Wandering Eye:

City offers tax break to grocers, the middle class is now a minority, and more

The American middle class is now outnumbered by the poor and the rich, according to the Pew Research Center, which released a financial and demographic trend analysis on Wednesday. The difference is tiny, but the trend is clear: since 1971, the percentage of middle-income Americans has shrunk every decade, while the ranks of the very poor and the filthy rich have increased. The number of very rich has increased more than the number of very poor, but that is misleading, since Pew counts as very rich couples earning $103,000 a year. The gap between these upper-income people and the rest of us has been increasing as well, but that's mostly due to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the Waltons, and about 392 other people who rake in about $1 million per day on average. "The Great Recession of 2007-09, which caused the latest downturn in incomes, had an even greater impact on the wealth (assets minus debts) of families," Pew says. "The losses were so large that only upper-income families realized notable gains in wealth over the span of 30 years from 1983 to 2013 (the period for which data on wealth are available)." Looking at things like age and race, Pew found that the "biggest winners since 1971 are people 65 and older. This age group was the only one that had a smaller share in the lower-income tier in 2015 than in 1971." (Edward Ericson Jr.)


The Washington Post's Dave Weigel (no relation) has an interesting look at Donald Trump supporters and why attack ads against the bloviating businessman are failing to register with his base. A focus group of supporters was shown an attack from Gov. John Kasich, in which a former Air Force colonel likens Trump to Hitler. The group was not impressed. "It was too far over the top," a voter said. But when clips of Trump insulting the other nominees in the Republican field were shown, they ate it up. Here's the key quote, from a 65-year-old retiree: "He says something completely crazy, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God!' Then he dials back and starts explaining it and saying how he'd do it, and it makes sense." Reports Weigel: "Only eight members of the group disagreed with Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. One of the holdouts said he was hosting an exchange student from Saudi Arabia and did business in that country but could disagree with Trump about Muslims and vote for him anyway." (Brandon Weigel)


As you may have read in a recent column from our very own Anna Walsh, it's hard to pin down just what a food desert is. As Walsh noted, "A 2005 study found that there's no statistically significant correlation between living in a food desert and the amount of fruits and vegetables that someone eats." Bad diet habits may come from the stresses of living in poverty, not the lack of a grocery store. Nevertheless, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration is working to lure more grocery stores to impoverished areas, offering an 80 percent tax break on equipment needed to set up the stores, such as freezers and cash registers, The Sun reports. Thin profit margins and the high taxes in the city make it harder for grocery chains to operate in the city. "I anticipate this being helpful in bridging that gap and bringing investors to some of our struggling communities by making it a more feasible, more profitable experience for them," Rawlings-Blake said. (Brandon Weigel)

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