"Everybody knows the rich are getting richer," says David R. Francis in The Christian Science Monitor. It's right there in the Census data — the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans got 9 percent of the nation's income 30 years ago, and 23 percent of it in 2007. But precisely "why they're getting richer remains something of a mystery." It might come as a bit of a surprise, given how controversial welfare has become in this country, that federal policy is one thing that may be widening the income gap. It is true that programs that "aim to alleviate poverty," such as Medicaid and food stamps, add up to about $365 billion annually. "But Uncle Sam's subsidies for building wealth — of little use to the poor — were even larger: $384 billion last year." Here, an excerpt:
This money helps the more prosperous buy homes, save money, start businesses, pay for college, and retire comfortably. More than half of that sum went to the wealthiest 5 percent of taxpayers. The top 1 percent got an average $95,000 in federal help. Upper-middle-income families making $100,000 got $1,600. The poor got less than $5 [from these programs]. ... So why is there no political revolt? Perhaps it's because many Americans think they, too, can be rich with enough work, ingenuity, and opportunity. That aspiration runs deep in the culture.