Wealth Inequality in America ….

… is not what you thought it was, no matter what you were thinking. According to this interesting moving infographic movie thingie:

Comments

  1. #2 Richard Chapman
    March 2, 2013

    I just emailed that out to a bunch of friends and relatives. I was floored. The wealth of this nation has been sucked out and locked up by that 1%. I don’t believe in that investment crap. Tax the bastards and put that money to work. Real work.

  2. #3 David Remsen
    Woods Hole, MA
    March 2, 2013

    In Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream, there was the statement that 400 individuals hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans. Is that accurate and do you know the source for that information?

  3. #4 Nicholas Sapp
    Toronto, Ontario
    March 2, 2013

    Interesting.

    When it asks whether the CEO works 380 times harder then the average worker, is that because the CEO has 380 times as much wealth, or 380 times as much income. I would like to see a comparison between income inequality as well as wealth inequality.

  4. #5 Tiese Rocillo
    Indiana
    March 2, 2013

    They are stealing our own hard earned money right off of our broken tired backs! If they payed tax that way equaled to the percentage that the rest of us pay then this country could start to support itself and folks like us and my family could get ahead!

  5. #6 Stu Thurston
    March 3, 2013

    David try this site. The figures are sourced.

    http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

  6. #7 Greg Laden
    March 3, 2013

    I was wondering the same thing. But, the difference between “wealth” an “income” and such may be a matter of how one fills out tax forms and how one hides one’s money more than what the thing (wealth/income/whatever) actually is.

  7. #9 Thomas P
    March 5, 2013

    These numbers probably aren’t accurate either. The wealthiest people are good at hiding their stuff in tax shelters where it is hard to track so in reality their share is likely to be even bigger.

  8. #10 Joe Lewis
    Edmonton Alberta Canada
    March 5, 2013

    If there was a new word in the early part of the 21st century , it would have to be a word that goes well beyond the word greed.
    Cosmic Greed? ,Pathological Greed?. Go figure!

  9. #11 mandas
    March 5, 2013

    Whilst I share the concerns about wealth equality, I would like to suggest that we should expect the top 20% to have significantly more than the bottom 20%. If the top 20% earn 100 times more than the bottom 20%, they would have 100 times more of the wealth – that’s just maths.

  10. #12 Todd
    March 6, 2013

    When asked, the majority of the US population believes that football talent has the same distribution as they thought wealth does. Moreover, many men believe that they are in the top 5% of football talent in the country. However, I have uncovered data that is very disturbing. Shockingly, only ~1700 men possess 99.9995% of the football talent in a country of ~314 million citizens. They clearly stole this talent from the rest of us and we need government programs to get it back.

  11. #13 Roger
    March 25, 2013

    @Todd,

    Are you implying that .0005% of the country possesses the vast majority of the “money talent” in the US? That, somehow, they hold some secret to wealth accumulation (probably some mixture of “bootstraps” and “working hard”) that the rest of us simply do not?

    @Greg,

    I have shared this, including it in my general discussions of wealth inequality (including busting the myth of “Job Creators”). Thank you for this.

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  13. #16 MikeN
    May 29, 2017

    >. If the top 20% earn 100 times more than the bottom 20%, they would have 100 times more of the wealth – that’s just maths.

    No, it’s not, because wealth is a cumulative savings, earnings-spending.

  14. #17 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    That’s why an UBI is needed. Because the difference in cash is because there’s a minimum set of outgoings and it doesn’t increase linearly with income, even if you pretended none of it was not optional spending. It’s also why flat tax is a really bad regressive tax.

    One person still has to eat, buy clothes, find shelter and warmth. Even if they’re below the poverty line.

    In a communist system this would not, in theory, make any difference, but in a capitalist one power == money by design, so the ones earning more accrue more power quicker than the poor do. And, because capitalism relies on the selfishness of others, unlike communism relying on the altruism, capiitalist systems inevitable corrupt because those who gain power will change the system to give them even more.

    Ever wonder why a billionaire works rather than retires and leaves the job for someone who needs it? Usually it’s because wealth is power and no longer money. It’s meaningless when you have more than the average person would spend in a lifetime. Its only meaning now is how much power, and no matter how wealthy you are, there’s someone with more wealth, and you move in their circles.

    So no rich person sees themselves as rich. Because they see their power relative to another and see they’re still under the heel of someone “bigger” than them, still unable to enforce their will over them and must let them get their way, because they have more power.

    And that’s why trickle up happens: spending your reserves is losing power, the cash is meaningless.

    Socialism is the counter to capitalism’s inevitable corruption by design, but ever since the Reagan/Thatcher era, socialism has been a dirty word and excluded from the political arena as being “unworkable”. And so capitalism is corrupting at an ever increasing rate.

    At the very least “death taxes” should be 100%, to stop inherited wealth and hoarding (why save cash if it’s just going to be taken by the government?).

    Yes, businesses owned by one family would need some fiddling so we get continuity (though it’s not necessary to have it, just “feels right” to have it), but that could be passed on before death and dealt with as ownership transfer. Increase taxes for “portable” businesses to pay for the tax exemption as long as it is passed on to the named individual soon after their majority. But like i said, it’s not necessary. Only small family owned farms would really benefit, the son of the store owner could just start their own first. And the number of small family owned farms is miniscule.

  15. #18 zebra
    May 29, 2017

    wow #17,

    I listened to an interesting debate on UBI the other day, and it raised some real issues.

    You really have to put it in context, meaning: what is the existing “safety net” and socioeconomic structure, and what will the final mix be when you have implemented the concept, given that there is not infinite funding available?

    As usual, devil in the details.

  16. #19 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    The problem with “the devil is in the details” is that this, like any economic system that is not almost entirely dictated out, is a complex system of complicit parts acting together.

    UBI means many jobs will pay less because the end pay is higher. So the initial change will be that there’s a massive change in pay scales. Many will see no benefit at the moment, because they’re still stuck with the job they have.

    So any tax regime to cover this will inevitably have to change because it will be a different pay structure as soon as it is implemented from the current one.

    But as people realise they don’t HAVE to do that job, they can actually afford to do a job they’d LIKE to do and be their own boss and if it fails, all they lose is the little luxuries they can currently afford.

    That means the first round of paycuts will be done under the current paradigm of “If it’s menial, it’s shit pay, because you’re not worth it if I could do it” will have to change because they will find that there’s nobody to clean the toilets or do data entry for the $1/hr extra, nobody will HAVE to turn up on their zero hours contract because they would prefer this day to be spent on something else rather than needing the cash.

    So to entice people into doing the really unpleasant jobs, they have to increase the pay for it. Or change how many are signed up on zero hours and how many have a guaranteed hourly contract.

    Which changes the pay structure and therefore income tax structure again.

    At least the first round of pay reductions can be paid from corporation tax, since if the company decides to pay less for the workers, they will be more profitable, and therefore they should make up the shortfall in windfall taxes.

    Further down the road, we may find that people doing what they LIKE, or at least getting well paid for the shit they have to put up with, are happier, which means more productive, so changing the pay/tax structure again. And with so many more people trying to be the next Jobs or Notch or Rowling, there will be many more successes (even if the success rate drops from the ~10% it currently is) and productivity or GDP would increase.

    It would change the dynamics of both the cities and the rural areas too. If you can afford basic income in the bondooks and not in NYC, then you can afford to move out, even if there’s no job yet waiting for you. The lack of workers means the rich people can’t get cleaners or waiters or chefs or ushers, etc, because they can’t afford to stay in the city on a UBI plus what the place will spend on them, and they CAN afford to just up sticks and try a better life somewhere it’s cheaper to live.

    Fewer people, means lower housing demand. Nobody is stuck in a bad area, so ghettos will disperse as those people will be able to move away rather than be trapped by this being the only place they can get some work and a roof over their heads. That reduces the cost of housing and people may be able to afford to live there or buy a house there. The lack of the most menial labour will mean that the price for labour in high rent places will have to rise to make people able to take the job and rational for doing so.

    Rural areas will get new people in, people looking for something better and able to do so, too. Those rural people will also be able to just try anything to work, since it will pay for the luxuries. And if they want to go to the big smoke, the pay negotiations will be on even terms and they may find themselves able to get a wage that lets them move and do just that.

    The details are a shibboleth.

    The design of the initial setup, the assumptions made, and how to adapt to the scenario changing over time is the point. And that shouldn’t be detailed much, because it won’t be amenable to prediction. It’s a complex system of interacting parts that can change to suit the perceptions of each part as to what it should do, and that means the design of adaption is necessary, not the detail of the UBI scheme itself.

    As to “”there is not infinite funding available”, that’s BS. Since money is an abstract, there IS infinite money. If we handed out a billion dollars to everyone, eventually an equilibrium would be reached where the dollar is worth whatever it turns out to be.

    We could just take ALL assets, pool them, divvy them up evenly and say “Here you go, make your future” and no new cash is required.

    Both are hugely disruptive, but no need for infinite funding. And disruption is what you really mean when you say “there is not infinite funding”. “Infinite cash” is possible. Just give everyone a bank account and type in “1000000000” in the “Balance” field and you’ve now made billionaires of everyone. Not near enough infinite? Add more zeros.

    The only problem is the disruption as the dollar finds its new value compared to the actual worth of the USA: the products it makes.

    Makes, by the way, by the labour of the people who are rewarded the least for it for the benefit of the ones who owned the means by which those workers could produce the goods.

    If you want to see communism at work, look at any large business: cash from each as to their means (the CEO is just one man and is busy running the company by making decisions to actually get on the shop floor!) cash to each according to their needs (the CEO needs all the money to pay for the business expenses, which includes the wages of the workers).

    Small businesses are nearer the commune.

    Only the single-owned family business is anything close to capitalist.

    All other businesses are communist to a degree that no government has ever managed to get people to agree to.

  17. #20 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    On inheritance, it could be as simple as 30% of the value of the asset taxed on to be paid for like any government loan. The inheritor will be working either in the business or making their own (in which case they don’t need to inherit) and therefore can safe up to pay that tax off. And if the loan goes unpaid, the asset is sold at auction and the proceeds go back to the government coffers.

    If your child can’t make their own way with the advantages you gave them growing up and starting, then let someone else try. Eventually only those good at it will be the owner. Properly a meritocracy.

  18. #21 zebra
    May 29, 2017

    Wow,

    You know from my “energy paradigm” approach that this is the kind of solution I would favor– government setting up certain strict minimum rules and then allowing things to sort themselves “locally”.

    But, when you evaluate this kind of “futuristic transformative” concept, you have to compare it to alternatives.

    So, let’s say we have the political will to provide this level of funding. Why is sending everyone a check for $1K a month better than, for example, establishing a national health insurance/care structure?

    The latter achieves many of the same goals with respect to job mobility, for example– you can move physically, you can tell your boss to shove it and start your own business, and so on.

    These are the kinds of “details” I’m talking about.

  19. #22 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    I don’t believe that essential services should be outside government no matter if there’s an UBI or not.

    And that isn’t any detail there, I take it that this is what you want answered in detail. And it’s precisely why I say that “The detail” is a shibboleth and definitely NOT what is needed.

    Moreover, the two things are orthogonal. Unless you’re talking about elective treatments. Because people choose a tummy tuck, but nobody chooses to catch Ebola.

    The point of a UBI in a capitalist system with free markets is to make the job market a free market too. Just letting them have free healthcare won’t help them live unless they’re in every day just to eat hospital food and sleep in a hospital bed.

    And unless there’s provided housing and food no matter where you are or whenever you move, there’s nothing in healthcare that lets you freely move around, making labour a free market pool that runs like a commodity.

    No detail about how it is funded and whether it is sufficiently funded is valid because it’s such a game-changing paradigm that there is no basis on which to make a prediction.

    What is needed is the goal set out and the methods by which UBI will be assessed and changed to meet that goal.

    Method, not detailed financial breakdown.

    Whatever UBI and tax rate arises will be what UBI achieves that goal and tax rate that pays for it will be.It’s not a thing to plan out beforehand.

  20. #23 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    It should be possible to determine for the USA as a whole to determine the average USA “starter home” or appartment rent is, the smalles basic dwelling that you can rent on average in the USA as a whole.

    It should be possible to do the same for food, power and heating.

    It should be possible to do the same for clothing.

    Then set the UBI to that figure.

    High rent cities will not be livable at that wage and poor rural areas will have people living like kings.

    Which means people in the lowest paid jobs will leave the cities by necessity and move to the rural areas and live like kings.

    Which will increase the cost of living in the rural area and decrease the cost of living in the cities.

    It will also cut the wages of people living in rural areas (since they’re already getting paid to eat and live well) and increase the wages of people living in the cities.

    Which will cause some people to reverse direction.

    Meanwhile the average cost of living will change because of this shift in money and people and the reaction to it. E.g. upping prices in small corner shops in Notown USA meaning the companies will open up subsidiaries there to rake in some of that cash and pocket it in their city dwelling’s wealth. Maybe even subsidising the cost there to get people back in to work at the checkout stands.

    The only real questions should be about how to minimise the disruption, how to spot it, how to adapt and how to know when you’re done.

  21. #24 Wow
    May 29, 2017

    Because wages don’t go below zero, the consequence of the system adapting to a UBI enough for the average american location’s living expenses will be too much for the below-average place, and the difference will be made up in the above-average place by the wages.

    That means as the system adapts you can reduce the UBI which means marginally liveable places will have to start upping wages, but the system can cope.

    However, if you lower UBI too far, you will be resigned to the cheapest living places to live and we no longer have a free moving market for jobs.

    But what will eventually happen is that there will be an emergent assessment of the value of city amenaties compared to the cheaper rural life and the differences in cost-of-living will be minimal and closely aligned to the value people place on the location.

    There will still be gated communities where you can’t live on UBI, and there will still be shanty towns where nobody who can afford to be elsewhere will live. But very little of that latter case, because there’s no point to deliberately living in squalor or treating your neighbourhood badly, and there’s still value in living in a poor area with low quality housing because you value the people around you, your community. And that community will be why people who CAN move out won’t want to. They like their neighbours, they like the streets, they like the shops nearby and though they COULD move, they won’t all move together and they value the others they live near enough to want to stay.

    And those places will rise up slowly because people with spending cash and a desire to be there are staying, increasing the profit of serving the area and increasing the value of being there.

    And anyone who really does not give a shit and wants to lay about doing nothing all day, every day, because they have no desire to do anything with their lives will be able to move freely too, and they may well do so if the neighbourhood expects some minimal level of behaviour and socially stigmatises their damaging actions (e.g. dumping their broken down car in the front lawn). Because the “cost” of living there is being a better neighbour.

    And eventually they’ll find themselves having to at least avoid being a nuisance to avoid the stigma and pressure to change.