All told, more than 46 million Americans were living in poverty in 2012, according to the most recent statistics available from the federal government. That's nearly 15 percent of the population.
The numbers always take my breath away—but it's hard to really understand what American poverty and wealth inequality look like without works like this illuminating video on the country's wealth distribution.
The video highlights a study that found that most Americans really can't even begin to conceptualize the difference in income for the top 1 percent and the rest of us.
Maybe the most shocking math comes in a question the knowing narrator forgets to answer. Near the two-and-a-half-minute mark, the narrator makes a casual mention of what it would look like if socialism took hold in the U.S. In the graphic depiction, all the green dollars are evenly distributed along the spectrum of American workers, from CEOs to fast-food workers, in a flat field of verdant equality. The narrator adds that socialism wouldn't work because people need to be inspired to work and produce; the argument makes sense—there is a powerful need for innovation and competition for the continued success of America's juggernaut economy.
Now, bear with me—math was never a strong suit—but I couldn't help wondering: What would American socialism actually look like for you and me, even if we were in a fantasyland where American production was unhampered by the sloth of a well-fed, well-heeled public?
In the simplest terms, if the 2009 estimate for total American net worth of $54 trillion was divided evenly among the 313 million people in this country, what would the average piece of the pie be for each American? More than $170,000 a year.
That's how rich the American economy is, and how rich America isn't.
Maybe my math is too simple, or maybe you feel that a CEO deserves to make millions and your local fast-food worker deserves pennies by comparison, but as the narrator says, "We certainly don't have to go all the way to socialism to find something that is fair for hard-working Americans."