A Rising Tide of Wealth Redistribution Sinks All Boats

The wealthy of America have got wealth redistribution down to a science. No, I’m not talking about taking money from the rich, but the exact opposite. The wealthy spent the better part of the late 90’s and 2000’s figuring out new ways of extracting more and more money from poor people. They did it through novel bank fees, credit card fees, check cashing services, high interest mortgages and, most importantly, shrinking wages, union busting and non-existent job benefits. Good for them!

Evidence suggests that they’ve won. The Census has reported that while all racial groups have seen a decline in overall wealth, the divide between whites and everyone else is wider than it has been in the 25 years that the Census has been collecting data.

White families saw a 16% decrease in household wealth over the past four years, whereas Hispanic families have lost more than 66% of their household wealth and African-American families have lost more than 53 percent. Granted, white people make more money, so an absolute drop in household wealth that is equivalent to other less affluent groups may reflect a smaller percentage drop in overall wealth, but the differences are staggering.

Assets of white families are nearly 20 times that of African American families and 18 times that of Hispanic families. It leaves on to wonder whether wealth inequality in the United States will ever abate itself.

This is particularly troubling when one considers that there are 50 million people who identify themselves as Hispanic living within the United States. This means that 50 million people have seen a 66% drop in overall household wealth due to unemployment, loss of property through foreclosure, shrinking wages and retirement savings that have long disappeared. That’s 50 million people that have seen their total assets drop by two thirds within FOUR YEARS.

We can assume that during the loss of assets, the most important asset of all, health insurance was the first to go. Thus, now, in 2011, given high levels of stress and declining life-styles, incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a host of other will only rise, leaving future leaders facing a litany of serious choices as to how to spend the country’s money.

To be fair, the wealthiest of all Americans are in the “white” category, perhaps artificially inflating the results for that group and hiding the poverty of the white America of trailer parks and unemployment lines, those white people who overwhelmingly get ignored in these media reports. I doubt that white people in Michigan have been spared the worst effects of our economic downturns.

The evidence is there, but still Washington fights, with the support of the American right and a frightened electorate, for the wealthiest of Americans. They hold the erroneous belief that these holders of the financial keys will install enough new bathrooms and swimming pools to keep America afloat.

Thanks, Washington!

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: