Growing Rich-Poor Divide Unites Americans: Poll

Almost three-quarters of Americans believe inequality is a major issue, versus 24% who don't think so, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. The anxiety about the growing rich-poor divide unites Americans, crossing income and political divisions:
  • 84% of those earning less than $40,000 a year called the gap a serious problem, with more than half saying it's ``very serious.'' 
  • 60% of those earning more than $100,000 said it's a serious concern. 
  • Almost 84% of those in the middle- income group making between $40,000 and $60,000 were as concerned. 

Americans have become more optimistic about the state of the economy:

  • 61% say that the economy is doing well, versus 54% in September. 
  • only 15% of respondents saying they expect home values in their neighborhoods to fall during the next six months. 
  • 68% called their personal finances secure.
  • 48%  of respondents approve of how Bush is handling the economy, up from 43% three months ago. An equal percentage said they disapprove, down from 51% in the last poll.

The Census Bureau data point to a long-term trend of the rich taking home a larger slice of U.S.

  • The share of national income earned by the top 20% of households grew to 50.4% last year, up from 45.6% 20 years ago 
  • The bottom 60% of U.S. households received 26.6%, down from 29.9% in 1985 

Average pay for corporate chief executive officers rose to 369 times that of the average worker last year, according to finance professor Kevin Murphy of the University of Southern California; that compares with 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976.

There is article "Top 1% ... of What" in WSJ today that argues on "the top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980."

Democrats are considering proposals to shrink the income gap:

  • boosting the minimum wage 
  • scrutinizing executive pay 
  • increasing tax credits available to the poor
  • making health care and higher education more affordable

The poll of 1,489 adults was taken Dec. 8 to Dec. 11 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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