The rich are different from you and me. Well, me anyway. And they're damn well positioned to keep it that way.
Florida not only got itself a fabulously wealthy governor (after he spent $73 million of his own money to get elected, maybe it's more accurate to suggest Rick Scott got himself a state) but a Legislature laden with millionaires.
Eighteen millionaires will be slumming in the state Senate. That's 18 out of 40 senators.
Down the hallway, 34 millionaires vote in the House. Out of 120 state reps. Rich reps are forced to mingle with the unwashed rabble.
The U.S. Congress wallows in even more disproportionate affluence than our elected moneybags in Tallahassee. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (a name plucked from the land of wishful thinking) 261 members of Congress are millionaires, and 55 are worth more than $10 million.
That was in 2009 -- a tough year for most of us. Yet members of Congress seemed immune from the economic vagaries of the recession, upping their average wealth from 2008 by 16 percent. Just among the senators, median wealth rose from $2.27 million to $2.38 million.
A Bloomberg National Poll published last week indicated that only a third of Americans favored extending those famous Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. But our elected representatives, with some serious money at stake, had their own interests to represent.
Don't expect the tea party revolution to much alter this economically lofty perspective in Congress. Politico reports that 25 percent of the newly elected Republicans are millionaires.
No wonder elected representatives, most of them happily ensconced on the sunny side of the income gap, have shown little interest in fixing America's economic disparities. Sure, the top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation's pretax income in 2007 -- up from less than 9 percent in 1976. But that seems decidedly less alarming to pols when you golf every Sunday with the top 1 percent.
No doubt you noticed that paychecks have been out-strapped by inflation. Adjusted for inflation, wages have lost ground over the past 10 years. (The cost of housing, education and healthcare all increased at a much higher rate than wages and salaries.) Though that only matters to those who have a wage to collect. More than 12 percent of Florida's labor force remains unemployed.
In 1967, the middle 60 percent of households received over 52 percent of all income. In 1998, it was down to 47 percent. The poor also watched their meager share fall. All while the top 20 percent saw their share go up.
Over the last 25 years, more than 90 percent of the total growth in income in the U.S. went to the top 10 percent earners. With help from their golfing buddies in elected office. The remaining 9 percent of income growth, the leftovers, were divvied up among the lower 90 percent.
In 1973, the average U.S. CEO was paid $27 for every dollar paid to a typical worker. Three years ago, the ratio had ballooned to $275 to $1.
From down in the working dregs of society, such stats look like a social and economic crisis coming. From the perspective of the millionaires lounging around capitol buildings in Tallahassee and Washington . . . the way they see things . . . well, they're different from you and me.