In his latest column for the Daily Beast, John Avlon says, "In this new century, the gap between the income of average Americans and that of their presidential candidates has grown dramatically."
Avlon takes a look at the widening gap of income inequality and the growing trend of wealthy presidential candidates in U.S. history.
John Avlon is also a CNN contributor and member of the OutFront political strike team.
As Income Inequality Widens, Rich Presidential Candidates Dominate
In Harry Truman’s day, anyone (or at least any white male) could grow up to be president—even a failed haberdasher from Independence, Missouri. Today, it’s mostly the super-rich who get as far as running for our highest office. It’s a measurable problem that’s gotten much worse in recent years.
In this new century, the gap between the income of average Americans and that of their presidential candidates has grown dramatically.
In 1987, Michael Dukakis’ income as governor of Massachusetts was just four times that of the average American. In 2007, it took 70 John and Jane Q Publics to match then-Senator Barack Obama’s income, most of it from book royalties. And last year, Mitt Romney—another former Bay State governor—took in more than 400 times Mr. or Mrs. Smith made on Main Street.
But the implications are much bigger than Mitt Romney’s extraordinary success as the founder of Bain Capital. The widening space between our candidates and ourselves is consistent with the rift separating the super rich from the middle class. And that represents a threat not just to the ideal of the American dream, but to the stability of our society, which is as strong as the mobility of the middle class.
Don’t get me wrong—I believe that the American Dream is alive and well, especially for those who belong to what Thomas Jefferson called the “aristocracy of talent” and W.E. B. Du Bois called the “talented tenth.” Most significantly, stubborn old tribal societal barriers like race are fading away. And exhibit A for the endurance of the American Dream in this respect is our president, Barack Obama.
But the issue is broad accessibility to the American Dream. Even as barriers of race are falling in America, barriers of class are growing. Since 1993, the top 1% has seen a real income growth of 58%, while the remaining 99% have seen their incomes grow just 6.4%.