IT would be easy to make a villain out of Circuit City. The electronics retailer last week announced a particularly Scrooge-like cost-cutting plan to lay off employees who made about $15 an hour – and only hiring them back if they would agree to accept a lot less. But Circuit City isn’t so much the culprit as a symptom of what ails the United States in general, and Los Angeles in particular – an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. On the same day that the retailer announced it was laying off nearly 3,400 employees across the country, a new study of tax data showed that income equality grew worse in 2005 (the last year for which complete information is available). The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans got their biggest boost in income since the 1920s. The other 90 percent actually saw their incomes drop slightly. Nowhere is this pressure felt stronger than in California, especially in Los Angeles, where white-collar jobs are increasingly being replaced by low-paid service jobs thanks to job-killing policies by the city’s leadership. And it’s not just the middle class that’s finding it harder to live in L.A. Some researchers say that even illegal immigrants are increasingly picking other cities and states as a U.S. destination. Californians struggling with mortgage, car payments, health insurance, food and clothing for their families don’t need a study to tell them that getting into – and staying in – the middle class is getting tougher. They are living it. And unless lawmakers abandon policies that reward the wealthy, chase away business, and further weaken the country’s few safety nets, they will create a deepening economic crisis for the shrinking middle class. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!