Since 1980, the wealthiest Americans have seen their incomes quadruple, while those of the others have flat-lined. As a result, the United States has higher levels of mental illness, infant mortality, divorce, obesity, violence, incarceration, and substance abuse than all other countries north of the equator. “In more unequal societies,” Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett wrote, “people are five times as likely to be imprisoned, six times as likely to be clinically obese, and murder rates may be many times higher.” Consider these two statistics: the United States makes up 5 percent of the world’s population, but consume 25 percent of its resources and we incarcerate 25 percent of its prison population.
Large corporations shell out $6 billion annually to employ 35,000 D.C. lobbyists to protect their wealth. Such game rigging has bred cynicism and pessimism among the body politic, and as a result, the US has the lowest voter turnout of the world’s 40 industrial democracies. The 1% pours more money and accrues more power. According to the National Opinion Research Center, levels of trust in the United States have fallen from 60 percent in 1960 to less than 40 percent in 2004.