The Washington Post notes in an article entitled “Census: Middle class shrinks to an all-time low“:
The vise on the middle class tightened last year, driving down its share of the income pie as the number of Americans in poverty leveled off and the most affluent households saw their portion grow, new census data released Wednesday showed.
For many economists, the most troubling statistics were those on income inequality underscoring the middle-class squeeze.
The 60 percent of households earning between roughly $20,000 and $101,000 collectively earned 46.6 of all income, a 1.5 percent drop. In 1990, they shared over 50 percent of income.
The Post also notes that inequality has actually risen post-recession:
“What’s disconcerting is that inequality is going up post-recession, and it’s happening because the top is starting to pull away again,” [Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work] said.
Bloomberg reports that income inequality has grown to the highest level since 1967:
The U.S. Census Bureau figures released yesterday underscored the struggles of American families in a sputtering economic recovery. The report also showed the income gap between rich and poor people grew to the widest in more than 40 years in 2011 as the poverty rate remained at almost a two-decade high.
Inequality among Americas is worse than in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen. As NPR notes, inequality is higher in the U.S. than in many banana republics in Latin America. And social mobility is lower in America than in most European countries (and see this, this and this).
It’s only gotten worse since then …
The Weekly Standard points out that unemployment is also worse than during the recession:
According to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 58.3 percent of Americans over the age of 16 are currently employed. That’s the lowest percentage in the past year—so things are getting worse, not better. But things haven’t just gotten worse over the past 12 months; they’ve also gotten worse since the recession ostensibly ended and the recovery ostensibly began.
In fact, for an amazing 38 consecutive months, the percentage of Americans who are employed has been lower than the percentage who were employed during the recession. According to the BLS, the low-water mark for employment during the recession was 59.4 percent, while the high-water mark for employment during the “recovery” has been 59.3 percent. That’s right: When it comes to the percentage of Americans who are employed, every month of the “recovery” has been worse than any month of the recession.
The economy cannot recover unless inequality is reduced, there is a healthy middle class and people have jobs.
We’re going in the wrong direction.
Postscript: This is not a partisan issue. The radical left and extreme right are both wrong about inequality.