By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

All the fuss over extending the George W. Bush tax cuts is rooted in a sense that income inequality in America is out of control.

Unemployment has been hovering around 10 percent for a year and a half. The federal deficit is a half-trillion (with a T – a B is so ’90s) dollars, which means we are borrowing 41 cents for every dollar the federal government spends. Meanwhile, Porsche sales in Coral Gables increased by 60 percent over the summer and sales were up at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, where boats can go for up to $130 million.

Is the growing income gap real or just a jealous illusion?

Perhaps no one has done a better job of putting the issue in perspective than Timothy Noah did in September for Slate.

“All my life,” Noah wrote, “I’ve heard Latin America described as a failed society (or collection of failed societies) because of its grotesque maldistribution of wealth. Peasants in rags beg for food outside the high walls of opulent villas, and so on. But according to the Central Intelligence Agency (whose patriotism I hesitate to question), income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States.

“Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic.”


If you really want to get a sense of national shame and personal outrage, consider that we have about the same inequality rating as our often-lampooned neighbor, Mexico.

Yep. Mexico. Go ahead and check it out yourself.

Now are you starting to get an idea of how bad things have gotten here?

Noah points out that during the era of the robber barons, when men named Rockefellers, Carnegie and Vanderbilt lorded over the country and had so much wealth that eventually things like the progressive income tax were adopted, the top 1 percent accounted for 18 percent of the nation’s income.

Today, the top 1 percent account for 24 percent.

Oye chico, que pasa aqui?

And yet, Congress and President Barack Obama are moving to preserve that trend for at least two more years.

No wonder the President is in danger of losing his Democratic base.

I won’t get into the Dem’s Jersey Shore moment. I’m focused on trying to get over my own sense of betrayal.

My Republican representatives were willing to throw almost all of us under the bus to protect the top 2 percent richest people. They would have let taxes go up for 98 percent of us before they’d let it go up for the two-percenters.

Let’s see … 2 percent. That’s 301 million with tire tracks on their backs so 6 million could have a smooth ride.

How could they? I thought they cared. If not about me, at least the deficit.

This latest ugly episode is all you really need to know if you want to truly understand the power of money and the monied — through the use of advertising — to manipulate the masses.

Think about it. A majority of Americans freely elected a group of people who are willing to dump on them in order to protect the interests of people who already own most of the country.

Enjoy your banana.