"Our Children and Grandchildren are not merely statistics towards which we can be indifferent" JFK

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Unequal Are We?

Special Thanks to Zero Hedge for the post (http://www.zerohedge.com/):
America has long had a working group on financial markets (whose sole purpose some suggest is to keep stocks from plunging in times of turbulence), so why not have a working group on that other much more critical phenomenon of US society: a trend of unprecedented unequal wealth distribution, which can be summarized as simply as pointing out that 1% of US society holds more wealth (or 33.8% of total), than 90% of the remaining portion of America (26.0%), and also is in possession of more than half of all stocks, bonds and mutual fund holdings in the US. Well, there is, even if is not formally recognized, and made up of the same distinguished professionals as the PPT (Geithner, Bernanke, Gensler and Schapiro).

Extreme Inequality.org

Inequality Index
· Percentage of U.S. total income in 1976 that went to the top 1% of American households: 8.9.

· Percentage in 2007: 23.5.

· Only other year since 1913 that the top 1 percent’s share was that high: 1928.

· Combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion.

· Combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.

· U.S. minimum wage, per hour: $7.25.

· Hourly pay of Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, for an 80-hour week: $27,034.74.

· Average hourly wage in 1972, adjusted for inflation: $20.06.

· In 2008: $18.52.

Income data
Median household income in 2008 was $50,303, according to Census data. Half of American households had income greater than this figure, half had less.

Between the end of World War II and the late 1970s, incomes in the United States were becoming more equal. In other words, incomes at the bottom were rising faster than those at the top. Since the late 1970s, this trend has reversed.

For example, data from tax returns show that the top 1% of households received 8.9% of all pre-tax income in 1976. In 2007, the top 1% share had more than doubled to 23.5%.

There is reason to suspect that this level of income inequality is dangerous to our economy. The only other year since 1913 that the wealthy claimed such a large share of national income was 1928, when the top 1% share was 23.9%. The following year, the stock market crashed, which led to the Great Depression. After peaking again in 2007, the U.S. stock market crashed in 2008, leading to what some are now calling the “Great Recession.”

Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%.

In 1980, the average income of the top 5% of families was 10.9 times as large as the average income of the bottom 20 percent, according to Census data. In 2008, the ratio was 20.6 times.

The current recession has hit incomes hard across the board. Median household income declined 3.6% in 2008, the largest single-year decline on record. Adjusting for inflation, incomes reached their lowest point since 1997. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Census data)

Wealth Facts
Wealth is equivalent to “net worth,” which is equal to your assets minus your liabilities.

Examples of assets include checking and savings accounts, vehicles, a home that you own, mutual funds, stocks and bonds, real estate, and retirement accounts.

Examples of liabilities include a car loan, credit card balance, student loan, personal loan, mortgage, and other bills you still need to pay.

Median net worth in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, was $120,300. Half of American households had net worth greater than this figure, half had less.

Net worth is even more unequal than income in the United States.

In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent.

The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets.

Retirement accounts like 401(k)s are more equally distributed. The top 1% owns only 14.5% of all retirement account assets, while the bottom 90% owns 40.5%.

The total inflation-adjusted net worth of the Forbes 400 rose from $502 billion in 1995 to $1.6 trillion in 2007 before dropping back to $1.3 trillion in 2009.

Net Worth is highly unequal when it comes to race. In 2004, the latest year for which Federal Reserve figures are available, the typical white household had a net worth about seven times as large as the typical African American or Hispanic household.

Since the 1980s, Americans have spent more and more of their income on expenses, leaving less for savings. The U.S. Personal Savings Rate declined from 10.9 percent in 1982 to 1.4 percent in 2005 before rising to 2.7 percent by 2008. Link to complete report

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