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The Concentration of Wealth and the Spread of Poverty

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Don Hazen

The great underreported story of 2012 is the accelerated spread of poverty and concentration of wealth in the United States. As Joe Stiglitz told AlterNet in an interview this year, the amount the richest 1 percent of Americans are earning has “almost tripled since 1980,” and “we’ve wiped out 20 years of increases and wealth for the middle American” according to the Federal Reserve.

But not so for our political class. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Congressional wealth has increased 11 percent between 2009 and 2011. Forty-seven percent of Congress members are millionaires; in the Senate the number is 67 percent.

Meanwhile the numbers living in extreme poverty are growing rapidly, as Peter Edelman told AlterNet writer Karen Dolan in an interview this year: “Extreme poverty means having an income of less than half the poverty line. That’s less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. The stunning fact is that in 2010, there were 20.5 million people who had incomes that low. And perhaps even more disturbing — 6 million people have no income other than food stamps.”

Obama’s new health care law does raise the capital gains tax, but we’re in a political climate where the focus is on reducing benefits to the neediest. In 2013, AlterNet will be focused on profiling life at the poverty level, the collapse of the middle class and the seemingly endless concentration of wealth among the people who need it the least.


Don Hazen is the executive director of the Independent Media Institute and executive editor of the two-time Webby award-winning news site, AlterNet.org. The former publisher of Mother Jones magazine, Hazen has edited and co-edited several books, including; Dangerous Brew: Exposing the Tea Party’s Agenda to Take Over America, Start Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics, The 99%: How Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America, among others.

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