News / USA

US Income Disparity Highest Ever

The latest U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate an unprecedented income gap between the richest and poorest Americans. Those figures are causing concern among social workers the disparity could have an impact on the overall well-being of American society.

How'd you get so Rich
is the name of a cable TV program, starring comedienne Joan Rivers, that shows how some Americans got their wealth and what they have done with it. "Not one person that we interviewed did not have a great work ethic.  These people do not say, 'Boo-hoo, poor me, it is a recession and I cannot do it,'" she said.

There are no programs, however, called, "How'd You Get So Poor?"  Only statistics.  

The latest U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate the number of Americans in poverty is the highest in more than half a century.  At the same time, the Census Bureau says, the income gap between the rich and poor in the United States has been widening in recent years, reaching the greatest disparity ever in 2009.  

Economists say the recession is among the reasons for the growing ranks of the poor.  The director of the non-governmental National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Henry Freedman, says erosion of the middle class is another. "The elimination of most of those jobs that people could get in factories, our factories are not there so much anymore.  Other kinds of clerical work that is either being outsourced or is being replaced by technology that does it efficiently.  Those people are competing with people below them for work," he said.

New York University Associate Professor of Social Work Robert Hawkins says people in impoverished areas lack some of the fundamental opportunities enjoyed by the rich. "What we have there are people who did not and do not have opportunities.  So those folks cannot get an education, and so, what happens?  They cannot get a job," he said.

Hawkins says those caught in poverty cannot count on networking with equally poor friends or neighbors for opportunities, because none of them have any.  This, he adds, creates a vicious cycle of crime, teen pregnancy, chronic illness and early death.

Freedman says America's growing income gap could create a two-tiered society that loses its sense of community. "People struggling to get by, struggling to survive on the one hand, susceptible to demagoguery; and people on the other hand who put their resources to be separate from society, safe from society rather than participating fully in society," he said.

Robert Hawkins says the erosion of the middle class could affect the quality of those people the middle class has traditionally produced to teach, to enforce laws, to take care of the sick, and whose services also benefit the rich.  

The professor says the wealthy have increasing political influence in America, not because they are gaming the system, but because the poor are not using it to full advantage. "If low-income people want more political power, they have got to organize, they have got to vote.  That is the best and probably the only way," he said.

Hawkins says education and health are issues that need to be addressed to help the poor over the long term.  What is needed immediately, he says, is renewed spending by both rich and poor alike, because money in circulation is what helps create jobs.  

The problem, Hawkins notes, is that the poor have nothing to spend, and the rich have yet to overcome fears of economic uncertainty caused by the global economic recession.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid