In the Great Depression, it was common for people down on their luck to panhandle and or beg for money from the more fortunate. Most of these people were the labourers who built railroads, skyscrapers, roads and the like. Now that those were done, they didn’t have jobs, and to make matters worse, the Stock Market crashed and those same people lost what other paper reserves they had. A protest song was written and became a hit at the time when my grandparents were young and raising their families. So “Brother can you spare a dime” became a slogan for lashing out at governments for not fostering economic growth and wealth of a country.
The bottom half of America own just 1.1 percent of the country’s wealth, or about $793 billion, which is the same amount owned by the 30 richest Americans. ZERO wealth is owned by approximately the bottom 47 percent.
This nonexistent net worth is due in great part to the overwhelming burden of debt for Americans, which now includes college graduates entering the work force. The average student loan balance has risen 91 percent in the past ten years.
This is based on the Census Department’s Relative Poverty Measure (Table 4), which is “most commonly used in developed countries to measure poverty.” The Economic Policy Institute uses the term “economically vulnerable.” With this standard, 18 percent of Americans are below the poverty threshold and 32 percent are below twice the threshold, putting them in the low-income category.
The official poverty rate increased by 25 percent between 2000 and 2011. Seniors and children feel the greatest impact, with 55 percent of the elderly and almost 60 percent of children classified as poor or low-income under the relative poverty measure. Wider Opportunities for Women reports that “60 percent of women age 65 and older who live alone or live with a spouse have incomes insufficient to cover basic, daily expenses.”