U.S. Wealth-Concentration: The Most-Accurate Current Estimates

Eric Zuesse

CURRENT REALITIES:

Wealthiest Tenth (10%) of Americans Own 75% of America; They Draw 40% of All U.S. Income.

Wealthiest Hundredth (1%) of Americans Own 43% of America; They Draw 20% of All U.S. Income.

Wealthiest Thousandth (0.1%) of Americans Own 22% of America; They Draw 8% of All U.S. Income.

Wealthiest Ten-Thousandth (0.01%) Own 11.2% of America; They Draw 5% of All U.S. Income.

Wealthiest 0.0025% (Forbes 400) Own 2.75% (of all trackable privately-held wealth, not including ‘non-profits’ that are controlled by them).

That last (2.75%) is this $2.29 trillion divided by this $83,296 billion (representing all of the privately owned wealth in the U.S.), in the final quarter of 2014.

Incidentally, the wealthiest tenth are worth over $1 million and draw incomes above $200,000; so: they’re all “millionaires” in common parlance; all of the “top 10%” are.

Following will be mirror-images of the above-cited breakdowns:

Poorest 90% of Americans Own 25% of America; They Draw 60% of All U.S. Income.

Poorest 99% of Americans Own 57% of America; They Draw 80% of All U.S. Income.

Poorest 99.9% of Americans Own 78% of America; They Draw 92% of All U.S. Income.

Poorest 99.99% of Americans Own Less Than 88.8% of America; They Draw Less Than 95% of All U.S. Income.

Poorer 50%: Comprehensive figures for the wealthier and poorer 50% of Americans haven’t been published as recently. However, for the year 2010, the wealthier 50% of Americans owned 98.9% of America, and the poorer 50% of Americans owned 1.1% of America. That was the year after the crash had supposedly ended in 2009. The last prior year in that same study was 2007, the economic peak, and it showed the wealthier half owning 97.5% of America, and the poorer half owning 2.5% of it. In other words: the losses from the Wall Street economic crash went overwhelmingly to the poorer half of the U.S. population (their wealth going down from 2.5% to only 1.1% of America’s total), because of the bailouts to Wall Street. Wall Street complains about “welfare programs,” as if it’s the poor who get bailed out; but those complaints are merely part of Wall Street’s — and their billionaires’ — scams that are targeted to sway fools. The figures show the exact opposite to be the actual truth. America is overwhelmingly a kleptocracy by the top against everybody else; not a “welfare state for the poor.” That’s just aristocrats’ scam, pumped by the economists they hire, and by the ‘news’ media which are controlled by aristocrats, and believed by suckers they fool.

HERE ARE THE TRENDS:

Right before the crash, in 2006 and 2007, the top 1% owned 33.8% of America; they drew 21.4% of all U.S. income.

A Congressional Research Service study, “An Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth Across Households, 1989-2010,” found that between the economic peak in 2007, and the end of the opening phase of the Wall Street bailouts in 2010, wealth-inequality in America soared, rising even faster than it had been rising during the George W. Bush years. As a consequence, whereas in 2007, the top 1% owned 33.8% of America, by 2010 this figure had risen to 34.5% — and the latest figure is 43%; so, this soaring is continuing (it wasn’t occurring only at the start of Obama’s Administration). What was bad under Bush has thus become lots worse under Obama, despite all of Obama’s rhetoric against wealth-inequality. And yet the Wall Street bailouts continue (under the guise of “QE”), as if the trickle-down policies of Obama and the Republicans had “ended” the “recession” for Americans generally, instead of only for the top 1% — which latter was the reality, and which reality makes a mockery of economists, who say that the “recession ended in 2009.” “Ended,” for whom? The policy is to bail out the megabanksters who made trillions from the MBS scams that brought the economy down — those people were bailed out when they were deep in the hole — while not bailing out their homeowners and cheated investors, who never recovered; statistics show they continue to suffer from those crimes. As a consequence, under Obama, wealth has risen only for the wealthiest of Americans.

However, incomes have been rising slightly for everyone else. For example, the “Bottom 99% Incomes Real Growth” during “2009-2014” was only 4.3% — less than 1% per year — while for the “Top 1%” it was 58% during that 5-year time-expanse. But that — bad as it is — is nonetheless an improvement, on income.

Throughout Obama’s first term, 2009-2012, the “Bottom 99% Incomes Real Growth” had been only 0.4% — less than 1% throughout that entire four-year period. The “Top 1%” received 95% of the “Incomes Real Growth” then. And yet, even though even the incomes of the bottom 99% of the U.S. population were stagnant throughout that four-year period ending in 2012 (all of Obama’s first term), economists still say that the “recession ended in 2009.” And the reality was even worse than this incomes-picture shows, because, in terms of wealth, which is even more important than income, there hasn’t yet  been a “recovery,” in the U.S., for the bottom 99% of Americans. What there has been, instead, is continuing scams, misinforming the public, about what’s actually happening, and what happened, and what caused it to happen. It’s just a racket.

THE DEEPER MEANING:

Under Presidents G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, economic inequality in America has been more extreme, for more years, than under any Presidents in all of the previous U.S. history. But, at least, Bush didn’t pretend to care about it. Obama does. He pretended to a concern for justice which he never really had; he was always merely faking liberalism. It was thus entirely true-to-form that President Obama had his Solicitor General present an argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that lying in politics is Constitutionally protected “free speech.”

But what, then, is really left of ‘democracy’ in the U.S.? After all, even before Obama, democracy in America was already dying, if not yet dead. And what meaningful democracy can even possibly exist in a nation where lying in politics is constitutionally protected ‘free speech,’ which no state may penalize, under any conditions? How may “the people” even conceivably rule in a republic where politicians can reasonably be expected to win only lying-contests, because not to lie in such a nation is not to be politically competitive there at all? Can democracy really consist of contests in deception? Is such a political race-to-the-bottom consistent with democracy?

Or, is it instead the case that such extreme wealth-disparities as exist in the U.S. are the natural result of decades of politics being (perhaps increasingly within recent times) little more than lying-contests? Is that the deeper truth, behind the deplorable figures here?

Is this extreme inequality the result of state-imposed reduction of ‘democracy’ to being basically contests in deceiving the public? Is that what it’s really all about — a racket, basically, against the public, for and on behalf of the aristocracy?

Is this extreme inequality the intended result, or is it merely the result of the stupidity of those who just happen to win high national office in the United States?

Do the farm animals just happen to end up as burger-meat? Or is that what they are there for? We know. Do they?

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • Sister Jane

    It gets really tiring to hear the term Democracy over and over again in America, we even hear this term applied to the American system of government in alternate media. Through the decades the money interest have indoctrinated us all, people really need to study American History. Just Before the Declaration of Independence is a good place to start, read the background story and how it was the Colonies declaring themselves States, read the background of the framers of the Constitution and there thoughts on the Constitution. To my knowledge there isn’t a one of the framers of the Constitution that supported any kind of Democracy in their writings, in fact their views on it were all negative in nature. You can even do a quick search of the Constitution on line, you will not find the term Democracy in it.

    I digress, we can’t blame it on the founding fathers, we just didn’t want a Republic maybe, maybe we wanted a Democracy, even though they told us there all short lived.

    I submit that we have a timeline, Republic, Democracy, Empire, maybe we are into some new ground here, but history doesn’t really show any new kind of ground that any historians are aware of, history just kinda repeats, as far as systems go.

  • kimyo

    you portray the situation as if there are only 2 parties, the rich and the poor. this type of framing always leads to a binary debate: ‘tax the rich’ or ‘cut services to the poor’.

    there is a third party to be accounted for: corporations. i am quite doubtful that we can fix our defunct system, but a flat tax on corporations would be a start. there was a time when corporations, the rich, and the poor each ponied up 1/3 of federal tax revenue.*

    Report Calls Out 15 Fortune 500 Companies for Paying No Taxes

    The list includes CBS, General Electric, Interpublic Group, JetBlue Airways, Mattel, Owens Corning, PG&E, Pepco Holdings, Priceline.com, Prudential Financial, Qualcomm, Ryder System, Time Warner, Weyerhaeuser and Xerox.

    As a whole, the 15 companies paid no federal income tax on $23 billion in profits in 2014, and they paid almost no federal income tax on $107 billion in profits during the past five years. All but two received federal tax rebates in 2014, and almost all paid exceedingly low rates over five years.

    For example, CBS had $1.8 billion in U.S. profits last year, and received a federal income tax rebate of $235 million, while Mattel, which has paid zero federal income taxes for the past five years, received a tax rebate of $46 million in 2014.

    a corporate flat tax would at the very least reduce the amount of corporate cash available to buy elections.

    * the last time i pointed this out, it was brought to my attention that there’s a significant difference in today’s taxation balance as a result of social security. however, corporations paying no taxes and holding/hiding billions overseas whilst giving millions to hillary’s campaign is probably the key issue in terms of the loss of our democracy.

  • Jon Geissinger

    Another interesting statistic (I don’t have the source to back it up here at this exact time), it takes less than 5% to start and pursue a revolution. I think that the first revolution was about 3.4% (2.2M approx population then (74800 were part of the revolution).
    We do not have the exact same situation, but we are growing close!
    The top 1% of the country have no need for anything, so they do not care and just blindly stumble along gathering wealth.
    What makes a country strong is having a LARGE middle class. We had a large middle class, now we have a middle class that is quickly disappearing into the lower class. Less than .01% of the middle class of 20 years ago have moved up to hang out with the elites.
    Although the population class is forming a huge bubble at the bottom, the debt is also creating a huge bubble at the top; it will flip over; that is historical.

  • IdPnSD

    Rich and poor are like two poles of the bar magnet. The strength of the north pole (richness) is same as the strength of the south pole (poverty). Thus more you become richer more you increase the poverty. There is no win-win situation, it is always win-lose. In every win-win situation you will always be able to find a third party who will be the loser. This third party will always come from the bottom fifth. Thus rich people are not becoming rich by using their capabilities, they are just out right stealing wealth from others. Profiting, giving higher salary, interest charging, creating recessions, printing money and giving it to rich people without producing GDP, are all methods of capitalism, promoted by the central bank, make people rich. The laws are made so that there is no democracy to prevent stealing wealth. Take a look at https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/category/g-ch7-economics/ to see how the above methods violate the laws of nature. The only way to run this economy according to the laws of nature is to remove money. While in the blog site you may want to take a look at the Money-less economy (MLE) chapter.