Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why you're poorer than your parents

Apologies for the fuzzy chart, but those blue bars show how much wealth the richest 1 percent and 4 percent of Americans (the two tallest bars) gained over the past two-and-a-half decades. You know what the red bars are.

Our friends at the Economic Policy Institute came up with the chart. Writes Larry Mishel,
...wealth is now lower for the typical household than it was a generation ago in 1983, while the wealth at the upper end expanded a great deal.

All of the gains in wealth accrued to the upper fifth, with 40.2 percent of the gains going to the upper 1 percent and 41.5 percent going to the next wealthiest 4 percent of households. This translated to gains of $4.5 million per household in the richest 1 percent and a gain of roughly $1.2 million per household in the next richest 4 percent of households.
In other words, the richest 5 percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.
Look to the Teamsters' art handlers' dispute with Sotheby's to understand why this is happening. Counterpunch explains in a post entitled, "The Sotheby's Economy":
Sotheby’s art handlers don’t get rich, but they make a living. And that is precisely what these bosses have a problem; no longer does their greed need an economic justification. Instead they demand lower wages and fewer benefits for their workers not because these costs are too burdensome, but simply because they are ideologically motivated to widen the wealth gap at all costs, and know that there are plenty of jobless Americans who are willing to work for peanuts.
The labor conflict at Sotheby’s is a demonstration of how far the American economy has fallen from the ideal standard of American industry in which profitable companies can only sustain themselves if their workers can afford to be consumers in the marketplace. Because of employers like Sotheby’s, the phrase “Be lucky you have a job,” will soon be “Be lucky to be a serf.”