Here's what the latest census data
tell us: in 2011, the middle class shrank to "an all-time low" (as the Washington Post headline
had it), while the income of the wealthiest Americans continued to climb. The poverty rate leveled off at a still shuddering 15%, with more than one of every five
Americans under eighteen living in poverty. The Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, rose by 1.6%, the "biggest one-year increase in almost two decades."
In a way, of course, this should be no news at all. Middle-class wealth has taken a staggering hit since the economic meltdown of 2007 (and African American
wealth has gone through the floor). This disaster, linked to the Great Recession, has had a sideline effect. On the theory that what goes up must come down, money flooding out of American households and into the coffers of the incredibly wealthy and their corporate cronies has also been flowing back down in tidal amounts. It's been pouring biblically into this season's political campaign.
The news out of the dog days of August, for example, was that the Obama and Romney campaigns had raised a total of more than $225 million dollars
that month alone. (In the 1984 presidential campaign between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, the two candidates raised a "mere" $202 million
during that whole election season!) And, of course, those figures don't even include the dollars filling Super PACs to the bursting point and the "dark money"
going into the 501(c)(4)s that don't have to disclose where their contributions even come from. (Eight
of the top 10 Super PACs are "conservative," reports
the Daily Beast
, and 77%
of all contributions this campaign season will come from "business interests," according to the invaluable Open Secrets