HERALD 1999: "The Biggest Story In America" - The Widening Gap, Death Of Middle Class


COMMENT: Bob Weaver (Published 1999)

In the 1970's the richest 10% of American's owned 50% of the wealth.

Today the richest 10% of Americans own about 80% of the wealth and the gap is rapidly widening. (That figure has drastically worsened, frequently referred to as the one-precenters, with politicians clinging to the trickle down theory).

Wages are stagnant, benefits floundering, as businesses and institutions merge, centralize, consolidate and globalize.

The job market is worsened by mechanization and robots, killing jobs. The coal industry is an example, with a few people operating mountaintop removal.

The American middle class is sinking fast.

The gap has been escalated by the computer age and the wild expansion of the stock and money markets, unfortunately accessed by the economically "elite" who already possess money. (This was before the greed-mongering of Wall Street and American bankers plunged the USA in the worst recession since the Great Depression)

More companies are placing their assets abroad to be sheltered from the tax guy.

The hill cultures of Appalachia that cling to different values, remain poor and are still under educated, left behind, a geographic region most affected by joblessness and poverty.

The poverty statistics are rarely reported. About one-third of Calhoun's children are listed as living in poverty.

While it is customary to rail against the "welfare society," there is little movement toward the creation of opportunity.

Maybe politicians could like it that way.

The Middle Class is not just lagging, it is sinking rapidly, while the government sinks billions of dollars in foreign countries, wars and corporate breaks, a US Tax Code that has nearly 65,000 pages, mostly breaks for special interests.

Hand outs or welfare programs under the "Great Society" banner of the 1960's are considered by many as financial drains, the nation unable to provide the infrastructure for economic development and educational opportunity - resulting in actual jobs and a viable economy.

While many rail against the welfare state and welfare recipients, and indeed it is a problem, the real problem is a lack of opportunity.

Jobs, both lower paying and higher paying, are scarce in the region, most globalized.

One of the few points I remember from economics - historically when there are too many have-nots, they will come after those who have.

(In 2016, voters have expressed anger about their economic situation, thus the rise of entertainer Donald Trump and socialist leaning Bernie Sanders)