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Most Americans Think Income Inequality Is A Big Problem: Poll

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INCOME INEQUALITY
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The people occupying Wall Street aren't the only ones worried about the wealth gap.

Nearly three-quarters of the people in a new poll conducted by The Hill say that income inequality is a problem for the United States. Fifty-five percent of respondents said income inequality is a big problem, while another 19 percent described it as somewhat of a problem.

The findings come only days after a Congressional Budget Office report showed the very highest earners in the United States have been pulling away from the rest of the population for over 30 years.

According to the CBO's report, income for the top 1 percent of earners has grown massively since 1979 -- shooting up 275 percent in that time -- while incomes for those in the middle 60 percent grew by only 40 percent.

The listless economy, which continues to put pressure on lower- and middle-class earners, may be contributing to the increasingly popular feeling that income disparity needs to be addressed. Some 46 million people, or 15.1 percent of all Americans, currently live below the poverty line. The government counts 14 million people among the unemployed, though the actual figure is probably higher.

Wages are essentially stagnant for most Americans, and half the people who do have jobs earn less than $27,000 a year.

Meanwhile, more and more cash continues to accrue to the rich. Reports have shown that the top 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country's net worth, and that the richest 400 Americans control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of households.

The concern over the growing divide between America's rich and poor was reflected in all political ideologies in the Hill poll. Fifty-five percent of conservatives called it a big problem or somewhat of a problem, along with 81 percent of centrists and 94 percent of liberals.

These numbers seem to reflect a rising sense that income inequality is becoming a mainstream issue, with both Republican and Democratic politicians beginning to cite it more in public remarks, according to Politico.

Income inequality has emerged as one of the central grievances of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken the form of protests and demonstrations in New York City and hundreds of other sites in the past six weeks. Members of that movement identify themselves as "the 99 percent," a reference to the vast majority of lower-earning, less-wealthy Americans.

The wealth gap may pose a real risk to the financial health of the country. Analysts at the International Monetary Fund have warned that the concentration of so much wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people may be holding back a recovery of the national economy, which has been struggling to regain momentum since the financial crisis of 2008 touched off a global recession.

An international comparison from the CIA's World Factbook shows that America ranks roughly alongside a number of Second and Third World nations in terms of income distribution, including Iran, Uganda, Cambodia and China.

Around the Web

Income Inequality News - The New York Times

FT.com / Global Economy - Poll shows wide dislike of wealth gap

The Hill Poll: Fears about inequality in income grow

Occupy Wall Street's Success: Even Republicans Are Talking About Income Inequality