If you drive thru old East Coast cities, you see there was a vastly greater economic disparity in the past than now - as you go past MASSIVE houses in one section, and the even-crappy-when-new row houses and cheap highrise apartments and rent-rooms.
Technology has made most stuff cheap - and buying on credit became more acceptable too. I looked up some curious price differences. A tube-type small sized color TV cost $500 in the late 50s and early 60s - over $2000 in today's money. That same sized TV now is under $200 and higher quality.
What HAS changed is the MASSIVE level of government money pouring towards "poor" people that did not exist before. A person could not comfortably survive on social programs in the past - that at best merely prevented starvation and provided a shelter bed somewhere. Now, even healthy unemployed (regardless of reason) can have all the niceties of life - though may have to suffer with an older car or two. Living on the government tits is a way of life for an increasing number of people and ALL necessities of life and even all basic niceties of life are considered something that people are entitled to.
Well, if I were to hatch the most sublime plan for creating such an income disparity, I would go about destroying the middle and working class. To achieve this, I would undermine unions to the point they were ineffectual, eliminate the fairness doctrine in order to control the message and then install any number of well-cooprdinated pundits to spread the gospel that greed is good. I would then lower the tax rates on the super wealthy by a huge margin, encourage outsourcing of jobs to impoverished countries in order to maximize profits for investors and drive down wages domestically, and reduce the capital gains tax so that people who produced nothing could go about the business of dismantling companies that did produce something, lay off workers and spin off the parts for huge profits. I think it's a brilliant plan for maximizing income inequality, myself.
Damn it, though, if Reagan didn't beat me to it!
"you're better off on Stormfront discussing how evil brown men are taking innocent white flowers." Infinite Chaos
This is a loaded question that is also a superficial sweeping generalization. My choice: Refuse to answer on the grounds I just cited.
We have certainly redefined "poor" in America.
Here poor means food, shelter, TV, cell phone, cable/Internet, one or more automobiles, console gaming system, computer, washer/dryer, dish washer, fast food etc.
I have been to some of the poorest most depressing places on this planet, and they would consider this living good.