Perception v. facts on income inequality | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Perception v. facts on income inequality

Posted By on Sat, Dec 17, 2011 at 6:52 AM

Facts don't lie. The middle class is shrinking. Income inequality is rising. The rich are vastly richer. The poor are vastly poorer.

BUT ... this is the critical political finding — there's been little change in the percentage of Americans who think they are among the "haves" (about 60 percent) and those who think they are "have nots" (about a third).

It is unfortunate, Charles Blow writes in the Times, because income inequality threatens recovery. Poor, unemployed people don't have money to spend to fuel economic expansion. Failure to recognize and address the growing problem has consequences.

Yet another Gallup report issued Friday found that most Americans now say that the fact that some people in the U.S. are rich and others are poor does not represent a problem but is an acceptable part of our economic system.

If denial is a river, it runs through doomed societies.

I credit my old friend, professional pollster Ernie Oakleaf, for educating me years ago on the ambiguity of middle class. What income, exactly, defines "middle class?" He said opinion surveys found repeatedly that the majority of people — covering a broad economic scale — consider themselves to be middle class. Thus the popularity of the phrase among politicians.

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