According to a 2011 Harvard University report, 84% of all wealth in America is owned by the richest 20% of the population.
Lol! It’s not what you think it is:
It’s worse, much worse . . .
Shifting Wealth Away from the Middle Class–results:
- The bottom 40% of US population owns less than 1% of all US wealth.
- The top 20% of US population owns 84% of all US wealth.
- Source: Michael Norton and Dan Ariely, “Building A Better America–One Wealth Quintile At A Time” (pdf)
- Actual US wealth distribution: shows actual US wealth distribution demographic data.
- What Americans Think It Is: shows survey results from asking US citizens to estimate what they think US wealth distribution “actually is”.
- What They Would Like It To Be: shows survey results from asking US citizens to estimate what they think US wealth distribution “should be”.
Note: Because of their small percentage share of total wealth, both the “4th 20%” value (0.2%) and the “Bottom 20%” value (0.1%) are not even visible in the “Actual” distribution.
Join me and say, “I do not condone this, I do not consent.”
Why so much wealth for some, and so little for others?
“It’s their own damn fault!”
“It’s systemic exploitation.”
Which is it?
Here’s What Suzi Orman, popular TV financial guru, says:
“My only fear in life, when it comes to money, is what’s happening in the United States of America. The American dream is dead for the majority of America. The middle class has disappeared. We have a highway to poverty and no roads coming out.” (Source)
It’s About Equality of Opportunity, NOT Equality of Outcomes–Isn’t It?
- Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.
- By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parents’ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. Intergenerational mobility in the United States is lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.
Opportunity for economic mobility certainly exists, BUT the odds are stacked against it.
ONLY 3% OF STUDENTS at the top 146 colleges come from families in the bottom income quartile; only 10% come from the bottom half. (Source)
In the United States (and the UK), if your family is poor, you will likely spend the rest of your life poor. If your family is rich, you will likely spend the rest of your life rich. At the same time, a few are able to break through and move up economically–or fall and move down.
Evidence of Systemic Bias
- The top 1% get almost 90% of the gains during 2002-2007
While the Top 1% have more than tripled their inflation adjusted incomes from 1970-2009, average workers’ incomes have remained almost unchanged. Average annual US pay over the last 39 years, adjusted for inflation:
- 1970 – $35,283
- 2009 – $40,711
The documented shift of income and wealth away from the many and towards the elite few is evidence of a systemic bias in the economic system in favor of the few. This is the bias that needs to be addressed.
We’re NOT all in it together–follow the money:
Every area of the economy is still about taking wealth from the great mass of people and putting it into the hands of a few. (Source)
The 1% have rigged the system to capture a larger and larger share of the world’s wealth and power, while the middle class and poor face unemployment, soaring student debt burdens, homelessness, exclusion from the medical system, and the disappearance of retirement savings. (Source) It’s what Kenneth Rogoff calls, “Byzantine labyrinths funneling money to powerful interests“.
Matt Taibbi: “Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game.”
All that bailout money has got to go somewhere . . .
Know what I’m sayin’?
“We can have a democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1846 – 1941)
“Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don’t understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend. If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect it has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.” (Source)
- No political equality for the poor (lfpress.com)
- Guide To Wealth And Inequality In America
- Do parasites, like this, infest our economy?
- How economic inequality is damaging our social structure (psychologytoday.com)
- Income distribution: Emmanuel Saez (PDF)
- The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order
- Net worth: Edward Wolff (PDF)
- Household income/income share: Congressional Budget Office
- Real vs. desired distribution of wealth: Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely (PDF)
- Net worth of Americans vs. Congress: Federal Reserve (average); Center for Responsive Politics (Congress)
- Your chances of being a millionaire: Calculation based on data from Wolff (PDF); US Census (household and population data)
- Member of Congress’ chances: Center for Responsive Politics
- Wealthiest members of Congress: Center for Responsive Politics
- Tax cut votes: New York Times (Senate; House)
- Wall street profits, 2007-2009: New York State Comptroller (PDF)
- Unemployment rate, 2007-2009: Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Home equity, 2007-2009: Federal Reserve, Flow of Funds data, 1995-2004 and 2005-2009 (PDFs)
- CEO vs. worker pay: Economic Policy Institute