The Wealth Disparity Crisis Laid Bare

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Wealth DisparityIt’s impossible to ignore. Our country is facing a crisis of wealth disparity that has only gotten much, much worse since the recession. Put simply, the ultra-rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer.

And some of the most tragic victims of this crisis are Oregon’s children.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a must-read report with some jaw-dropping stats.

During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.

From 2009 to 2011, the mean wealth of the 8 million households in the more affluent group rose to an estimated $3,173,895 from an estimated $2,476,244, while the mean wealth of the 111 million households in the less affluent group fell to an estimated $133,817 from an estimated $139,896.

Shorter: Since the alleged end of the recession, the rich have gotten much richer, and everyone else has gotten poorer.

Here’s another punch to the gut: “The wealth of America’s households rose by $5 trillion, or 14%, during this period, from $35.2 trillion in 2009 to $40.2 trillion in 2011…” but all of that was concentrated in the hands of those who already rich.

This flies in the face of the frame from lobbyists for big corporations and millionaires (and their allies at major newspapers) that our country is somehow broke and can’t afford to fund our schools, safety net services, and basic health care.

Corporate profits are at an all time high, and the rich are getting richer. Our nation isn’t broke. But our economic system is clearly broken.

And who’s shouldering the weight of this crisis? Seniors, working families, and—increasingly—children in low-income households.

Yesterday, on the same day the Pew report was released, Children First for Oregon released a report showing that a staggering 44% of children in Oregon are in low-income households, including 23% who live under the poverty line.

Nearly a quarter of Oregon children are living in poverty. Nearly half are in low-income families.

What does that mean? Children are going to school hungry. They may not know where they’re sleeping on any given night. They may not have access to basic healthcare and medicine.

The highest rates of childhood poverty are in rural counties, like Wheeler, Malheur, and Klamath.

The economic “recovery” has been fantastic for big corporations and the well-to-do. In Oregon, we make it even better for them by having the lowest business taxes in the nation and by giving away $36 billion in tax breaks. They’ve got high-priced lobbyists making sure they get everything they could possibly want.

But things have only gotten worse for middle-class families, kids, low-income seniors, and the most vulnerable.

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