By now, most Americans have heard about the dreaded "fiscal cliff," which may become reality Jan. 1. Simply put, the cliff will increase taxes - by $500 to $1,500 - on a majority of the U.S. residents.
So who do you suppose will be affected the least by the "cliff?"
Not the wealthy, who will be asked to up their contributions significantly to the federal government.
Not the middle class, which already pays a hefty burden in terms of taxes.
If you guessed the 47 percent that pays no federal income tax, you are correct.
While a portion of this group does work, there is another chunk of the 47 percent who does not or has never worked. They have learned how to play the system - and are reaping the benefits.
Another way to look at it is these 47 percent voted 100 percent to back President Barack Obama for a second term. Why would this group want tax cuts when they don't pay federal taxes?
Obama seems to be all about making those with financial means - or those on the job trying to make ends meet - pay more while continuing to dole out benefits for those who boast they cannot find work even though it is out there.
In fact, a recent report made the case that for every 1.65 Americans who work in the private sector, there is one person receiving welfare.
The imbalance has become so great that while those with incomes under $20,000 and collecting assistance will avoid being part of the "cliff," they are still keeping pace with the 21st century lifestyle.
In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, "Consumption and the myths of inequality," writers Kevin A. Barrett and Aparna Mathur pointed out the U.S. "standard of living has increased among all income groups" in the last 10 years.
Barrett, a director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Mathur, a resident scholar, noted in their commentary a survey done by the U.S. Department of Energy on the types of homes, appliances and devices residents own. "The access of low-income Americans ... to devices that are part of the 'good life' has increased," Barrett and Mathur wrote.
The "good life" numbers speak for themselves - with the percentage in 2009 first and the percentage from 2001 second:
Computers - 47.7 percent from 19.8 percent.
Air conditioning - 83.5 percent from 65.8 percent.
Washing machine - 62.4 percent from 57.2 percent.
Microwave ovens - 92.4 percent from 74.9 percent.
Almost of no surprise is 75.5 percent of low-income Americans have a cell phone and more than 25 percent of these people have a phone with Internet access.
Ultimately, the numbers show today's disparity. If you are employed and receive a paycheck, you are the one who will be penalized by the cliff.
This way of thinking in Washington continues unprecedented giving to those we believe to be less fortunate, but have - in many cases - just as much as those who work.
It was not always that way in the United States of America.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.