The richest 1% of US Americans earn nearly a quarter of the country's income and control an astonishing 40% of its wealth. Inequality in the US is more extreme than it's been in almost a century — and the gap between the super rich and the poor and middle class people has widened drastically over the last 30 years.
Meanwhile, in Washington, a bitter partisan debate over how to cut deficit spending and reduce the US' 14.3 trillion dollar debt is underway. As low and middle class wages stagnate and unemployment remains above 9%, Republicans and Democrats are tussling over whether to slash funding for the medical and retirement programs that are the backbone of the US's social safety net, and whether to raise taxes — or to cut them further.
The budget debate and the economy are the battleground on which the 2012 presidential election race will be fought. And the United States has never seemed so divided — both politically and economically.
How did the gap grow so wide, and so quickly? And how are the convictions, campaign contributions and charitable donations of the top 1% impacting the other 99% of Americans? Fault Lines investigates the gap between the rich and the rest.