Posted on Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke believes the growing income gap is "creating two societies" in America.
The central bank chief weighed in on income inequality during an interview Sunday with "60 Minutes" reporter Scott Pelley:
Pelley: The gap between rich and poor in this country has never been greater. In fact we have the biggest income disparity gap of any industrialized country in the world. And I wonder where you think that's taking America.
Bernanke: It's a very bad development. It's creating two societies. And it's based very much, I think, on educational differences. The unemployment rate we've been talking about. If you're a college graduate, unemployment is 5 percent. If you're a high school graduate, it's 10 percent or more. It's a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn't have the cohesion that we'd like to see."
In September, new Census figures showed that the income gap between America's richest and poorest was the widest on record.
"The top-earning 20 percent of Americans - those making more than $100,000 each year - received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line," according to The Associated Press.
The topics of income inequality and public education have followed Bernanke in a personal way since he began his tenure as the leader of the nation's central bank.
In 2009, Bernanke's boyhood home was sold at foreclosure and the junior high school he attended became so dilapidated and worn down, that a student decided to write to Congress and ask for help.
Bernanke's hometown of Dillon, South Carolina, has been hit hard by the recession. According to the latest figures, Dillon County's unemployment rate is 14.8 percent.
In addition to his comments about income inequality, Bernanke also called for reform of the nation's tax code. Most of the interview was devoted to Bernanke's defense of the Fed's decision to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities, a move intended to hold down interest rates.