The contradiction between the overall increase of wealth and the simultaneous increase in poverty is of course a fundamental characteristic of capitalism as Marxists have been pointing out for decades. With the neo-liberal hegemony having displaced the formerly commonly accepted Keynesian economics, this contradiction becomes of course even more sharp. The political weakness of the working class after a series of defeats, from the failure of the Miners' Strike to the catastrophic fall of the Soviet, which have resulted in the collapse more or less of the socialist movement as a strong antagonist to the bourgeoisie, has only strengthened the latter and facilitated its offensives against the workers of the world.
The richest one percent of Americans earned a postwar record of 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, up from 19 percent a year earlier, reflecting a widening income disparity among different classes in the nation, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing new Internal Revenue Service data.
The data showed that the fortunes of the bottom 50 percent of Americans are worsening, with that group earning 12.8 percent of all income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent the year before, the paper said.
It said that while the IRS data goes back only to 1986, academic research suggests that the last time wealthy Americans had such a high percentage of the national income pie was in the 1920s.
The article cited an interview with President Bush, who attributed income inequality to "skills gaps" among various classes. It said the IRS didn't identify the source of rising income for the affluent, but said a boom on Wall Street has likely played a part.
Of course the increasing brutality of our most absurd mode of production makes it easier for the exploited masses to see it for what it really is, a crime against human progress, and thus provides more opportunities for the building of class consciousness. On the downside (as if there weren't enough already) it seems rather improbable to me that the working classes of imperialist metropolises will develop this consciousness before a large scale collapse of global imperialism.