Liberty and justice for … all?

(25 September 2011)

Still believe in The American Dream? A recent study from Northeastern should be the final nail in that coffin. Iswar Khatiwada, an economist at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, analyzed last year’s census data and found that 37 percent of young families (defined as families with parents under the age of 30) with children were living in poverty. Yes, you read that correctly: more than one-third of young families with children in poverty (and ostensibly still do). What’s more, this is a new record — the highest the level has ever reached. A new low.

It gets worse. Institutional racism once again rears its ugly head as the study reveals that some of the highest rates are among black and Hispanic children, where close to 2-in-5 young families with children were living in poverty.

Yet the picture isn’t complete. If such a large chunk of young American families are doing so poorly, surely most others must feel the financial onus of the recent recession.

Once more, think again. Corporate profits in the third fiscal quarter of the very same year were, according to The New York Times, “the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms.” Some may claim that this figure doesn’t tell us too much, as it isn’t adjusted for inflation. However, as the article reveals, “The government does not adjust the numbers for inflation, in part because these corporate profits can be affected by pricing changes from all over the world and because the government does not have a price index for individual companies.”

Notice a disparity? Well, it’s only getting bigger. In 1976 the richest 1 percent of the population owned almost 9 percent of the wealth; now, it owns almost 24 percent. Income inequality is worse in the U.S. than it is in almost all of West Africa, North Africa, Europe and Asia.

Still believe in “liberty and justice for all”? Keep on dreaming.

We have become a country run by the few for the few.

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Originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on 26 November 2011