Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook

By Geoffrey Gilbert | Go to book overview

1
Background and History

Life is good for America’s rich. Their consumption possibilities exceed what the majority of their fellow citizens can even imagine. At a bar in Chicago, they can order a special cocktail featuring premium vodka, Dom Pérignon champagne, a few other ingredients, and a stirrer topped with a one-carat ruby—at a cost of $950. At home they can keep their food and drink nicely cooled in a Sub-Zero PRO 48 refrigerator costing $12,000. If they carry the ultimate American Express Black credit card, issued by invitation only to people who customarily charge at least $250,000 a year, they can receive a luxury magazine so exclusive that its cover bears no name. If they wish to spend a million dollars on an automobile, they have that option as of late 2005 in the Bugatti Veyron, built by Volkswagen. (Industry analysts expect most buyers to treat the car as a “piece of art” rather than a means of transportation.) For vacation travel to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and other luxury destinations, billionaires can now acquire mega-yachts as long as football fields and costing $200 million or more. When it comes to real estate, the sky is the limit: four penthouse apartments atop the Trump World Tower in New York City were on the market as a single unit in early 2006 for $58 million. Occupying three floors, the unit featured 16 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, 17-foot-high windows, and bird’s-eye views of an important neighbor, the United Nations.

For America’s poor, consumption possibilities are much more limited. A minimum-wage worker does not earn in a month what the special ruby cocktail costs. She or he does not earn in a year what the Sub-Zero refrigerator costs. A surprising number of America’s poor do not have a bank account, much less an

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Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - Background and History 1
  • 2 - Problems, Controversies, and Solutions 31
  • 3 - Worldwide Perspective 79
  • 4 - Chronology 107
  • 5 - Biographical Sketches 127
  • 6 - Data and Documents 155
  • 7 - Directory of Organizations 201
  • 8 - Selected Print and Nonprint Resources 227
  • Glossary 259
  • Index 263
  • About the Author 275
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