Change is in the Air


But real money for those of us in the bottom 90 percent of incomes? Forget it.

If “change” is this presidential campaign’s catchword, then let me ask: Can you spare any?

I’m not asking for myself, because I’m one of the lucky ones. But I am a member of the bottom 90 percent of Americans in income. In other words, I make less than $105,000 a year.

Income disparity in the U.S. is shocking not because it exists but because it’s getting worse. How about some newly released factoids from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a serious and respectable D.C. think tank? From the CBPP’s March 27 report by Aviva Aron-Dine on income concentration:

Between 2005 and 2006, the average income (before taxes) of the top 1 percent of households increased by $73,000 (or 7 percent), after adjusting for inflation, while the average income of the bottom 90 percent of households increased by just $20 (or 0.1 percent). (In 2006, the top 1 percent of households were those with incomes above about $375,000.)

2006 marked the fourth straight year in which income gains at the top outpaced those among the rest of the population. Since 2002, the average income of the top 1 percent of households has risen 44 percent, or $335,000, after adjusting for inflation. The average income of the bottom 90 percent of households has risen about 3 percent, or about $1,000.

The share of the nation’s income flowing to the top 1 percent has increased sharply, rising from 15.8 percent in 2002 to 20.3 percent in 2006. Not since 1928, just before the Great Depression, has the top 1 percent held such a large share of the nation’s income. In 2000, at the peak of the 1990s boom, the top 1 percent received 19.3 percent of total income in the nation.

And let’s get even more personal with these fun facts churned out the same day in another report by the CBPP’s Aron-Dine:

New Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data show that the 400 U.S. taxpayers with the very highest incomes pay only 18 percent of their income, on average, in federal individual income taxes. . . . While the incomes of those at the top have skyrocketed, their tax rates have fallen significantly, with the largest reductions occurring after the capital gains tax cuts of 1997 and 2003.

This ain’t the America in which the baby-boom generation grew up. Today’s economy, run to hell by the all-growed-up baby-boom generation, holds out little hope to today’s whippersnapper. Just another reason not to trust people over 30. Or under 30, for that matter.