What defines a great country is the percentage of people that are middle class, because it is the middle class that are the salt and the good earth of that country. You can define the middle class in a myriad of ways, but the most meaningful one to me, is that you are middle class if you are receiving little or no aid from government agencies, have your own home, your own vehicle, and a median income that is no worse than 25% less than the median for the median income in your community to up to 100% more than the median income for your community. For instance, in 2012 the median income in the United States was $51,017, so an income range of $38,263 to $102,034 would be considered to be middle class. That is not to say that those with incomes under $38K are then defined as poor, or that incomes about 102K as rich, but rather that those would be better defined as lower-middle class or upper-middle class, depending on their actual numbers, as contrasted to the poor and the rich.
There is a great disparity in income and assets for the rich and the poor in America, in which that gap has only widen over the last few years. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are struggling and would be getting even poorer, if not for the great society safety net that is provided to them. The ncleg.org reports that: "in 2012, 46.5 million people were living in poverty in the United States—the largest number in the 54 years the Census has measured poverty." Whereas for the rich as reported by the nytimes.com we find: "the income share of the top 1 percent of earners in 2012 returned to the same level as before both the Great Recession and the Great Depression: just above 20 percent, jumping to about 22.5 percent in 2012…"
In America there are three worlds, the world for the rich, the world for the middle class, and the world of the poor. In the world of the rich, we continue to see the growth of luxury residential complexes, capital investments, and high-end shopping centers with the most prestigious stores frequented by the rich and those that aspire to be rich, whereas the poor are under-served by virtually all the common amenities that we would desire such as safe parks and open spaces, grocery stores, shopping centers, good schools, restaurants other than just fast food, and the like. The middle class are caught in-between these two worlds, worlds which vary from the darkness of despair and injustice to the pinnacles of power, money, and success.
The nytimes.com reports that: "in 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995…" In constant 2012 dollars the peak median income in America was in 1999 at $56,080 and in 2012 this had decreased 9% to $51,017. Yet in those ensuing years, there was only one year in which our GDP growth in the United States was negative, but somehow the aggregate, inflation-adjusted median income decreased in that same time. The conclusion is clear-cut, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have increased in numbers, and the middle-class has both decreased in numbers and lost income overall.
The trend-line is clear, America a country that prides itself on being a beacon of hope, freedom, and liberty, has morphed and degenerated into a country that is clearly unequaled in its distribution of income, opportunity, life choices, justice, and dreams.