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By Brett Wilkins
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reacted Wednesday to new government figures showing the wealthiest 1% of Americans now owns over one-third of the country’s wealth by reasserting calls for systemic reforms to tackle the highest economic inequality of any major developed nation in the world.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday published Trends in the Distribution of Family Wealth, 1989 to 2019, a report revealing that while the total real wealth of U.S. families tripled over those 30 years, the growth was dramatically unequal.
“Families in the top 10% and in the top 1% of the distribution, in particular, saw their share of total wealth rise over the period,” the report notes.
“In 2019, families in the top 10% of the distribution held 72% of total wealth, and families in the top 1% of the distribution held more than one-third; families in the bottom half of the distribution held only 2% of total wealth.”
In a statement, Sanders said that “this report confirms what we already know: The very rich are getting much, much richer while the middle class is falling further and further behind, and being forced to take on outrageous levels of debt.”
“The obscene level of income and wealth inequality in America is a profoundly moral issue that we cannot continue to ignore or sweep under the rug,” the two-time Democratic presidential candidate argued.
The Congressional Budget Office report also highlights the persistent racial wealth gap in the United States.
In 2019, white families’ median wealth was 6.5 times that of Black families, 5.5 times that of Hispanic families, and 2.7 times that of Asian and other families.
Additionally, the publication shows that by 2019, student loan debt was the largest component of total debt for families in the bottom 25% — more than their mortgage and credit card debt combined.
Among Americans age 35 or younger, 60% of their debt burden was due to student loans.
President Joe Biden last month announced a plan to cancel $10,000 to $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower, depending upon income, a move that drew both praise and admonition from progressives like Sanders — who advocates canceling all educational debt and making all college tuition-free.
“A society cannot sustain itself when so few have so much while so many have so little,” the democratic socialist asserted. “In the richest country on Earth, the time is long overdue for us to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%.”
Originally published by Common Dreams.
Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.