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Most Americans Say Economic Structure Favors 'Very Small Portion Of The Rich': WSJ/NBC Poll

Economy Favors Rich

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 11/ 8/2011 10:14 am Updated: 01/23/2012 9:36 am

Most Americans consider the country's economic structure out of whack.

Sixty percent of Americans said they think the country's economic structure is "out of balance" and that it favors a "very small portion of the rich" over everyone else, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. The majority of Americans also said they believe the government should not financially help corporations or cut taxes on the rich.

The findings mirror other surveys indicating that Americans are fed up with the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Fifty-five percent of Americans said they think income inequality is a big problem for the country, according to a recent poll by The Hill. In addition, the wealth gap is one of the major focuses of the Occupy protests taking place across the country.

Americans are likely angered by income inequality because it has grown increasingly pronounced in recent years. The top 1 percent of earners saw their incomes surge by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, according a recent study from the Congressional Budget Office. Over the same period, the bottom fifth of earners saw their incomes rise by less than 20 percent.

Many households are feeling the pinch of the lack of income growth, especially as the effects of the Great Recession continue to linger. The U.S. median annual wage fell in 2010 for the second year in a row to $26,364 and Americans' access to basic needs such as food, shelter and health care dropped to recession lows in October, according to Gallup.

At the same time, reports indicate that the top 10 percent of American earners control two-thirds of the country's net worth, according to Mother Jones.

But wealth may not be all the super-rich control; they're more likely to be in touch with politicians, indicating that they have outsized influence on the political process. Nearly half of those with a median wealth of $7.5 million said they had contacted a member of Congress in the past six months, the WSJ reports.

The wealthy's frequent contact with congress may be helping to drive down their tax bill. Tax cuts for the wealthiest five percent of Americans cost the U.S. $11.6 million every hour, according to the National Priorities Project. In addition, 30 of America's most profitable companies paid less than zero in income taxes in the last three years, according to a study from the Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Some of the super-rich are using their influence to try and increase taxes on themselves. Famed billionaire Warren Buffett wrote in a New York Times op-ed in August that lawmakers should start taxing the rich at rates that are at least as high or higher as those of middle class earners. The president subsequently named a proposed millionaire's tax after the Berkshire Hathaway CEO in his September deficit cutting plan. Nearly three-quarters of Americans said they support the rule.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated that the U.S. median income fell to $26,364. The U.S. annual median wage fell to $26,364.
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