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Below average, struggling

Published Nov 7, 2011 8:12 PM

The Occupy Wall Street protests are right. The richest 1 percent get richer and richer — and the top 1 percent of that 1 percent get richer still. Meanwhile the lower 99 percent — probably, based on certain statistics, really the lower 90 percent — get poorer or stagnate.

There are many ways to prove this. Statistics come out every so often that bring it home. The Census Bureau released one such number in the last week of October that should have been on the front page of every newspaper and the top of every TV news show. It had to do with the median annual income for an individual in the United States in 2010.

This median annual income, rounded to thousands, was $26,000. That median has dropped by 7 percent since 2000. Most of this drop took place after June 2009 — that is, during the so-called recovery.

What’s the definition of a median? It’s the midway point in a collection of numerical data. Half the values being analyzed are less than or equal to the median; half are equal to or greater than the median. In this case, of the 150 million people working, 75 million have annual incomes that are less than or equal to $26,000.

In nearly all the states in the U.S., a $26,000 income is less than what is needed for an individual to live independently. To do that, an income must guarantee not only food and clothing, but housing, health care, transportation and other necessities. It means that at least 75 million people are struggling on less than that, and many feel they are losing.

The median is only one number that summarizes a load of information. It cannot tell us how many people have incomes under $10,000 per year, nor how many people of color, women and youth are at or below the median. Other figures show that the more you suffer national and gender oppression and discrimination, the more likely you are to be poor.

Still, it says a lot that the median income, counting everyone, is so low, while at the same time a sector of the people at the top of the income range have grown disgustingly richer and richer.

An ever-larger proportion of the U.S. working class — who have been told they are blessed to be living and working for the capitalists here in the United States — thus have a daily existence that puts them in contradiction with the system. That explains why there is such broad support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. And why it is inevitable that the decades of attacks on the working class are finally beginning to awaken a powerful response.

As this growing movement struggles against the capitalists and the “1%” who own and control all the wealth created by the working class, the issue of the right to a job or income for all at a livable wage will more and more take center stage.