Wonder why the bottom 50% of Americans have nothing? Well, it's simple: the median American wage is almost at poverty level for a family of four.
Don't believe me? Really? Well... here's the official Social Security data. There's a lot of interesting things to note in that table. First of all, note that income is really toploaded, and that's been true for a long time. The huge sums of money earned by the top 10%, and especially by the top 1%, skew the averages way up. But over the past twenty years, that's gotten even worse. The median income was 72% of the average income in 1991. In 2010, the last year for which SSA publishes data, the median income was 65.976% of the average. In other words, the share of national income held by the bottom 50% has gone down significantly over the past twenty years.
But we already knew that. So just *how* significantly? Well... the median wage -- which half of Americans make less than -- was $26,363.55 in 2010. The Federal poverty level for a family of four in 2010 was $22,050 in 2010 -- and the 133% mark, which most experts consider the line below which a family of four is living under conditions of extreme financial distress and has difficulty meeting basic needs, was $29,326 in 2010.
In short, it's basically impossible for at least 50% of Americans to make ends meet in a one-income family. And because of the Great Recession, all too many families have become one-income families and are one paycheck away from losing everything. And that's not counting the one-income families where the income earner lost his job -- those families are already out on the streets homeless, or shacked up with relatives, or otherwise living under conditions of dire hardship.
Now, if income were normally distributed -- that is, if the average American made the average income -- the average American would be making $39,959 per year. That's a far cry from $26,364! That amount of money -- $13,595 -- is basically what the top 1% are stealing from the average American worker via claiming ownership of the wealth produced by hard-working Americans, without whom the 1% would have a tiny fraction of their current wealth because they can, at best, produce only 1% of the goods and services of the nation with their own two hands. There is no way that this is sustainable in a democracy. You're going to see continued unrest like the Occupy movement because the situation for over 50% of American workers is simply unsustainable, they work and work and work and the result is poverty while the 1% rejoice in their millions? Something's broken, and if it doesn't get fixed, nothing good will happen. That much I can guarantee.
-- Badtux the Numbers Penguin