Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If you don't have enough to eat, chew on these statistics

Media Matters - Altercation by Eric Alterman:
When I turned to Sunday's Times, however, I learned from Larry Summers, whom I doubt even Will could paint as a Commie, that his favorite statistic these days is this: '[S]ince 1979, the share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of American households has risen by 7 percentage points, to 16 percent. Over the same span, the share of income going to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by 7 percentage points. It's as if every household in that bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent.' What's more, 'In 2004, according to the Congressional Budget Office's latest official analysis, households in the lowest quintile of the country were making only 2 percent more (adjusted for inflation) than they were in 1979. Those in the next quintile managed only an 11 percent rise. And the middle group was up 15 percent. Do you sense a pattern? The income of families in the fourth quintile -- upper-middle-class folks with an average yearly income of $82,000 -- rose by 23 percent. Only when you get to the top quintile were the gains truly big -- 63 percent.' That one's here.

Here's my 'favorite' statistic: Over the last quarter century, the portion of the national income accruing to the richest one percent of Americans has doubled. The share going to the richest one-tenth of one percent has tripled, and the share going to the richest one-hundredth of one percent has quadrupled. For working people, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the process of collecting this data began more than 60 years ago. For the poor, just in the years since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line has increased by nearly a third. Meanwhile, the average CEO of a Standard & Poor's 500 company took home $13.51 million in total compensation in 2005, a year in which the top one percent of Americans earned nearly twenty-two percent of all income. Believe it or not, by 11:02 a.m. of the first work day of work on the first day of the year, one of these average CEOs will "earn" more money than the minimum-wage workers in his company will make for the entire year.* To those who would argue that this is just the way the world works, one would have to ask, why is this not the case in Europe or Japan? In fact, among major world economies, the United States in recent years has had the third-greatest disparity in incomes between the very top and everyone else; only Mexico and Russia are worse.

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