Since the economic disaster of 2008 sent incomes spinning downward and the jobless rate shooting upward, at least one group of Americans has found a path back to prosperity: the top 1 percent. Over the last four years, the super rich have been able to rake in 95 percent of all income gains.
That's right. According to a new study done by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, while the number of poor Americans has risen and members of the middle class are mired at diminished income levels, the wealthiest Americans are back in the money. The gap between the top 1 percent of earners and everyone else is wider than ever.
In an interview on Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Barack Obama acknowledged that during his time in office, only the rich have fared particularly well. He is not happy about that, of course, and he did point out that the country has now seen 42 straight months of economic growth and the addition of 7.5 million new private sector jobs. The president also expressed the belief that steps he has taken to expand health care coverage to 33 million uninsured citizens, to raise taxes on the rich and to put through financial reforms will help address income inequality. But it is a hard task, he said, when he gets no help from the opposition party.
"There's no serious economist out there that would suggest that, if you took the Republican agenda of slashing education further, slashing Medicare further, slashing research and development further, slashing investments in infrastructure further, that that would reverse some of these trends of inequality," the president said.
Unable to enact their own agenda, Republicans spend their time undercutting Mr. Obama's efforts. Their latest act was Thursday's passage of a House bill to cut $39 billion from the federal food stamp program, effectively telling 3.8 million Americans to find some other way to pay for their groceries.
Apparently, House Republicans have not figured out that the huge increase in the food stamp program over the last few years came about, not because there were suddenly millions of additional deadbeats trying to live high off of the taxpayers, but because there are millions of Americans who lost their jobs in the economic downturn who have been unable to find work.
Perhaps the Republicans think if enough of these people go hungry they will be inspired to go where the big money is and become hedge fund managers and CEOs. After all, the 1-percenters have plenty to eat. Why can't everyone be just like them?
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.