America just passed another milestone. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that a milestone passed us. For many years, the US has been known for having the more affluent middle class in the world. Indeed, we’ve used this fact to make fun of other countries, mocking them for their high taxes, or their “socialist” tendencies. The US was the land of opportunity.
Well, not so much any more. Sometime around the year 2010, the median income in Canada (the amount the average person earns, after taxes) passed that of the US. Europe is not far behind. And that’s just the middle class — the poor in Europe have earned more than the poor in the US for a while now.
It isn’t because our economy is doing poorly. It is actually doing very well, but the spoils of this economic prosperity is increasingly bypassing the middle class (not to mention the poor) and going directly to the rich.
Why? Three reasons: First, we aren’t educating our youth. Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 rank near the bottom in education among rich countries, significantly behind Canada, Australia, Japan, and Scandinavia and close to even Italy and Spain. Second, while wages for top executives have skyrocketed, pay for the middle class and poor has stagnated. Our minimum wage is lower and we have all but dismantled labor unions. Finally, while other countries work at redistributing income to low- and middle-income households, the US seems to be doing the opposite, giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy, especially inheritance taxes. The rich in America pay lower taxes than the rich in most other countries.
It is ironic to note that countries like Sweden, which conservatives make fun of because if their huge welfare state, the per capita GDP has consistently grown faster than that in the US over the past 30 years (you know, since the Reagan revolution, which was supposed to get rid of all those deadbeat welfare “takers” and energize the economy through “trickle down economics”).
So the rich are doing fine, but as for the rest of Americans, they seem to have been sold a (very expensive) pack of lies.