Mar 27 2013

Five ugly extremes of inequality in America

1. $2.13 per hour vs. $3,000,000.00 per hour

A comparison of top and bottom salaries within large corporations is much less severe, but a lot more common. For CEOs and minimum-wage workers, the  difference is $5,000.00 per hour vs. $7.25 per hour.

2. A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S.

On a winter day in 2012  over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy  (SRO) cost of $558 per month, any ONE of the  ten richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S.  for the entire year. These ten rich men together made more than our entire  housing budget.

For anyone still believing “they earned it,” it should be noted that  most of the Forbes 400 earnings came from  minimally-taxed, non-job-creating capital gains.

3. The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth

In 1983 the poorest  47% of America had $15,000 per family,  2.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.

In 2009 the poorest  47% of America owned  ZERO PERCENT of the nation’s wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).

At the other extreme, the  400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families — 62% of America. The reason, once again, is the stock market. Since 1980 the American GDP has approximately doubled. Inflation-adjusted wages  have gone down. But the stock market has increased by  over ten times, and the richest quintile of Americans  owns 93% of it.

4. The U.S. is nearly the most wealth-unequal country in the entire world

Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of  wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.

Yet the financial industry keeps creating new wealth for its millionaires. According to the authors of the Global Wealth Report, the world’s wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017.

5. A can of soup for a black or Hispanic woman, a mansion and yacht for the businessman

That’s literally true. For every one dollar of assets owned by a  single black or Hispanic woman, a member of the Forbes 400 has over  forty million dollars.

Minority families once had substantial equity in their homes, but after Wall Street caused the housing crash,  median wealth fell 66% for Hispanic households and 53% for black households. Now the average single black or Hispanic woman has about  $100 in net worth.

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