By Andrew O'Hehir
American conservatives love to attack anyone who raises the issue of worsening economic inequality for waging “class war.” Their compulsion to keep repeating that phrase is revealing in itself; it’s like the serial killer in a movie who can’t help returning to the scene of the crime. Because the only class war being waged in 21st-century America is the relentless, all-fronts struggle conducted by the rich against the poor.
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Within the last week, we have learned that poverty remains at near-record levels in our supposedly affluent nation. Even amid a so-called economic recovery, nearly 22 percent of the nation’s children live in poverty, and the overall number of poor people reached an all-time high, at 46.5 million. Income inequality, meanwhile, is roughly twice as bad as it was in the 1970s, reaching a level never seen before in this country or any other industrialized nation. The top 1 percent of Americans now bring home almost 20 percent of the country’s annual income, and have seen their tax bills decline by almost half. Britain, which has pursued similar tax-cutting policies over the last 30-odd years, finds itself a distant second in inequality, with its top 1 percent of earners commanding about 10 percent of total income. So while we may be behind the Brits in public health, life expectancy and almost every other quality-of-life indicator, we still totally kick their a--es when it comes to disgusting rich people.