Many Americans accept the age-old axiom that hard work and determination will lead to a life of luxury, prosperity and professional success. The stories of those who were able to climb the social ladder and earn incredible wealth -- Jay-Z, J.K. Rowling, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, David Geffen, Demi Moore, Leonardo DiCaprio and Oprah Winfrey -- serve as a reminder that any individual can become the next rags to riches fairy tale.
President Barack Obama, speaking to supporters Monday in Cincinnati said, "if you work hard, then you can get ahead; if you're responsible, then you can live out your dreams. You're not confined to the circumstances of your birth." But a new poll commissioned by The Hill publication found that 47 percent of likely voters believe becoming wealthy in their lifetime is impossible, and 37 percent of those surveyed say they will never become rich. Of the 1,000 voters polled, 40 percent regard "wealthy" as earning at least $500,000 a year. Meanwhile, 31 percent attribute wealth to an annual income of $250,000 a year, and 20 percent say wealth constitutes at least $1 million in salary a year.
Americans' personal wealth has decreased in the past few years after the housing and stock market crashes. Wage growth has been stagnant, and millions of unemployed Americans are forced to take part-time or lower-paying jobs to make ends meet. The growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor in the U.S. sparked the Occupy Wall Street protests last year and has become a central focus in the November elections. President Obama said he supports raising taxes on the richest Americans and has been campaigning on a platform to level the playing field between the "1 percent" and the majority of Americans.
The median U.S. household income between 2006 and 2010 was $51,914, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest data show that almost one in two Americans live in poverty or low-income households. In 2009, nearly 5.1 million U.S. households claimed millionaire status. President Obama has proposed extending Bush-era tax cuts for households making $250,000 a year or less for one more year. Tax cuts for wealthier households would expire on Jan. 1, 2013.
Bob Cusack, managing editor at The Hill, says his publication's poll results present "a big problem" for Obama.
"There's not a lot of hope in these poll's findings," he says in the attached clip.
Cusack notes that only 60 percent of voters who identified as conservatives back an extension of the Bush-era tax rates, while 73 percent of liberals favor tax cuts for Americans making no more than $250,000 a year.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposes tax hikes on all income levels. Congress remains deadlocked on the tax issue and a resolution may not come until early next year, Cusack says.