The U.S. Census Bureau records that over 45 million people have no health care and that the average member of Walmart’s Walton family now has 771,287 times as much wealth as the median U.S. household. As Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel point out in their new book Economic Apartheid in America by the New Press, “Widening disparities in the U.S. are the result of three decades of bi-partisan public policies that have tilted the rules of the economy to the benefit of major corporations and large asset owners at the expense of people whose security comes from a paycheck.”

The authors note that “The failure to raise the minimum wage from its 1997 level of $5.15 an hour guarantees continued income stagnation for the working poor for years to come.”

On October 19, the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate rejected an attempt to raise minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 over an 18 month period. The amendment, introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy, was defeated 51-47. Kennedy pointed out that Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the perils of poverty in our nation.

A single parent with two children working at minimum wage earns $10,700 a year, which $4,700 below the U.S. poverty level. Forbes magazine reported there are now 374 U.S. billionaires who have more wealth than the bottom 95% of the U.S. population.