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The huge and growing gaps in wealth and income inequality are much in the news these days — from Washington to the Vatican and here’s why: the plain facts are simply stunning and overwhelming. To see this in black and white (or, to be more accurate, red, orange and blue) click here and here to check out two new animated graphs from Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (a third one will be released shortly).

As Stone notes by way on introduction with the understated language of a crack economist:

“The economic fortunes of the wealthy and everyone else have diverged sharply in recent decades.  It wasn’t always this way; from the end of World War II into the 1970s, income growth was shared equally among all segments of the population.  But, as we’ll illustrate in three animated graphs, most of the income growth in recent decades has occurred at the very top.”

As the graphs show here and here, that’s putting it gently.

 

Political contributionsAs this amazing graph from a new report in the Journal of Economic Perspectives shows, there is a pretty straightforward reason that big money has become so unassailable in modern American politics.

Sam Pizzigatti has more at Too Much online and Maureen Dowd touches on the same sobering theme in her weekend broadside at the Clinton wealth machine.

NC Policy Watch follower Betsy Caudle Lowman of Boone recently sent us the following essay — we hope you will enjoy it.

U.S. declines into “de-MOCK-racy”
By Betsy Caudle Lowman

Each year The Economist, a conservative British news magazine, rates the nations of the world on the degree to which they operate according to democratic principles. This year, Norway replaced Sweden at the top of the heap. The United States is not included in the highest category, which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and Britain. Should this surprise anyone?  Americans love to believe they have government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but this has never been less true than at present.  Read More

Professor Sean Reardon of Stanford University has a fascinating article in the New York Times today (“No Rich Child left Behind”) about what really lies at the root of the growing achievement gap in the American education system.

Here are some of his findings:

  • The gap between poor and rich kids is growing.
  • The gap is not about race as much as it is about income.
  • The gap is not a product of “failing” schools; average American are smarter and perform better than their parents.
  • Much of the gap is attributable to early childhood education — especially the challenging and stimulating upbringings that wealthy parents are providing to their pre-school children.
  • The gap appears to be self-reinforcing; smarter, higher achieving kids end up with better, higher-paying jobs and the wherewithal to help their children.
  • Improving our early childhood parenting may be even more important than improving our schools and teachers.

Read Reardon’s entire article by clicking here. It’s clearly food for thought.