Wealth in America

February 25, 2011 at 10:00 am (By Randy)

(Via Mother Jones)

Many other interesting charts at the link. (Click on the graphic for larger image)

Speaking of bubbles, (Were we? Probably. See charts at link above), I’m reminded of this blog post by AOL co-founder Steve Case.

While this last link has nothing to do with the above, I ran across the bookmark while looking for the one above and couldn’t resist appending it for Annie’s possible enjoyment: What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness.

Speaking of things saved on my computer that Annie might find entertaining, here’s one that I never figured out how to embed.


  1. wj said,

    I have to wonder if it’s just that Americans are clueless about money. I mean, beyond their personal finances. Just think about how they think the federal budget is distributed, vs the reality. Clueless.

  2. amba12 said,

    Oh, clever kitty!

    Reminds me of the time I delivered a package to a stranger’s loft, as a favor. While she went out of the room for something, her Siamese cat sized me up, then did a somersault, came up and gave me that exact same look, expecting admiration.

    As for “Vagueness,” I’d post on it as Compulsive Copyeditor, but it’s too disheartening.

    And about the wealth-distribution chart: this can’t be healthy for a society, but what to do about it? I haven’t gone to the link yet, but I’m guessing Mother Jones advocates compulsory redistribution. In my economic naïveté, I’ve always liked capital-gains taxes, believing that actually making money with work and invention should be rewarded, but that making money with money should be . . . not penalized, but not quite so lavishly rewarded, you know?

  3. wj said,

    Re Capital Gains: I’ve never been able to accept the justice of taxing them different than any other income. Nor do I buy the argument that people just wouldn’t invest without it. What else do you do with those spare billions?

  4. karen said,


  5. mockturtle said,

    Could not agree more about capital gains. Income is income. Certainly I am against actual wealth redistribution and some consider income tax to be just that. Maybe I’m just naive enough to think that if everyone actually paid his fair share we could solve at least some of our deficit problems.

    Here’s an example of wealth redistribution: My husband has been in a nursing home since December. We pay $7,200 per month out of pocket, more than twice our monthly income. The nursing home receives only $5K per month from the state for a Medicaid recipient. So our ‘wealth’ [our rapidly dwindling savings] is being redistributed to make up for the lower Medicaid payments. Does this seem fair? Not to me. People who never worked or saved a dime in their lives can on Medicaid from the get-go and everything–medications, supplies and care–are all paid for. Those of us who have worked and saved for retirement just get screwed. Sorry for the rant. It pisses me off.

  6. karen said,

    I’ll still take America over any other place on earth.

    Anchoress has a CNN video– from India- i think. Watch it. Keep a kleenex handy. It may not help us out where we are financially, but it will make us thankful that our Mother Jone’s charts don’t read even more depressingly unbalanced. Just my opinion.

  7. chickelit said,

    Just wondering how the national debt ledger offsets all of the wealth supposedly held by so few?

  8. Randy said,

    Karen: I’m with you.

    Chickelit: Just wondering, what does the national debt ledger mean? Public debt? Private debt? Both? How does that relate to wealth concentration? (BTW, if you have information that private wealth concentration is substantially different than portrayed in the graph, a link to that would be appreciated.)

  9. Randy said,

    Mockturtle: I’ve known many people who went through what you are going through right now. It doesn’t seem fair, I agree. It is small comfort that, once your assets are exhausted, you’ll be on equal footing with those who failed to save as you did.

  10. Icepick said,

    In 2009 if we had taxed 100% of income from the top 1% of households, we would have still run a deficit of several hundred billion dollars. I can’t do numbers for later years currently, but 2009 gives a sense of the scale of the deficit problem.

    Revenue growth alone cannot solve the problem. Since 1998, for every additional dollar of revenue brought in (above the 1998 level), we’ve spent an additional $1.67. That is not sustainable under any circumstance.

  11. Peter Hoh said,

    We already have a system of in place that redistributes wealth — to those at the top.

  12. chickelit said,

    Randy – Just seeking clarity. The chart is very effective at portraying inequity. My asking about the debt is nothing more than asking who actually owns the debt and how does that offest wealth? Is the debt equitably distributed as well? or is a “every man woman and child owes x amount”. Is that fair? In these sorts of “big picture” scenarios it just seems important to actually have a handle on the “bigger picture.”

  13. chickelit said,

    Randy, for example, a significant portion of my 401(k) is denominated in US Treasury bonds. Is that real wealth or is it ephemeral promise?

  14. Randy said,

    Chickelit: That seems to be an entirely different set of questions to me, as the chart is about private wealth, which by definition invariably = assets-liabilities, not public debt. Thus, my question why bring public debt into it? Perhaps I’m missing something here, but then I’m not aware some scenario being about to unfold, either. FWIW, the chart is sourced at the link, so you may find answers to your questions there, but I doubt it.

  15. chickelit said,

    OK Fine. I’m just not willing buy the title “Wealth In America” at face value. I think reality is always more complex.

  16. wj said,

    Perhaps a clearer title would “Private Individual Wealth in America”

  17. Randy said,

    Chickelit: As I said above, if you have information that the concentration of wealth in the United States differs from that portrayed by the chart, feel free to post a link to the source.

  18. Randy said,

    WJ: Perhaps so, although it strikes me personally as qualifying as “a distinction without a difference.” BWDIK? YMMV.

  19. mockturtle said,

    Icepick, you are right, of course. The deficit is largely a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Please note that I did say ‘some’ of our deficit problems. If the federal government confined its spending to that which is Constitutionally delegated we wouldn’t have a problem, IMHO. This excludes entitlements as well as subsidies and ‘bail-outs’.

  20. Randy said,

    WJ wrote: Re Capital Gains: I’ve never been able to accept the justice of taxing them different than any other income. Nor do I buy the argument that people just wouldn’t invest without it. What else do you do with those spare billions?

    Facetious answer: Send it overseas?

    Serious answer: While I can understand the arguments in favor of some credit (lower rates) for tying up capital for prolonged periods of time, I no longer buy the justification for treating stock options given to employees the same way. These days, such options seem so widely used as to be nothing more than routine compensation for services performed. IOW, wages, and they should be taxed as such. JMO, of course.

  21. Randy said,

    Peter wrote: We already have a system of in place that redistributes wealth — to those at the top.

    A couple of the other charts at that site make your argument, I think. (See the charts under “Winner Take All”) In case you missed it, Kevin Drum wrote a piece last September for the same publication about the same subject.

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