Wealth Distribution

I was really shocked by these numbers. I knew that the ultra-wealthy were disproportionately wealthy, but I was unaware of the severity of the issue:
The Kansas City Star
By Rick Montgomery

While the rest of America rolls its eyeballs at such injustice, a spate of new studies and statistics throws a blinding spotlight on just how concentrated the world’s wealth has become. The richest of the rich are getting much richer, and ascending quicker, than are the rather wealthy.

And Average Joe? He appears stuck in the mud.

According to data recently prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bottom 90 percent of U.S. households saw an increase in real household income of 2 percent between 1990 and 2004. That’s adjusted for inflation.

Two. Percent. In 14 years.

Now creep up the income ladder to the top 1 percent of households. There, says the center’s Aviva Aron-Dine, real income shot up 57 percent in the same period.

Climb higher. For the top 0.1 percent — where incomes average about $4.5 million a year — the jump was 85 percent. For the top .01 percent, 112 percent.

“The increasing gulf between the rich and super rich is a reflection of the greater chasm throughout society,” says Aron-Dine. “What’s going on is an increasingly skewed assessment of wage and income over the long term.”

Not since the 1920s — the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s rollicking Jay Gatsby — has such a small slice of America hoarded so much of the nation’s income, her findings show.

Globally, the richest 2 percent of adults now own more than half of the personal wealth, says a new study by U.N. researchers.
link to original

Here's another interesting source of infomration in re: wealth distribution:
Wealth, Income, and Power
by G. William Domhoff
September 2005 (updated December 2006)

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2001, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 33.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 51%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 84%, leaving only 16% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth, the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 39.7%. Table 1 and Figure 1 present further details drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2004).
click here to see Table 1 and Figure 1.

Finally, here is a story from the Washington Post describing how the tax burden has shifted since George Bush entered the White House and began his tax cut regime:
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2004; Page A04

Since 2001, President Bush's tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The CBO study, due to be released today, found that the wealthiest 20 percent, whose incomes averaged $182,700 in 2001, saw their share of federal taxes drop from 64.4 percent of total tax payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year. The top 1 percent, earning $1.1 million, saw their share fall to 20.1 percent of the total, from 22.2 percent.

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