencies or the resources to live three months at the federal poverty line, which for a family of four is just $5,763.”

One reader of the latter report remarked as follows:

I am single no wife, child, parent or even pet to support. Yes, I may make what may be considered a 'middle class income' (in the real world not what the census bureau thinks) but the reality is that the soaring cost of living in the last 15 years has made $100,000 a year (for a single person) the new $50,000.  I spend around $6,000 a month on bills & expenses -- the only real 'luxuries' are gym membership & smartphone plan. My car is 5 year old Honda Accord with nearly 50,000 miles on it. I don't live in CA but in Massachusetts outside of Boston (which is filled with transplants from CA) where it almost as expensive.  I pay just under $2,000 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment no utilities included about 10 miles north of Boston -- rents in most of eastern Mass have soared since 2009.

To add insult to injury there was another report in the same paper called “Nearly half of college grads have jobs that don't require diplomas.”  The story notes that “About 48% of college students who graduated in 2010 are in positions that don't need a bachelor's degree, while 38% are working in gigs that don't require even a high school diploma, according to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.” 

What is not reported in these stories is the plight of those even worse off: minorities living in the inner cities where, according to several reports, unemployment runs as high as 50% for black males. A new report on Milwaukee found that: “Only 44.7 percent of the metro area’s working-age black males (those between the ages of 16-64) were employed in 2010, the lowest rate ever recorded for black males in Milwaukee, and a substantial decline from 52.9 percent in 2008, the start of the Great Recession.”

Not surprisingly, it is this latter group that is most often caught up in the criminal justice system.  Indeed, study after study has demonstrated a close connection between social class, race and crime, especially when it comes to the drug war. Recent books by Michelle Alexander and Marie Provine show this clearly.  About one-third of black males are likely to go to prison in their lifetime and about one out of three black males in their 20s are somewhere in the criminal justice system on any given day.  As Jeff Reiman has said, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison.

Keywords: economy, racial disparities, Randall Shelden

Posted in Blog, Social Justice

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