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Economic View – Confronting Income Inequality – NYTimes.com

by on October 17, 2010

During the three decades after World War II, for example, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate — almost 3 percent a year — for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic.

By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, but during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent.

The social consequences of this: narrowing tiem perspective, loss of hope, no investment in children, undermines the morale of a civilization. Sure, it has happened before, but can’t we do better? The consequences in a more crowded planet are not attractive.

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