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Hightower

Are you there yet?

By “there,” I mean, have you at last become a 1-percenter? It’s the dream of many social climbers to be in the top percentile, but it's a steep climb—it now takes a paycheck of $515,000 a year to dwell with the swells at the peak!

Actually, that just makes you sorta rich. To rise to the tippy-top of the really richy-rich—the top 0.001 percent—your income has to be above $63 million a year, an exclusive club with only 1,433 members.

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Meanwhile, back down on Earth, it’s harder and harder for working families to make ends meet, even with full-time jobs. The media keep citing low joblessness as evidence that the economy is humming—but getting work no longer means getting a decent paycheck. In fact, the fastest growing job categories today are low-wage, no-benefit service positions, a primary cause of raging inequality in America.

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Indeed, a fast-growing new job category is called “wealth work,” which doesn't mean getting wealthy, but working for the wealthy. It's a new underclass of poorly-paid personal-service attendants who beautify, shop for and otherwise tend to the care, feeding and desires of the rich. The Atlantic magazine reports that job growth for pedicurists, pet caretakers, private cooks, etc., is at least double the overall growth in jobs. Moreover, there’s a surge in demand for gift wrappers, horse exercisers, oyster preparers, animal therapists, sommeliers and such.

We must stop letting the Powers That Be pretend that all is right in America as long as the stock market is booming, jobs (or jobettes) are being created and the 1-percenters are prospering. The glue that holds our diverse society together is the egalitarian ethic of the Common Good. As my ol’ Texas daddy used to put it to me, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

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Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at www.hightowerlowdown.org.

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