An Arena Full of the Richest Americans Would Own as Much Wealth as 70% of the World

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit Author, editor, expert on income inequality

That's 25,000 American adults, about the number of people in a large basketball stadium. That's the richest .01% of America. Together they own nearly $10 trillion, which is approximately the total wealth owned by the 3.5 billion adults who make up 70% of the entire adult world. 

Data is taken from various current sources: the Credit Suisse 2018 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), the Forbes 400 rankings, and Business Insider's reporting on the world's billionaires. A summary of the calculations can be found here.

But Only India has a Greater Percentage of its People in the World's Poorest 10% 

Inequality in America is out of control. A careful look at the GWD (Table 3-4) makes that clear. While our nation has by far the greatest percentage of its people in the world's richest 10%, it is second only to India in the percentage of its people in the world's poorest 10%. This is almost certainly due to the number of Americans mired in unmanageable debt. 

To put it another way, one out of seven American adults is among the world's least wealthy 10%. 

To put it yet another way, while 100 million American adults are among the world's richest 10%, 34 million American adults are among the world's poorest 10%.

We Let a Few Individuals Take the Wealth that Society Has Built 

Jeff Bezos has $160 billion. That's more than double his wealth from early 2017. That's equivalent to the combined budgets for Education, Housing, and Health and Human Services. 

The American people created the Internet, developed and funded Artificial Intelligence, and built a massive transportation infrastructure. Amazon takes full advantage of all of that. Same with the other big tech firms. All the technology in our iPhones and computers started with government research at the Defense Department, the National Science Foundation, the Census Bureau, and public universities. Google is using some of its billions to buy technologies that were built by DARPA with our tax money. 

Yet we let individuals like Bezos and Gates and Zuckerberg take almost all the credit, along with hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Defenders of the out-of-control wealth gap insist that all is okay, because, after all, America is a 'meritocracy' in which the super-wealthy have 'earned' all they have. They heed the words of Warren Buffett: "The genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did." But it's not a meritocracy. It's getting harder and harder to survive on individual skills. Children are no longer living better than their parents did. 

Jeff Bezos has $160 billion in wealth. While he has been profiting from the Internet and the infrastructure built up over many years by many people with many of our tax dollars, he has continued to avoid the taxes that are meant to pay for all the benefits received by his company.

'Social' is Not a Dirty Word 

A strong society empowers individuals, not the other way around. For 35 years Americans have been duped into believing that well-positioned individuals should be allowed to do whatever they want, and the result is the perverse level of inequality described above. In two weeks we will be given the opportunity to vote to help stop the flow of wealth to the super-rich. We just have to hope Americans have learned about the greed and deception of that arena full of super-rich.

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Reposted from Common Dreams

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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