How We All Got Richer in 2010

2010 was a banner year. We all got richer. Maybe you didn’t notice, but $288,000,000,000 of additional income was generated. That comes to $920 for every person in the country.

Here’s how it was distributed, as told by Piketty and Saez. If you were at the top, the 0.01%, your income increased by $4,200,000. That comes to some $479,000 per hour, or a $80 per minute. A nice little supplement for your daily costs. The yachts, the jet, and so on.

We all got richer. Maybe you didn’t notice.

If you were only in the top 1%, the amount came to just $106,000, a little bonus about three times the average annual income. That’s $12 an hour, which should help cover incidentals like a couple of lattes and the hired limo. (If you compress it to an 8-hour day your gift comes to four times the national minimum wage.)

For the rest of us, the 99%, the amount comes to $80 per year, a penny an hour. Put it this way: the extra money your very rich masters took home every minute was equivalent to your benefit for the entire year. Probably, neither of you even noticed it was there.

If you were at the top, 0.01%,
your gift was $479,000 per hour.

This kind of outrageous information continues to assault our sensibility, building rapidly toward a level of inequality that will eventually be like that of the worst plutocratic countries, where there is no hope for a reasonable life for the vast majority of people.

How Nations Fail, by Acemoglu and Robinson, is an important new book that lays bare the danger of gross inequality. (More about it later.) In essence, equality collapses when there is an extremely wealthy plutocracy who control all wealth for their own benefit. The US is in no immediate danger of arriving at that point, largely due to our superior legal rights (always under attack from the rich right), which, ironically, were due to the relative poverty and lack of gold, or a large population for the English to seize and exploit after the Spaniards had done their worst in Central and South America. Even our worst economic situation is better than the bottom rung in poor countries, where there are weak, exploitative laws and very rich overlords.

Worsening inequality makes everything worse
at all levels of a society.

But our plutocracy has had forty years to become firmly entrenched, and has been busily arranging laws, regulations, and political control for its own benefit. The Koch-controlled ALEC is industriously writing anti-democratic legislation to consolidate their control. This is not an improvement.

Inequality in the US is already at an all-time high, and rapidly worsening. As has been shown, worsening inequality makes everything worse at all levels of a society, and its opposite improves life for everyone.

The rich gained far more money with their 2010 “tip” than the entire 99% will ever see, but their lives too, are circumscribed. Few of the super rich, in any part of the world, can risk simply walking the streets without an armed bodyguard. In my book, this is not freedom.

Conservatives feel threatened by anything that would restrict their ability to accumulate wealth. They should instead feel threatened by anything that causes declining equality, including the rise of the plutocracy they have been working so hard to bring about.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. how did you come across this information? could you add a source i could check out? thank you.

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    • Google Pikkety and Saez to start. I extrapolated most figures in this post from Piketty and Saez. You could search Truthout, Raw Story, and Huffington Post for their names as well as terms like “top 1%”, “income inequality”, and so on. Sorry, I should have included a specific source, I see now.

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