The wealth gap continues to grow in the United States.
According to the CIA Factbook, nearly "Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20 percent of households." Rising poverty is a sad state, and usually the symptom of a problem with the system. The growth of wealth only happens to those who are already wealthy, which means that something is clearly out of whack in this, the richest nation in the world.
Perhaps there's a certain danger in having faith in meritocracy. I mean, in spite of the fact that it's only the rich who get richer these days, some will insist that the wealthy are wealthy because they deserve it. The corollary of that is that it's somehow the fault of the poor that they're poor, right?
Perhaps it was my good Christian upbringing, but looking at it that way just makes me uncomfortable. However, I'm also a liberal, so that means I've got to consider all points of view before I commend or condemn them, so here goes. Let's suppose we as a nation accept that the poor are in a lower caste, and that they're there due to circumstances over which they have absolute control, but which they aren't doing anything about. Social Darwinists (or Social Intelligent Designers?) would hold that until they get cracking like the Vanderbilts and the Rothschilds, they're going to have to stay poor, and if they starve or die of slightly costly diseases, then so be it. On the other hand, the good, Christian thing to do would be to increase social programs to help these poor people who are poor because of what are apparently moral failings which hopefully they can overcome some day, so shouldn't we help them keep it together until they get it together?
Of course, you may have guessed that I subscribe to neither school of thought. I feel that a rising tide should lift all boats, and if some seem to be more buoyant than others, chances are it's because there's an inequality in the condition of the various boats in the harbor. We as a society have to decide whether we can afford to let those small craft sink during the next storm. Maybe it's because I'm descended from people who suffered from Appalachian (and Carpathian) poverty, but I couldn't sleep at night if I said, "Let 'em sink!"
For the record, my income has gone up considerably over the past ten years, and you know what? I'm still having a hell of a time making ends meet. I'm keeping my head above water, but saving money? It's impossible. I've got a 401(k), but still... And I wouldn't even consider myself to be poor, either.