Mitt Romney said he wasn't concerned about the very poor, because they have a safety net. This is typical of the widespread ignorance about inequality in our country. Struggling Americans want jobs, not handouts, and for the most part they've paid for their "safety net." The real problem is at the other end of the wealth gap.
How many people know that out of 150 countries, we have the 4th-highest wealth disparity? Only Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Switzerland are worse.
It's not just economic inequality that's plaguing our country. It's lack of opportunity. It's a dismissal of poor people as lazy, or as threats to society. More than any other issue over the next four years, we need to address the growing divide in our nation, to tone down our winner-take-all philosophy, to provide job opportunities for people who want to contribute to society.
Here are some of the common misconceptions:
1. Americans believe that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth.
Most people greatly underestimate the level of inequality in our country, guessing that the poorest 40 percent own about 10% of the wealth, when in reality they own much less than 1% of the wealth. Out of every dollar, they own a third of a penny.
Factor in race, and it gets worse. Much of minority wealth exists in home values. But housing crashed, while the financial wealth owned almost entirely (93% of it) by the richest quintile of Americans has rebounded to lofty pre-recession levels.
As a result, for every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Median wealth for a single white woman is over $40,000. For black and Hispanic women it is a little over $100.
2. Entitlements are the problem
No, they're not. The evidence is overwhelming. Social Security is a popular and well-run program. As summarized by Bernie Sanders, "Social Security, which is funded by the ...