Updated: November 4, 2013 12:16PM
Tucked away in the Sept. 11 edition of the SouthtownStar was an enlightening article about the widening income gap in this country, reaching record proportions.
Last year, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose by 19.6 percent compared with a paltry 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent. The top 1 percent of U.S. earners collected 19.3 percent of total household income in 2012, surpassing the 18.7 percent high of 1927. We all know, or should know, the economic collapse that happened shortly afterward.
None of this should be a surprise, as U.S. income inequality has been growing for nearly three decades. It may be a surprise to some, however, that the growing divide corresponds almost exactly to the decline in labor union membership, and that the income gap is generally lower in states with higher union membership.
While the rich get richer, minimum and middle-class wages stagnate, unemployment remains high, good-paying government jobs get cut, workers lose benefits and retirees face entitlement and investment losses.
All the while, unions are often singled out for causing this troubled economy. Indeed, strong unions and increasing their membership may be what turns our economy around.
Baranek honor well deserved
The Illinois High School Association’s gesture in awarding the Distinguished Media Service Award to SouthtownStar prep reporter Tony Baranek couldn’t be more timely.
First, it comes at the height of the prep season, instead of in the summer, when those with whom Baranek shares the sidelines and cramped media rooms can express their appreciation for his efforts.
Second, people from I don’t know where (“Who Just Don’t Get It”) continue to pepper the Speak Out section of the paper with criticism of the generous coverage of prep sports. They don’t get it, but luckily Tony Baranek and his editors do.
Third, the award to Mr. Baranek washes over all the high school reporters. They all deserve recognition for working diligently and attentively to get names and facts correct, guided by the knowledge that this might be the only chance a young person has for a sliver of public recognition, not to mention a prominent place on the family refrigerator.
The SouthtownStar and other community papers that offer comprehensive coverage remind us that high school sports is the last bastion of true amateur play in our sports culture. College sports are coming face to face with the pressure of having to share revenue with athletes, and pending lawsuits may indicate we are on the cusp of that occurring.
Congratulations to Mr. Baranek for stoking the fire of the paper’s great tradition of covering high school sports in ways meaningful, exciting and always fair.