Why the rich get richer

   < < Go Back

by Amanda Marcotte,

from USAToday,

Washington should stop subsidizing the wealth of the 1% and invest in a living wage.

If you open your paycheck — or, in our modern era, check your deposit statement online — and feel a crushing sense that it’s just not as big as it should be, odds are you’re not an egotist or delusional. Working Americans increasingly just don’t make enough to pay the bills, in no small part because the wealthy people we work for would rather just keep that money for themselves rather than share it with the people who earned it for them. It’s a sad state of affairs that is becoming economically untenable for this country.

A new paper out by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman shows that the bottom 90% of Americans owns less than a quarter of the country’s wealth, down to 23% from a high of 36% in the mid-80s. This is the lowest amount of the country’s wealth controlled by the middle and working classes since 1940. Back then, New Deal-era economic policies were allowing working people to keep an increasing amount of the wealth they created, but since the mid-80s, there’s been a dramatic downturn, as the top 10% hoard most of the wealth while the rest of us watch our savings accounts dwindle. Really, it’s more like the top 1%, as the Occupy Wall Street protesters would say, who own almost 40% of the country’s wealth. One-tenth of 1% of Americans — about 16,000 families — owns over 11% of our country’s wealth, which is more than the bottom two-thirds of us combined.

A lot of the reason for this growing gap in wealth between the rich and the rest of us is due to income inequality. “The bottom 60% of Americans have experienced a lost decade of either stagnant or falling wages since 2000 despite increasing their productivity 25% over the same period,” Bryce Covert at ThinkProgress writes.

More From USA Today: