Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

August 14, 2009

A GILDED AGE.... When we think about the gap between the rich and poor in the United States, we tend to think of the 1920s and 1930s as the extreme example that the nation moved away from in later generations.

saez07.png

As it turns out, according to one new research paper from Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez, we're seeing Depression-era inequality again -- only now it's slightly worse.

The Huffington Post, which ran a copy of the Saez report, explained, "Though income inequality has been growing for some time, the paper paints a stark, disturbing portrait of wealth distribution in America. Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .001 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000. As of 2007, the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that's 'higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the 'roaring" 1920s.''"

Paul Krugman described the results as "truly amazing."

Any efforts to address this, of course, will be immediately met with cries of "socialism," "class warfare," and "welfare state." Today's conservatives see a chart like this and think, "It is as it should be."

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

At what point *can* we call this class warfare? Because that's what it *is*, and we are *losing*.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on August 14, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

The top .001 percent have that much money because they earned it. The lowest percent are poor because they didn't do the work needed to be wealthier.

People get what they deserve in this world.

Libs can do nothing but foment class warfare.

Posted by: Mlke K on August 14, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Remus, class warfare is not a natural and deserved difference in income.

Class warfare is constantly bitching about the difference in income.

Maybe someday you lefties will shut up long enough to figure that out.

Posted by: Mlke K on August 14, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K is either an idiot, a bad troll parody, or some reptilian alein from another planet.

here's hoping -- after the dems fail at, you know, their democratic resopnsibilities -- that you a little real class warfare, Mikie...

Posted by: neill on August 14, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Look again; it's the top .01 percent -- which is bad enough -- not the top .001 percent.

Posted by: penalcolony on August 14, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

If you spent the same amount of time working that you spend whining about people who make more than you, neill, you wouldn't need to wish harm on me.

Posted by: Mlke K on August 14, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

I have been learing more about this for the past few months, and the stat that blew my mind was that the top 1% of Americans have more wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans.

I mean, WTF?

Thaty's not "income inequalilty" that is INSANE!

It is AMAZING to me how comfortable people are with the crumbs that drop from the Emperor's table, all while they are going bankrupt for the crime of "getting sick".

It is the equivalent of slavery, with the cruel twist that the slaves rally to support their masters and decry any attempt to help them as infringing on their "freedom".

You just can't make this sh!t up.

Posted by: Nashville_fan on August 14, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a quiz: define the period (on the chart)
during which the middle class prospered.

Posted by: quiz on August 14, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

You see, they deserve these salaries and bonuses because

Posted by: dk on August 14, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Your text says 0.001% but the chart says 0.01%. Which is it? A piddling point, to be sure, but we have to get our facts straight.

As for "earning" it: yeah, sure--if by "earn" you mean properly choosing your parents. Don't bore me with precious exceptions. Social station of parents remains the biggest single predictor of one's social station.

I am curious, though, Mike K.: do you feel Mr. Madoff "earned" his money?

Posted by: Steve Engber on August 14, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Mike's a good little peasant, confident that his betters are running things as they should be and no questions need be asked.

Posted by: Midland on August 14, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Steve wrote: "Today's conservatives see a chart like this and think, "It is as it should be.""

I beg to differ. Conservatives would look at this and say that the reason is that policies they favor have not been enacted to the extent that they believe they should be, and that this is an indication of a socialist welfare state.

Posted by: JM on August 14, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

The top .001 percent have that much money because they earned it.

Right. The super-rich got their money through wages and tips, not sitting on their ass earning interest or collecting an inheritance.

Fucking moron.
.

Posted by: JM on August 14, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Mike K. thinks Madoff "earned" his money. People were stupid enough to trust Madoff with their money, right? And Madoff was smart enough to take advantage, so hey. That's the way the game's played, right, Mike K?

Posted by: Gaia on August 14, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Bernie Madoff was crooked but most people are not Bernie Madoff. You can cry about how the wealthiest Americans don't deserve it but the fact remains that they are adding value to society that poor people do not.

Posted by: Mlke K on August 14, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Following the links to Emmanuel Saez's report, the graph is for .01% so the number should be written as the top .0001 earn 6% of the income.

For those curious, the top 1%'s (above $398,900 in 2007) share of income is 23.5%.

Posted by: Old School on August 14, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Madoff is a great example of that .01% that Mike K is defending. They steal for so long they come to believe it's deserved and idiots like Mike believe they will work their way up to billionaire level.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on August 14, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K: The top .001 percent have that much money because they earned it. The lowest percent are poor because they didn't do the work needed to be wealthier.


Mike, I am a legal secretary, my boss is a lawyer. He makes almost exactly 12.5 TIMES what I do. This past week, he worked for 10 hours, golfed, smoked cigars at the club, golfed, drank scotch at the club and golfed.

I worked 42.75 hours, at candy bars at my desk instead of taking lunch and didn't have time to pee most days.

Oh, yeah, they really work harder for it.

Posted by: Personal Failure on August 14, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Not only is this a demonstration of class warfare against the poor, it's also class warfare against middle class capitalist investors who aren't in a position to rip off the companies they own, while CEOs and other senior officers do exactly that.

I don't mind if an inventor, entrepreneur, athlete or movie star makes gazillions for a unique achievement that contributes something of considerable value to society. But when you get "Chainsaw Al" making his fortune by throwing thousands of employees out of work, while his stockholders reap only pennies, that's highway robbery of absolutely everybody. It's not just class warfare. It's warfare against the American economy and America's future.

This kind of thing would go away quickly if we restored several layers of tax brackets that vanished in the last few decades and made it worth the trouble of ripping off the rest of America for personal aggrandisement.

Remember, even in say, a 60% bracket, the government isn't taking away 60 percent of anybody's salary — just 60% of everything over, say, $10 million.

If something isn't done soon to regraduate income taxes, and make the theft of America unprofitable I do believe that within a generation or two you'll see guillotines at the mall. I'll be long gone by then, but I imagine the sight of Republican heads bouncing into baskets while the crowd roars will be quite a spectacle.

Crankily yours,

Posted by: The New York Crank on August 14, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Diversity" is the liberal mantra but as usual you guys don't practice what you preach.

You think everyone should make the same amount of money regardless of whether they earned it or provide value to the world. Your whole socialist platform on healthcare is part of the same screwy thinking. It is a liberal pipe dream to think everyone can or should be the same. If there were no ugly women there would be no beautiful women. If there were no bad athletes there would be no Harlem Globetrotters or Jimmy Connors or Roger Maris.

Now you think everyone should have healthcare like people are all the same.

You're such hypocrites that I feel sorry for you.

Posted by: Mlke K on August 14, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K I can say with complete certainty that I can buy and sell you at a minimum 100 times over. Therefor I'm your better by your own philosophy. So I'm telling you to take a close look at someone living in abject poverty and tell me how there going to swim out of that lake of despair. Helping someone out only makes you a better person. Acumulating wealth to the point of absurdity only makes you a greedy evil bastard.
If you want to see the true effects of jost that concludes take a good look at most central american countries. In fact I think you and your ilk should live there.

Posted by: Gandalf on August 14, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Actually MY participated in a discussion a while back that wondered why Income Inequality is a bad thing in and of itself.

I mean here it's important because the wealth is going up at the expense of the middle and lower classes' sustainability.

Posted by: MNPundit on August 14, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

"You think everyone should make the same amount of money regardless of whether they earned it or provide value to the world. "

Why do people like Mike K insist on telling us what we think? That is not what I think.

I think all Americans deserve healthcare on an equal basis and that this would be a great thing for the country. It would help employers, and the self employed and employees. The only downside is that a wealthy .01 percenter might have to sit in doctor's waiting room with somone from the middle class or worse. I think that would be educational for them. Mike, what do you believe or "think"?

Conservatives insist this is a "Christian nation" right up until they hear what Christ says about the rich and poor. Oops, we can't be Christian about everything now can we?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on August 14, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Actually these numbers underscore several pointstwo points.

1. As Warren Buffet says (close to an exact
quote) "if there is class warfare, my class
is winning"

2. As ever, Republicans and conservatives in
general are master projectionists - i.e. they
are expert at pointing the finger of shame and
accusing their opponents of engaging in the
very tactics they are themselves pursuing with
gusto, e.g. class warfare. From time
immemorial, thorough tax, labor, banking,
credit, bankruptcy, and other
policies, Republicans have devoted their lives
to class warfare. So, whever the working
class attempts to defend itself against the
Republican's decades-old war against it, the
Republicans cry "class warfare."

Thus in this and many, many other cases, GOP really stands for Grand Old Projectionists.


Posted by: Dave in DC on August 14, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

It would be interesting to revisit this chart after it has been updated to include data through this year.

Tough though the crisis in financial markets and the recession have been for average Americans, it has probably reduced the inequality of wealth shown here, since upper income earners tend to rely less on salary and more on income from financial instruments. This isn't to say the change is permanent; it may not be. 2007, though, may represent the peak of income inequality.

Posted by: Zathras on August 14, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"People get what they deserve in this world."

Mike K - this statement is demonstrably and obviously false. This is not even up for debate here.

Posted by: HungChad on August 14, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, and asshole MikeK thinks it's just great that bought and paid for millionaire journalists like Brian Williams can make 15 million a year for 'reporting' what he is told to 'report', read what he is told to read, for all of 30 minutes, and the teachers of our kids average about $30,000 a year. But of course to assholes like him Williams is working harder than our teachers who work beyond 8 hours a day and have classrooms full of kids. And now so many are being fired cause there ain't enough money to pay them anymore because the self deserving rich people who have totally ripped off our country due to their self appointed status of superior beings justifying their greed that has lead to the teachers and average Americans of every strip being fired because there is not enough money due to their greed.

Posted by: stormskies on August 14, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes people get what they deserve. Sometimes it's much worse than that.

Posted by: mellencamp on August 14, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Given their landscape, newspapers should be spreading charts like this margin wide and above the fold. Subscriptions would increase and articles would be less amorphous.

Besides, we purport to be a democracy, not an oligarpy.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on August 14, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

And we still haven't repealed the Bush tax cuts. Think we're going to do that in 2010 when all these tough-minded Ds are getting ready for the elections?

Those Bush tax cuts aren't going anywhere.

Change indeed.

Posted by: Buggy Ding Dong on August 14, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mlke K: I work hard and make a very good income. What I don't have is the balls to insist that my parents' college education, their good incomes providing us with good schools, their expectations that we go to college, their ability to help us do so, and our -- yes -- race, had absolutely NOTHING to do with my success. Also, name someone, please, who says everyone should make the same income. That is a BS comment that tries but fails to tar all progressives (libruls in your-speak) with some imaginary brush. More equality of opportunity is what I would like to see; outcomes are determined by other factors.

Posted by: Michael Carpet on August 14, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K:

Yes, Paris Hilton has earned all that money. She's worked so damn hard to be rich, much harder than anyone else.

Terrible trolling.

Posted by: Buggy Ding Dong on August 14, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Rush's $40 million salary would be acceptable if he could bounce a ball and sink a basket. Obama? Come on, you're the president, not an entertainer. Delay your gratification.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on August 14, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

We're missing information in this debate -- the relationship between "income" and "wealth". It is a mistake to assume most wealthy individuals are also high income earners. There is some correlation but it is surprisingly modest.

Wealth correlates more (not in all cases, but the majority) to behavior, specifically restraint, than to income. In fact, credit scores (a snapshot of persons ability to manage income/debt) generally break evenly across income bands. Meaning, high income earners are as likely as low income earners to spend at/beyond their means and, therefor, generate little wealth.

Also, the chart would be substantially more useful if it included "net income" -- Income net of taxes and transfer payments.

Posted by: m on August 14, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Psst. MIke K. is a spoof, not a real wingnut. Mike K. (lowercase I) is the authentic wingnut.

I know, it's hard to tell them apart these days.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on August 14, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Some people call you the elite, I call you my base."

Posted by: josef on August 14, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

The chart is a disgrace, and the disparity needs massive pushback. This time we have to fight not just the direct plutocracy (the ruling class), conservatives (the "intellectual" enablers), and right-wing rabble (bullying noise-makers and intimidaters) - but a largely traitorous "MSM" as well.

Posted by: N e i l B ╕ on August 14, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yet, how come the graph went up so much during the Clinton years? I don't like that.

"Mike K", you are either someone with a multiple personality disorder, an impostor, or just someone with the same name as another person - that still annoys us but isn't IMHO "awful." The hack I see here spouting low-brow, anti-public trash is not the literate, sane Michael Kennedy, writing at e.g. http://abriefhistory.org/?p=946&cpage=1#comment-105464 about admiring the French health-care system albeit with reservations etc.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on August 14, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, Mlke K .... Caught by the "Paris in the the spring" trick again ... But someone did post as "Mike K" before, and "the real Mike K" complained with apparent good cause. The "real Mike K" can be an annoying and grumpy glibertarian, yet can make intelligible arguments.

Posted by: N e i l B ♫ on August 14, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Mike K", you are either someone with a multiple personality disorder, an impostor, or just someone with the same name as another person

Does it matter if we're all, some, or none of those things? You're still remarkably dense.

Posted by: Mk K on August 14, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

No, phony M*/** Ks, Neil B/♪/whatever is the World's greatest genius!

Posted by: M♪ke K ☺ on August 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

This report has a very clear message for those who think that the Bush presidency was a "failure":

You are wrong.

Bush and Cheney succeeded in accomplishing the overriding, central agenda of their administration, which was to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the wealthy and powerful to the greatest extent possible during their term.

They succeeded hugely.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 14, 2009 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

SA, correcto. Also, I hate to say it - but it looks like Bill Clinton let too much of that happen on his watch.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on August 14, 2009 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Mike, I am a legal secretary, my boss is a lawyer. He makes almost exactly 12.5 TIMES what I do. This past week, he worked for 10 hours, golfed, smoked cigars at the club, golfed, drank scotch at the club and golfed.

I worked 42.75 hours, at candy bars at my desk instead of taking lunch and didn't have time to pee most days.

Oh, yeah, they really work harder for it."

Well, Personal Failure, where do you think your boss went to law school? Was it T15? And how hard did you think he had to work in school to get to, and graduate from, said law school? And how hard do you think he had to work during his associate years to progress to his current position, which is presumably as a partner or senior counsel?

The fact that your boss is making 12.5 times what you are making might in fact be due to the fact that he worked 12.5 times harder in school and when he was young and delayed gratification for hard work. Have you considered that possibility?

Posted by: Jan van Riebeeck on August 14, 2009 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

People with money always want to argue that Capital earns more wealth than Labor and so their share of the pie should be larger. How much larger is apparently NOT debatable.

Imagine 10 people.

1 of them earn 50% of all income.

The other 9 split the remaining 50%...50/9=>5.555% each.

1 Rich => 50%
1 Poor => 5.55%

Is Capital really worth 9 times Labor?

Posted by: MarkH on August 14, 2009 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Evil rich people:
Oprah Winfrey
Bill Gates
George Soros
Al Gore
Obviously they made their money stealing from the decent people.

Grow up.

Posted by: Dave H on August 15, 2009 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S." - The Wall St. Journal

WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

Send a message to Obama, or your favorite super earner CEO that he should share a % of his pay.
http://www.openyear.org/wp-content/themes/church_20/wordvote/wordvote.htm

Posted by: tryplay on August 15, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Urteter nuytre: http://familyziere.prv.pl

Posted by: atodeHodoGawn on January 22, 2011 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly