NOTHING TO SEE HERE

A brief tale in pictures:

Please note that this has nothing to do with our current economic problems. That is why it is never discussed in the news, during elections, or by elected officials. Our problems may be due to a lot of different things, including but not limited to:

- Outsourcing blue collar jobs
- Costly wars
- Tax cuts during costly wars
- The collapse of the dollar
- Poor monetary policy
- Lazy, entitled poor people
- Shiftless minorities
- Spanish language billboards
- Snake-handlers
- Al Worthington of Al Worthington Chevrolet in Grand Forks, ND
- Solar wind
- The death of Billy Mays
- Infrastructure destroyed by the Sasquatch, Rodan, or both
- Reckless disregard for official signage
- Jews

But not inequality. So keep moving, there's nothing to see here.

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72 Responses to “NOTHING TO SEE HERE”

  1. OliverWendelHolmslice Says:

    AKA "Graphs That Will Never Appear On CNN". Please get this simple but effective display to Rachel Maddow ASAP.

  2. DGAC Says:

    Global warming. Scientists predicted that the top 1% would control a larger quantity of total wealth when the world began warming.

    And, Al Worthington is a Jew, he just changed his name.

  3. Nunya Says:

    The problem is that Americans have been led to believe that they will be one of the top 1% and, goddamnit, when that happens I'm not paying to support all these lazy welfare queens!

  4. HoosierPoli Says:

    The bottom HALF of the US controls one-FORTIETH of its wealth. I knew it was bad but that number is frankly staggering.

  5. HoosierPoli Says:

    "The problem is that Americans have been led to believe that they will be one of the top 1% and, goddamnit, when that happens I'm not paying to support all these lazy welfare queens!"

    I think Mencken described it as a peculiarly American trait: the constant desire for social advancement. WHEN we get to the top, we want the government to stay out of our pockets, damn it! And if we slide down to a lower rung on the ladder, then we'll start complaining about the fact that nobody is there to help us out.

  6. Dick Nixon Says:

    Senator Webb of Virginia has been trying for several years to bring this inequality question into the mainstream of national discourse, with little success. As Bob Somersby of the Daily howler so often puts it, these questions are not on the radar of our millionaire pundit class.

    I was discussing this self-same disparity with a conservative colleague recently, when she stopped the conversation with a cry of "class warfare!"I was nonplussed for a few seconds, until I figured out that this was the ultimate squelch promulgated by the Fox Newsians. She stormed from my office in self-satisfied triumph, convinced the question was settled in her favor. Sadly, she may be right.

  7. Elder Futhark Says:

    but on the plus side, the cost of underwater robots is trending down

  8. Jimcat Says:

    The graphs speak for themselves. Money is power. 50% of the population has squat. The other 50% can afford to ignore them.

  9. party with tina Says:

    I really think that a distribution of wealth like that is symptomatic of a poor economic structure. Central banks, inflation is exclusionary in a big way. Someone owns something for 50s years and his offspring, being the same class as he is cannot afoord the same property due to inflation, poor economic growth and yaap, wages stagnating (or lowering?).

  10. party with tina Says:

    That 1% must be massive hoarders, I bet their homes are messes!

  11. Hazy Davy Says:

    Put the opposite spin on it: While outliers may lie tremendously outside the "norm" (the wealthy are VERY wealthy), there really are very few of them.

    Inequality of ownership has problems, yes, Mr. Engels. But to tie that to economic problems, one has to show that inequality of ownership leads to inequality of opportunity for ownership.

  12. John Says:

    @Hazy: "Inequality of ownership has problems, yes, Mr. Engels. But to tie that to economic problems, one has to show that inequality of ownership leads to inequality of opportunity for ownership."

    I would hope that it is quite evident that someone born into a family with millions of dollars in the bank has a bit easier time of getting a higher education and acquiring wealth than someone born into a family with nothing in the bank.

    @Ed: Thanks for collecting these graphs in a nice, easy format; I've been having to point people to the federal economic report PDFs that tell the same story with words and charts that they can barely understand whenever the topic of "them lazy freeloaders" comes up and needs to be shot down. Now I can point them to easy, pretty pictures.

  13. John Says:

    Also: For those that may not quite understand, what these graphs show is not simply that the wealthy are ultra-wealthy. They also show (bottom two graphs) that as the US economy grows, the top skim it all off and leave nothing for the bottom: lower-class compensation and wealth held remains stagnant while top-class compensation and wealth held skyrockets.

    In other words: contrary to the popular Republican myth of "the freeloading, looting welfare queens", the reverse is actually true — the rich steal from the poor by grabbing all of the country's increased prosperity for themselves. Trickle-down economics is a bold-faced lie, because as any worker knows, trickle-down stops trickling at the first executive.

  14. Graham Says:

    Trickle-down economics always was a lie: it has always been trickle-up economics, and the proof is in these graphs.

  15. glf Says:

    CEO compensation is what pisses me off the most. They get millions of dollars in salary, as well as stocks & stock options. But they also get free perks that they can afford to pay on their own such as paid healthcare premiums for them & their family (sometimes its lifelong), along with free membership to gyms & clubs, travel, housing, jets etc. I have nothing against the CEOs who have built their own companies like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates & Warren Buffet; they deserve all the money they make. Its the CEOs that come afterward that make millions for essentially doing very little to justify their obscene salaries. Especially when their stock price tanks, they outsource jobs, they sell the company or bring it to near bankruptcy.

  16. Barbed Wire Says:

    Bravo!

    Standing ovation for today and yesterday.

    Echoing glf and tying in with yesterday's post, it strikes me that (some) executives are willing to burn their company to the ground because they have a golden parachute and they'll just move on to the next company.

    Now if I could just get the guys I work with here in Shrub's hometown to understand that they're merely blue collar firefighters… and just because the wealthy, oil cronies in town let you mow their lawns, it doesn't mean they give a shit about you.

    Aww, who am I kidding? You're absolutely correct, just like that head-on on the Interstate, there's nothing to see here….

  17. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I can't add anything that hasn't already been said, but holy shit – those graphs are mind-blowing!

  18. Mike Says:

    glf,

    The CEO compensation is the going rate for being a sociopath. You need really smart people to increase stock holder wealth. The same people are smart enough to know the quickest way to make continuous short term gains is to absolutely hose the public at large.

    Bank CEOs new that the housing bubble was going to throw a large swath of people who bought modest homes out on the street when it popped. The CEO of WellPoint is a woman who knows what will happen to a lot of the people she dropped from coverage for having a history of breast cancer. However, she also knows that utter disregard for other human beings maximized profits.

    All those perks are necessary because they help these people sleep at night. If it wasn't necessary, the omnipotent market would find someone who would be a CEO for a mere 40M/year.

  19. Dick Nixon Says:

    @Mike –agreed

    Having sat in closed sessions with various CEO's over the years, it became clear to me in case after case that maximizing short-term profitability was their raison d'etre. Woe be unto the CEO that has to deliver bad news to his or her Board at their quarterly meeting. Not only are they losing money against their performance-tied metrics, they are having to face a critical audience that demands continued profitability. These people fear the blow to the ego as much as the finacial hit. This is no excuse territory for the poor downtrodden schleps.

    So, faced with the withering possibility of losing several points on his or her stock options, bonus' and perks, and self esteem, these benighted folk will offer the jobs of others (wage rationalization/job cuts), creative accounting (just short of illegal), and a blatant disregard for the common good of the business itself at the altar of quarterly "performance." And yes, they get paid obscene multiples of the average wage in their industry to do so.

  20. ladiesbane Says:

    In response to this, and to bb's comments yesterday: I don't resent wealthy people per se, but I don't see much leadership and responsibility from the wealthy in the U.S. Beyond these charts, I'd like to see how much of that wealth was derived not from building businesses, but from running them into the ground. Sole-owner businesses tend to have more devotion between owners and workers, especially if the owner started the company.

    But businesses owned by groups of people tend to have the mob mentality, with short-term wealth acquisition the only common thread. There is no personal commitment to a healthy business; the quarterly report is all that matters. A CEO is paid exorbitant sums to spin money

  21. ladiesbane Says:

    – this is done by slashing the company and moving to a new employer before the effects are felt. Then the corp hires a new messiah, for even more money, to fix the profitable mess of his lauded predecessor who is climbing the ladder elsewhere.

    Creating jobs at home is far more expensive than creating jobs overseas, but the idea of showing less profit and supporting the homefront — our people, our economy — is ridiculous to most people with major money. Dick Cheney and his ilk sell themselves as true-hearted Americans, but are fully focused on taking as much wealth out of the country as possible. I don't care about frivolous expenditures, but I resent their weakening the country and calling themselves patriots. (War profiteering to the extent it was done in Iraq borders on outright treason, but calling it "job creation" is mockery.)

    I understand wanting to run America like a business, but the owner of a successful business doesn't fire knowledgeable people simply because they've earned raises over the years, replace them with temps who don't qualify for benefits and can barely open the mail properly (training them is too expensive), reinvest nothing, ignore the crumbling infrastructure, and ship all the money overseas. Doing that is called "running us into the ground" and it's definitely a results-oriented way to run a business. But are these the results they want? They're not stupid, so it must be deliberate.

  22. grumpygradstudent Says:

    I suggest the following response to the cry of "class warfare!"

    "You bet your fuckin ass."

  23. math_challenged Says:

    Ed,
    I'm trying to understand the bottom graph. The only way it makes sense to me is if the ordinate is distribution of $100/100 people. That is, if the top 1% (i.e. 1 person) has $18.50, the bottom 20 people each have 20 cents, the next 20 each have 60 cents, etc, then it sums to $100 for the 100 people. If it is per person, then it makes less sense, because .01*$18.5= 18.5 cents, and it is hard to sum to $100/person in that situation. Am I misinterpreting the graph?

  24. Ed Says:

    Yes, that is correct. It's an "If America was 100 people and the economy was $100" graph.

    RE: class warfare, not only should you state "You bet your ass!" but kindly point out how fucked the 1% will be if it happens.

  25. J. Dryden Says:

    Grumpygrad beat me to it. Surely the sane response to the accusation of "Class warfare" is to point to these graphs and say, "Yes, it is–it has been for some time, and right now, the bad guys are winning." Looking at those graphs, and recognizing that economic disenfranchisement equals political disenfranchisement, aren't we essentially seeing the political as well as the social manifestation of wage slavery? (Please note my use of "wage" in the description–I'm not being historically insensitive, honest.) But isn't there a point where the use of systematized poverty to hold onto political power becomes totalitarian? (Jesus, I sound like an undergraduate Marxist.) And isn't revolution the only rational–and moral–response of an electorate to an attempt to seize absolute power?

    Not that such a response would yield terribly desirable results–didn't really work out well for the French. Or the Russians. Or the Chinese. But historically, the only way to separate the rich from their wealth is through violence, and lots of it. And while it would be nice to simply *threaten* violence–to say, with a Glock to the temple of that 1%, "Higher taxes, increased social spending, government oversight of corporate behavior, and support of unions, or else!"–when the point of threatened violence has been reached, actual violence an inevitable result, what with all the adrenaline and 'nothing left to lose' and such.

    Ed's diagnosed the attempt of the rich to deter this historical trend–the only way for a plutocracy to survive is to stay invisible. And–via propaganda like Fox News–to distract the people from the *real* reason their lives such. ("The reason you got evicted from your home and lost your job to an Indonesian 12-year-old is because gays are getting married!!!") And, thanks to the oft-noted willful ignorance of the American people, this seems to be a winning strategy. So, tip of the hat to the enemy–so long as our class war is a cold war, they're gonna win.

  26. J. Dryden Says:

    That's "suck" and not "such." I really must learn to proofread my work, lest I be accused of hypocrisy by the hundreds of freshmen I've flunked.

  27. Monkey Business Says:

    These graphs makes me angry in ways I can't even begin to describe.

    We live in a feudal world. The haves have so much as to be royalty. The have nots have so little as to be invisible. Trapped in the middle is the overworked, underpaid middle class, the backbone of America, who find themselves trapped in gilded cages.

    But I'll be damned if I'm not going to work my butt off so that someday I'm in that top 1%.

  28. Entomologista Says:

    The thing is, no matter how hard you work you're not going to be in that top 1%. I'm not even going to do as well as my parents, most likely. The game is rigged, and not in our favor.

  29. Keith Says:

    Here's an oldie but goodie from Stan Cox on income distribution from another graphical perspective. Fabulous teaching tool, by the way:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/16515/

  30. THNRV Says:

    "I really think that a distribution of wealth like that is symptomatic of a poor economic structure."

    Absolutely, and the word you are looking for is "capitalism."

  31. wellnab Says:

    The thought has occurred to me before, when people bring up the canard that any move towards a more socialist system of government is redistributionist, that capitalism, the way we practice it here, is already redistributionist – just in the opposite direction from what people usually mean when they toss that around. It's a way to funnel wealth toward the top of the economic pyramid by bleeding dry those at the bottom. Like vampires, on a grand scale, or like the electricity-producing pods in the real world in "The Matrix." Only money/resources instead of blood or energy. I think that this is strongly implied by the graphs.

    The other thing that occurs to me looking at the graphs is that this points out why it's important to the status quo that corporations continue to be treated as people legally. It's a check on the political power of the actual, real, voting people. Not that corporations have suffrage (yet – anyone want to lay odds on this happening at some point?) but rather they have the resources to frame political discourse such that the outcomes are predictable, to some extent, and favorable to the existing power elite.

  32. Jimcat Says:

    "The thing is, no matter how hard you work you're not going to be in that top 1%."

    Maybe so. But it's certainly possible to get into, or stay in, the top 50%. The median annual household income in 2007 was just over $50K in 2007. And in this richest country in the world, that's still a pretty good place to be.

  33. bb in GA Says:

    The biggest problem you would-be Revolutionaries have right now is that the military is largely populated by people who lean Right (even the traditionally Liberal minorities). Come the revolution I predict they would hold steady agin' you. Might be wrong, hope we don't find out.

    With apologies to any and all who are able on the Left, your side appears to be afraid of guns. You talk against them, legislate against them, do not own them, and you do not let gun traditions be taught to your children.

    If you want to get good results when you revolt, you need to get over that.

    Bomb making skills…hmm, Mr. Ayers could run webinars on that, but his technology is probably a little dated.

    Perhaps the key to victory is to match up with the Jihadis. Since the Left is largely anti-Israel maybe that could be the ticket.

    And this would also be your chance to get rid of the South since we would possibly degenerate into race war as I suspect many Black Southerners would go with the Revolt while a majority of Whites would participate more as counter-revolutionaries.

    I'll be watching here for the heads up.

    //bb

  34. J Says:

    Um bb,
    1. not fetishizing guns /= fearing them.
    Wanting common sense controls on guns /= fearing guns.
    We license and register cars, which can kill people, but properly used don't. Guns, properly used, kill things. Until gun nuts start calling for the abolition of the DMV, I'm calling bullshit on their arguments. I'm a liberal. I don't fear guns. I talk guns with a vet friend who buys, sells and trades them.

    2.Older officers lean conservative. Enlisted lean liberal. The Obama to McCain donation ratio was 4:1.

    Moreover, save for 1 commenter, no one besides yourself mentioned violence. If you want talk about violence, hit some rightwing sites. There's plenty of it there.

  35. bb in GA Says:

    (Honest, I learned this from lefties) Ahem…the tone of this whole conversation (including the one poster) is revolutionary. Revolutions of the type y'all are "toning" have almost always (I'm such a weasel) been violent. Therefore, my drivel is relevant.

    J: your comp reading skills need work. I disclaimed to any on the Left who are gun savvy and practiced – perhaps including YOU.

    The DMV analogy always collapses. Driving a motor vehicle is a licensed privilige of the several States. Keeping and bearing arms is a Constitutional Right per the 2nd Amendment. Recent SCOTUS decisions (particularly Heller) clear up the fact that said right is for IN-duh-viduals not empowering the States to have the National Guard.

    If you want it changed, change the SCOTUS through the usual process or Amend the damn Constitution and stop all this gutless stuff.

    I do not have to defend supporting one of my Constitutional rights as the work of a fetishist (is that a word?)

    Thanks for the data about the military. So its the old White guys again that are the problem?

    You are still "madly dancing backwards" by just calling me names and haven't dealt with the issue of most Liberals being anti-gun in almost every practical way.

    //bb

  36. ladiesbane Says:

    bb, I don't know if Civics is still a required course, but when I was in school, we were taught that instead of a revolution, every couple of years we have an election. If you don't like the choices, consider running for office. If you can't get elected, it's not the system's fault. If you hate democracy, you are free to stay and try to change the country peacefully, or emigrate at any time. (Not all countries allow that, so enjoy.)

    Also: I agree that the military are made up of poor, uneducated cannon fodder who lean Right even though the upper echelon Republicans are screwing them, but given that the Left-wing revolution has amounted to angry blogging, I don't think the military will be intervening any time soon. Lucky for me. I may be a gun-toting Liberal, but the military doesn't have to cope with California firearms laws, which are specifically designed to prevent self-defense.

    Last: I don't see that politics fall neatly along race lines, but it is the South — so given that there are twice as many whites as blacks, the military would mostly be dealing with violent white people who share their beliefs. This assumes that our military remember that they are not free agents, allowed to shoot or bomb whomever they want. All the vets in my family, even the Southern branches, agree that party politics have no place in the military. We fight external enemies, NOT our own citizens. Are we on the same page?

  37. smelter rat Says:

    Listen to Leonard Cohen's " Everybody Knows" sometime. He figured it out.

  38. bb in GA Says:

    I am reacting to the overheated (IMO), revolutionary type rhetoric here. I propose no violence. I was mocking the Left's eshewing the military and gun culture tradition of Amercia and the South in particular.

    I was also picking at the anti-Israel bias of the Left.

    This is a typical shoot the messenger (or gadfly or a$$hole depending on your opinion) deal. I was just following the trajectory of the argument.

    You did not read my words carefully "Might be wrong, hope we don't find out."

    The "Right wing stupid hicks cannon fodder" in the military is a typical Leftist condecension. The numbers I have seen say that those both the officer cadre and the enlisted ranks are more highly educated than their civilian peers. Yeah, but they probably don't read the NY Times…

    The hypothetical field here is "Revolution – Driven by the Overweening Greed of the Plutocracy"

    In that hypothetical when the ship hits the sand, the Military – just like everyone else has to make a choice. Just like during the American Revolution, the "Civil" War, and even smaller wars like VietNam. There were people who refused to serve or even actively switched sides.

    As a percentage, Black Americans make up a significant minority of the population in the South. I think you are naive in this hypothetical to disconnect political persuasion from where you would come down in a Revolution. Black Americans vote 90%+ for the Liberal Democrat. No other voting bloc comes close. I would think their position, in general, is deducible.

    Oh, they don't teach civics anymore – but I did hear about that election thing. I think I missed one time since I became eligible. I'll be 64 soon, Lord willin'…

    //bb

  39. THNRV Says:

    All told, the only person who seems to be relying on (counter)revolutionary rhetoric here is yourself. Someone else mentioned the possibility and its implications, while you continue to erect a straw man and gleefully tear it down.

  40. ladiesbane Says:

    bb, I have to mention that most of my Southern relatives who went into the military, and many of their local friends, did so because they did not have sufficient education or money to go to college. Some did it to avoid jail, and some were drafted. My experiences in the South were limited, but most of the poor kids in my age group saw the military as the only career option, period.

    My dad's generation and earlier were poor Democrats, and the new generation are GOP because they no longer care about the real issues that government might address (aid for farmers, taxes, wars) but the social issues that really won't affect them at all (gay rights, abortion rights, prayer in school.) Based on that, and the fact that poor kids who aren't old enough to drink and can't find Iraq on the map (or spell Afghanistan) are signing up to kill and be killed, from the South more than any other region — I do call them ignorant. I'm sorry that this is their best choice. Race problems are a distant second to class problems, to me.

    And just to be clear: I know tone isn't conveyed too well, but I enjoy your presence in the comments, and appreciate your good manners in disagreements, even when provoked. You've thrown some food for thought into the mix, and I like that. There's not much point in reading a blog where everyone agrees on everything all the time and nods in unison.

  41. Jimcat Says:

    Class "warfare" can take many forms, not all of them violent.

    You can steal more money with a law book, or with a computer, than with a gun.

    You can also redistribute power and wealth more efficiently through legislation than through shooting. Admittedly, this sort of "revolution" is unlikely given current voting trends, but in future years, who can say?

  42. beau Says:

    @ladiesbane – as long as we're handjobbing bb, I'd also add that he's pretty fuckin funny sometimes.

  43. BillCinSD Says:

    I think what Jimcat is trying to say at 8:36 PM is

    I've seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    Also, IIRC the data show that the ability to move between classes has been reduced significantly over the last 30 years, and that many European countries show much greater mobility (particularly upward mobility) than the US. For instance, there is this

    Death of the American Dream

    The strength and pride of America has traditionally been that it provides for a high level of social mobility. It is part of the “American Dream” in which the poorest of the poor can climb to the top of the social ladder in one generation. This dream has attracted millions of outsiders to the land of promise, away from old Europe, which was incapable of providing a future for the poor. The high social mobility has also worked as a “safety valve” that allows political acceptance of the high income inequality in the US. Finally, it has provided the basis for the extraordinary dynamics of the US economy. Developments of the last decades have shattered this American Dream. It now appears that many EU countries have created an environment in which it is significantly easier for the poor to climb the social ladder than it is in the US. Structural reforms will be necessary in the US if it wants to emulate the success of European countries in organising social mobility. (from http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/338)

    and

    International comparisons of intergenerational mobility show that Britain, like the United States, is at the lower end of international comparisons of mobility. Also intergenerational mobility has declined in Britain at a time of rising income inequality. The strength of the relationship between educational attainment and family income, especially for access to higher education, is at the heart of Britain’s low mobility culture. (from http://cep.lse.ac.uk/about/news/IntergenerationalMobility.pdf)

  44. trolly mctrollstein Says:

    maybe you all should cry about being poor. Obviously you would rather whine on the internet than go out and do something about it, AKA get a fucking job.

  45. STEvE Says:

    Obviously the cause is blatant disregard by jews of spanish language signage (which directly lead to the death of billy mays)

  46. TruthinTrollinty Says:

    Perhaps, if you used correct numbers from authentic data sources, Ms. Maddow would display.

    http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html

    See Table #1: Top 1% earned 22.83%, and paid 40.42% of our Federal Government's burden. The bottom 50% earned 12.26% , and only paid 2.89% of the burden.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Nearly-half-of-US-households-apf-1105567323.html?x=0&.v=1

    47% of households were a net drain on the Federal economy. Those who earned $50,000 escaped any tax burden, so long as they had two kids. Coincidentally, our Federal Government uses the same measure, AKA the "If you want more welfare, have more children" model, to increase the roles of those on the dole.

    Perhaps we should ask why do we want so many people dependent of government for what you term as equality? Do you not believe that, when posed with the two logical choices below, that people will naturally trend to the latter?

    1) Work hard, take your risks, invest in yourself and your family, and you have a high likelihood of succeeding, but Government will then take from your success to "distribute" more "fairly", and you will not be rewarded for your work
    2) Work, but only so hard as to not take on more responsibility, and the "government" will make it "fair", but only as fair as everyone else who is only working just enough so as to not take any more responsibility

    Isn't this what you are REALLY showing in your graphs above, that Government redistribution has been successful… at creating a majority group who will no longer do for themselves, who are selfish with the hard work of others, and who now are trending toward an incompetent majority which, like a plague of locusts, will consume from the Commons until it's depleted, and then suffer and starve when there are no more producers to satisfy their most basic needs?

    BTW, nice socialist workers background. Kinda says it all!

  47. Ed Says:

    And perhaps if YOU understood the difference between "income" and "wealth", you'd understand that your "correct" figures have no bearing on the data represented here.

  48. John Says:

    @Ed: The difference between income earned and wealth held is too subtle for conservobots spouting the usual "OMG The top is taxed sooooooo much!" rhetoric. Particularly ones clearly labelled as trolls.

    @ladiesbane: "If you can't get elected, it's not the system's fault."

    I think there's an argument to be made that it is, at least in some part, the system's fault. I don't think anyone can honestly say that the average joe, running an independant campaign, has any chance at all of being elected over the mainstream Democrat or Republican that's spending millions upon millions of dollars on self-promotion for the election season. One of the principle flaws in American government is that we have allowed our elections to degenerate into spectacles — practically sporting events — where spending more money earns you a higher probability of success.

    In a proper election system, any and everyone who wanted a shot at the presidency (as our Great Glorious Constitution™ clearly lays out that anyone meeting the age and citizenship requirements is elligible) would simply put in an application, and then we would hold a neutral debate involving all potential applicants, broadcast on all practical mediums by some agency that has no profit-minded interest in it. Sure, it would take FOREVER to answer one question, having to go through the whole list — but electing the supposed leader of your nation is not supposed to be a short and fun affair. It is supposed to be a decision arrived at after much deliberation and thought.

  49. CTD Says:

    Truthintrollity nailed it. Charts like these are foma for lazy people who are frustrated by their lot in life, but refuse to believe it's because they are lazy.

  50. Ed Says:

    Yeah, none of those people in the bottom 90% work. "Laziness" is rampant.

    I have to applaud you, though – it has been a good 20 years since I've heard the typical suburban lard-assed Republican trot out Saint Ronnie's "laziness" argument to justify inequality.

    But I take your point. People who inherit vast wealth work hard, people who earn minimum wage don't.

  51. bb in GA Says:

    Clearly a huge wealth tax is in order is the consensus I read from the Left.

    I get the ignorant feeling that if my small business, farm, and lands became super valuable via the Real Estate Fairy, dumb luck, hard work, or a some combination that the IRS and GA dept of Revenue would find a way to get a larger hunk of it after I pass than say… what Steve Forbes had to pay when Ol' Malcolm bit it what with Trusts, Foundations, etc. etc.

    I feel we have a bootstrapping problem here in that the people who make our laws are wealthy or aspire to be wealthy and it really isn't in their interest to pass laws that would eventually make their heirs turn loose of millions or billions.

    Unless we have an electoral revolution from the Left (closest thing to that looks like the Tea Party – which may not be populist enough to get to that issue) what is plan to break the log jam?

    //bb

  52. anotherbozo Says:

    glad people are still commenting on this post. reading the comments on g&t is almost as rewarding as reading Ed's blogs, such is the nature of the constituency. however, I leap ahead of some unread contributors to add:

    re: the myth of American economic mobility: a study a while ago established that classes are less rigid even in England than here, ie, it's possible to move upward with greater ease there, statistically speaking. yet the mythology thrives here, makes TeaParty members, bums with patrician political views.

    re: the "class warfare" accusation, or the retort for your neocon co-worker: an unspoken class warfare has been waged since the republic was founded, make no mistake, and 99% of us are on the losing end. it's not necessary to be aware of a war to be in it. only to lose. maybe "class massacre" is more like it? to speak of class now (a word never mentioned in connection with this country when I was in school, except to quote those pathetic socialists from the 30s) is to acknowledge reality, and the first step in changing (?) it. naw, forget that last. nothing to see here.

  53. bb in GA Says:

    Everybody appreciates kind words, thanks.

    Everybody(even outright crazy people…hmmm) thinks themselves through their ideas and beliefs as reasonable.

    This is the place to come for someone with my set of I&Bs to be find out that "What you know ain't necessarily so." I am comfortable with the Amens and PTLs being reserved for the church house.

    Many of you are much more intelligent and schooled in these subjects than I am. You huff and puff and some more..and then you teach your POV and I appreciate that.

    Some of you are %^&& and you feel the same back at me I am sure.

    I detect the tremendous frustration of the 'run of the blog' contributors here. No matter what you think, I hope that all of these major problems have workable satisfying solutions in your lifetimes.

    //bb

  54. Dick Nixon Says:

    I was a twenty-year old construction laborer from a lower class background. No skills and very little money. Today I am in the top quartile of earners, with a staff of people, a couple of degrees, nice house, family, money in the bank and have just put my second child through college. Am I one of those wonderful, frugal, bootstrap individuals that Truthin Trollity admires? Naw. The State helped me every step of the way.

    I went nights to a State University. In construction downturns I recieved unemployment compensation. I did well enough in school to get a teaching assistanceship from another University–and the State paid my tuition. I had some time to get the degrees because I didn't have to take care of my aging parents–they were on social security and medicare. Private enterprise liked my degrees, and I was able to get work and move up in a few organizations. I was able to get my first house on a 3% FHA loan–which provided the basis for better housing throughout the years as I traded up. When my kids decided to go to college I was able to get very cheap government sponsored loans for tuition and housing shortfalls– which I was fortunately able to repay.

    Sorry Truthin, but the government has not created a drone class– they help some people rise. One just has to have to have the humility to admit that one didn't do it on their own.

  55. Nunya Says:

    @ Dick Nixon

    Thanks for bringing up what most of us should appreciate. No matter how far we got, none of us got here on our own. Public schools, public universities, public roads, bridges, tunnels, law enforcement, fire protection, the military, all make this nation not only a safe place to live but also a safe place to do business.

    I'm amazed at how many successful people I meet who have never even considered the fact that the public university (or the private university subsidized by their parents) had pretty much everything to do with their success. Motivation and initiative is far more prevalent among the affluent than the poor, well, not considering the squalor they were raised in, the lack to a safe educational experience, access to good role models, etc.

    I've managed to do fairly well partly based on my own efforts but mostly based on the circumstances of my birth: Educated parents, a stable home life, good role models, and an a good early education that got the ball rolling.

    I've managed many people who were far smarter than I am but who lacked these advantages. I never forget that and am willing to forego far more of my earnings than I currently do to give them an opportunity to succeed.

  56. John Says:

    Yes, to mirror more recent comments — this is the heart of the divide between left-leaning and right-leaning ideologies, in most cases. People on the left side of the spectrum don't believe that Government™ is the answer to all problems. We just acknowledge its roll in solving some of them.

    Living in Georgia, I get a fairly regular helping of Boortz on my radio, and he's always going on about how horrible public schools are, how we need to destroy all the teachers' unions and give everyone vouchers (a particularly hilarious suggestion as then it's still tax dollars funding schools, except now we're subsidizing private institutions instead). And every time I hear him go on one of those rants, I think back to how I'm the only person in my immediate family with a college education, how I make more in my younger years than anyone in my family makes in their fourties and fifties.

    And I owe it all to the PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM.

    Sure, my parents motivated me, and I had a lot of self motivation. It wasn't exclusively the government that did it. But I would not be here without the government schools, and the government loans, and the government grants, and all those other horrible things that Republicans assure us are destroying our society. My family could not, in any way whatsoever, afford my higher education without federal assistance. And it has elevated me above my parents' stations in life.

    That same bootstrapping that the right keeps telling us we should all practice has taught me that the government has a key role to play in aiding the less fortunate section of the populace.

    Yes, there's that other horrible, evil phrase — "less fortunate". After all, life isn't about luck, right?!

    Except that my life choices had nothing to do with me being born into a lower-class family, nor do they have anything to do with someone else being born into a family with millions. Fortune, luck, fate has everything to do with that, and no amount of personal pluck and gusto will cover that gap of opportunity.

    That's why we believe in a government that does more than throw people in jail and kill foreigners.

  57. Robert Says:

    You notice how some people only call it 'class warfare' when working people fight back?

  58. Sarah Says:

    I know I am late coming to this party, but I'd like to point out that there were, in fact, several uprisings of various sorts (anti-wealth, pro-labor, anti-slavery) in the 19th and late 18th centuries which were put down with the use of troops (the word Howard Zinn keeps using is "militia" without specifying if that is state militia or federal troops–not that it really matters).

  59. Chris Says:

    I've seen some pretty lazy rich people: popping out of the right womb isn't exactly "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps". I've also seen people that work 2-3 jobs that only make enough money to break even. Doesn't mean they are lazy: quite the opposite, really. It's unfortunate when you have people who want to work and fight for a living, but the economy only throws them the scraps.

    I would rather a bunch of people get together and boycott a corporation that behaves in a way that people don't agree with (poor labor practices, unequal distributions of wealth, exorbitant CEO pay). If only I boycott, say, Wal-Mart, it is pointless. If 100,000, 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 people boycott Wal-Mart, it matters. Hit corporations in the pocket book and remind them who pays their salaries. Unfortunately, this is difficult to pull off.

    I agree with what somebody said before: small companies are better for America than huge corporations. In a small company, the boss probably knows you and has a better chance of giving a flying fuck about you, the boss doesn't make 20 mil, and there isn't the stockholder/bottom line pressure to put profits before people. I'm not saying small companies are perfect, but they are better for society than corporations in many ways.

    An unequal distribution of wealth is like putting all of your eggs in one basket. Didn't work out too well in 1929.

  60. Jimbo Says:

    I WANTS MAH MONIES!

  61. MikeSimpson Says:

    This just HAPPENS to leave out the fact that the top earners also pay a higher pct. of taxes than they earn, I.E. the top 1% earns 19% of all wages but pays 29% of all taxes. The top Earners also pay a higher share now than they did BEFORE the so-called "tax cuts for the rich", which shows that the tax cuts did just what they were supposed to do—encourage more investment, which then lead to more profit, which then lead to PAYING MORE TAXES.
    The bottom 2/5 of wage earners actually pay very little income taxes at all, and the bottom 1/5 usually have a negative income tax rate due to EITC.
    I realize most here cant understand this, but the tax system IS a progressive one, and the "rich" have paid a larger share than they earn every year since 1979; and it has gone UP almost EVERY year.
    The truth is, once you start making over 100K a year, you're gonna get drilled.

  62. Green Says:

    Damn those rich people making all that money for themselves! Do you know most of them don't even work for it? They have all that money because they invest the money they already have buying things that would make them more money, or hiring people to do the actual work, or buying shares in companies that buy things to make money or hiring people to work.

    It's just not fair! They've made enough money.

    If the rest of us are going to have any chance in this world those rich people should be forced to sell all their stocks, shut down all their businesses and fire all their employees. That will keep them from making any more money and stealing from the rest of us.

    Trickle down economics is a lie! All we have to do is keep rich people from making money. If all those rich people stop making money that will just leave more money for the rest of us! And with all that money we probably won't have to work anymore either! Free at last!

    Bwahahahahahahaha! Some of you are actually taking this seriously, aren't you?

  63. Ed Says:

    Yeah, you were pretty convincing.

  64. Peter Niccum Says:

    The question that no one is asking and would allow us to see how bad or good these numbers are is: How does that distribution of wealth compare to other developed and undeveloped countries.

    I am guessing that were that analysis done, the US would compare very favorably with the rest of the world.

    Pins and needles

  65. Chris Says:

    Mike Simpson: are you a communist? You sound pretty mad that people aren't treated equally in taxation: perhaps everybody should make the same amount of money and then everybody can be equal!

  66. Heywood J. Says:

    Peter Niccum:

    The question that no one is asking and would allow us to see how bad or good these numbers are is: How does that distribution of wealth compare to other developed and undeveloped countries.

    Yes, if only someone would ask such a question. It's called the Gini coefficient.

    I am guessing that were that analysis done, the US would compare very favorably with the rest of the world.

    Bad guess. Hopefully you were being sarcastic. Sometimes it's hard to tell with some folks. Bottom line, we're neck-and-neck w/China, and behind Brazil and a sharply-declining Mexico. Other than that, not so much.

  67. Mike the Mad Biologist Says:

    I disagree agree with "Please note that this has nothing to do with our current economic problems." When you have a small group of people with excess capital, you tend to develop speculative, inflationary bubbles (hi-tech bubble of late 90s, real estate, etc.).

    People with too much money also want to park part of it some place safe, such as AAA rated investments; lots of people bought CDOs unaware that these were actually junk, not AAA. Likewise (as CDOs show), rich people with too much money are obvious marks, which leads to fraud.

    I would argue that the rise in inequality has everything to do with our current problems, to the extent those stem from the collapse of Big Shitpile.

  68. oldhat Says:

    This is amazing. Something pretty fin de siecle about it.

  69. Neil Says:

    @Heywood –
    Thanks for introducing me to the Gini Coefficient. I had never heard of it before and found it interesting. I am confused by one point, however. Gini seems to measure disparity in Incomes, whereas these graphs (and Niccum's comment) are addressing primarily inequity in wealth (except the one with CEO pay) – two very different things. For example, a person making a 6-figure income with a $1M mortgage and a $1M house might very well have a net worth (wealth) of $0, right?

  70. Robert Woodrow Taylor Says:

    Rome, one of the earliest, (if not the earliest), Republics, fell when it became an Ogliarchy. It seems to me that societies naturally tend to this, when it gets bad enough, then they naturally tend to have revolutions. The Ogliarch's tend to forget this.