Time for the Pitchforks

I’d like to think inequality can’t get worse than this, but it of course can.

Nonetheless, this is stunning. Forget about the comparisons to the gilded age. We’re past that now.

Paul Buchheit reports at Common Dreams that the bottom 70% of Americans own a  mere 6.9% of our wealth:

That’s 70%. Not just the most impoverished, or the poorest half, but a full 70% of us are near the bottom of the world in percentage of wealth ownership. Just 6.9 percent of the wealth is owned by 70% of us. All other reporting nations range between about 13 and 30 percent.

That’s very close to a quarter billion people. To be more precise, it’s 235 million Americans. It’s roughly three percent of the entire world’s population.

Here’s another group that owns 6.9% of our wealth: The wealthiest 5,000 American households, or about 12,000 individuals. That’s not the 1%, or the .1%, or even the .01%. It’s roughly the .004%. That’s 4 out of every 100,000 Americans.

Got that? Wealth of 12,000 = Wealth of 235,000,000.

Or: Wealth of 70% = Wealth of .004%

Or: Wealth of 70,000 = Wealth of 4

If you’re not a numbers person, consider this visual: Imagine the entire country outside of Texas, California, New York and Florida. In other words, 46 of our 50 states. Now, imagine a crowd that doesn’t quite fill a basketball arena. The crowd in the basketball arena has as much wealth as the population of those 46 states.

And the momentum is all in favor of that crowd in the basketball arena. Unless and until ordinary Americans get out in the streets and demand the wealthy be taxed at double the levels they’re taxed now, things will get worse.

Time for the pitchforks, folks.

13 responses to “Time for the Pitchforks

  1. John Huppenthal

    This post ought to be labeled “how to deceive with numbers”. Our poorest families are wealthier than the worlds wealthiest twenty percent in both income and assets. Just look at the census data on assets in these homes. Just look at the value of transfer payments.

    The Obama agenda has been totally destructive to the most vulnerable poor. Unemployemt of African-American young adults has skyrocketed to over 90 percent.

    Destroying small business wealth won’t help the poor or bother the rich. It just makes lawyers rich who help wealthy people evade these taxes with trusts, evasion schemes and phony charities.

    Rich people dont pay 90 percent tax rates when they can invest in tax free municipal bonds.

    • You’re still insane, Thuck, but it’s good to have you back. Unequal is unequal, my friend, no matter how you rationalize that the ones getting the short end have it better than others. You started your comment by saying that my post was about how to “deceive with numbers,” then strung together four paragraphs that bore no relation to the point I made. The phrase “how to distract with bullshit” comes to mind.

      But, again, it’s good to have you back. Would you like to write a weekly column? I’ll do my best to get my colleagues on board, but you have to agree to call it “Thucky’s Corner,” okay?

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Your comment should be captioned “how to deceive with numbers.” Let’s just take the one number you selected to throw out, “Unemployment of African American young adults has skyrocketed to over 90 percent.”

      You do know that there is a Bureau of Labor Statistics that actually keeps track of such statistics and is readily verifiable, don’t you? Here is the BLS Employment and Unemployment Among Youth Summary from August 18, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/youth.nr0.htm:

      “The number of unemployed youth was 2.8 million in July 2015, down from 3.4 million a year earlier. The youth unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in July 2015, 2.1 percentage points less than a year before. Among the major demographic groups, July unemployment rates were lower than the prior year for young men (12.7 percent), women (11.7 percent), whites (10.3 percent), blacks (20.7 percent), and Hispanics (12.7 percent). The youth
      jobless rate changed little for Asians (10.7 percent). (See table 2.)”

      You pulled that 90% number out of your ass, where your head resides.

    • Cheri, in getting your news from Politicus USA (by self proclamation one of the most leftist sites on the web), don’t you think the information contained in your “news” might be just a little bit propagandized rather than being the straight truth?

  2. Bob, you have a way of describing numbers so that they become real to the average person. I think that is why you convinced me we need to do something about the income disparity. Jim Hannon suggested increasing the estate tax, but there ways around the estate tax, and smart tax lawyers like yourself ensure their clients estate taxes are minimized if not eliminated entirely. The same goes for income taxes…smart tax attorneys find ways to use the tax laws to avoid paying income taxes. (Something that didn’t happen for me this year, but that is a different story entirely).

    What would you do, if you were in change, to rectify the problem of wealth disparity?

    • The loopholes can be plugged, Steve. Will tax avoidance be eliminated entirely? Of course not. But the tax system need not work like a sieve, as it currently does. The 1986 Tax Act put a huge dent in the income tax sheltering that previously had been taking place. The loopholes in the estate tax easily could be plugged. It’s just a matter of whether we have the will.

      • One big loophole that needs plugged are the offshore accounts in places like the Cayman Islands. We saw a big change a few years ago with Swiss bank accounts, but there is still work to be done.

        • The Cayman Islands is just one of dozen of such banking havens. None of them are likely to change their banking rules anytime soon. The Swiss changed their rules because they exist in the first world and were subject to the pressures brought on by first world nations, particularly because of the Swiss behavior during World War Two and how they worked with the Nazis. These other havens have no other industry except their banking services and you just can’t bring much pressure on them to change.

  3. I would like to see a tiered estate tax. Right now, basically estates over $5 million are taxed at 40%. Under Bill Clinton, it was 55% over about $1.5 million. So we have moved backwards in recent years.
    I would propose keeping the 40% for estates from $5 to $25 million. Then, 50% for estates of $25 to $50 million. Finally, a 60% rate for estates over $50 million.
    The problem with income tax rates is that much wealth is not taxed at all, including appreciation gains in real estate, some investments. The estate tax could be structured and enforced so that these capital gains are taxed fairly. Very few people ever pay the estate tax, it’s a few thousand each year. But it is a significant tool to remedy the problem that Bob addresses here.

  4. I would like to see a tiered estate tax. Right now, basically estates over $5 million are taxed at 40%. Under Bill Clinton, it was 55% over about $1.5 million. So we have moved backwards in recent years.
    I would propose keeping the 40% for estates from $5 to $25 million. Then, 50% for estates of $25 to $50 million. Finally, a 60% rate for estates over $50 million.
    The problem with income tax rates is that much wealth is not taxed at all, including appreciation gains in real estate, some investments. The estate tax could be structured and enforced so that these capital gains are taxed fairly. Very few people ever pay the estate tax, it’s a few thousand each year. But it is a significant tool to remedy the problem that Bob addresses here.