Rich America versus Poor America: stats about the wealth gap




1 The lowest earning 23,303,064 Americans combined make 36 percent less than the highest earning 2,915 Americans do.

Kinda hate that one. Figure out where the numbers are equal, or stick to a simpler stat. X people makes Y% less than Z people is a convoluted mess.

Like... oh...

"If the income distribution today were the same as it was in 1970 median family income would be around $90k instead of $50k".

Note how only two numbers differ, not 3.



Occupy's "99%" and "1%" slogans made America's widening wealth gap into part of the common discourse.

And for that, especially, Occupy should be thanked. Fuck all those who think it was a waste of time.


has anyone noticed the tenor of the comments over at the article on zerohedge? the author is being panned as a marxist and many, if not most, commenters are applauding the facts in the list instead of seeing them as a cause for concern.


that's zero hedge for you: home of the douchebag libertarian moron.


what fascinates me is the relation of these three facts:

  1. The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

  2. 18 percent of all food stamp dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

  3. Chinese slave labor produces much of what is sold at Wal-Mart.

This, to the plutocracy, is the perfection of unregulated global capitalism: government provided corporate welfare, slave labor and mass immiseration.


A Libertarian paradise!


Yeah, well, I give it that. The ruling class still doesn´t give a fuck though and they will continue not to do so about what they see as a bunch of non-threatening slackers, blemishing parks, to be disposed of by the goons called police who exist solely to do their bidding. To me, Occupy´s biggest contribution is to have shown that more radical measures are needed if you want the ruling classes´ attention.


Guns! Gays! Taxes!


"But (as this video demonstrated) it's still hard to wrap your head around how widespread poverty is in America, and how much richer America's rich have become." I guess Cory didn't read the comments about how inaccurate that video is.


Those liberty-loving commenters have been well trained by their masters.


Clearly, the guy thinks the culprit is the federal government. He sees the solution as a "free market system". So, our shift to neo-liberalism has failed, so he wants more neo-liberalism? Did he miss how corporations basically run this country and the thing that spread the wealth around before was the federal government having a spine?


I don't see the wealth gap as the huge problem. The problem is that the poorer are not getting any richer. I have no problem with there being a class of absurdly wealthy people, that is just a feature of capitalism.

When Margaret Thatcher was stepping down as PM of the UK she was attacked for increasing the wealth gap during her tenure. She pointed out that the gap doesn't matter. What matters is that even the poor were better off than they were when her tenure started.

I agree with her, but sadly that is not something that you can say today. What the US has to do is not simply redistribute the wealth, but to increase the economy, so that everyone rich and poor alike get richer.


Two reactions to this:

  1. We've had capitalism for a long time, but the wealth gap wasn't this ridiculously huge before. How do you account for this? Are the people at the bottom getting lazier and lazier, or are CEOs an order of magnitude more talented than their counterparts were a generation or two ago?
  2. Once the wealth gap gets sufficiently large you don't have a democracy anymore, you have a plutocracy. In an era where the Supreme Court has held that "unlimited campaign contributions" are a protected form of expression, how can you argue that people at the bottom have any real chance at representation? When a tiny handful of ultra-rich people control most of the media outlets, how can you argue that the poorest Americans truly have free speech? When most of the nation's wealth and resources are controlled by an ever-shrinking minority, what chance do most people have to shape the "free" market?


As long as they control what you find out about and where you can go, they control your mind.


In response to your points:

1) It is easier to get richer once you are already rich. The more time passes the wealthy get vastly wealthier. I believe that it why the gap is getting wider. It was exacerbated by a recession that pushed the poor down more than it did the rich. I don't think that the wealthy have gotten "smarter" or the poor lazier.

2) I don't see how rich people subvert democracy. The representatives will continue to represent the voters because they need the votes of the voters. I don't think that money has a huge effect on voting. I don't think people blindly follow TV advertisements. Studies show that campaign spending has little effect on election outcomes. (For example: ) This is especially true when you consider that both sides have money here. The rich are hardly uniform in their political opinions. With the Internet it has become easier than ever for the poorest Americans to have free speech and to have their voice heard. Wealth is not a limited resource, a pie to be distributed. Wealth can be created. That's why there's more money in the world today then there was in the past. The fact that there are very rich people out there does not preclude most people from shaping the free market.


So you agree that merit and fairness have nothing to do with the ever-growing gap. That's a good start.

The voters base their decisions on the information they have, and the bulk of that information is controlled by a tiny minority of the population. It's not just the overt campaign ads, it's also newspapers, magazines, television, radio, major news sites on the web—you name it. Independent blogs are great but they're not an adequate substitute for professional journalism. For one thing, it's hard for a tiny self-financed blog to hire a full-time political correspondent in D.C. or send an investigative reporter to the Ukraine for six months.

Just because Warren Buffett has different opinions from the Koch brothers doesn't mean that either one represents or understands the needs of the poor.

Money is a measure of an individual's power to shape their own environment or exchange for the services of other human beings. When one person makes two or ten or a thousand times as much money as his peers, that is an important measure of how much influence he has in society. If one incredibly rich individual controlled 51% of the world's stock then we wouldn't have a "free market" or "free society" even if everyone else had personal gold-plated hover cars.


Technology takes a lot of the blame here I think. IT has eliminated medium skilled professional positions, while automation has eliminated medium skilled manufacturing positions. On the other hand, part of this is cultural, there are a lot of employers looking for skilled labor that can't find it. Many of those jobs are not considered desirable, even though they do not require college education.

The problem is not lack of information; there is more information available now than ever before. People choose not to seek it out because it makes no difference in their daily lives and therefore they feel that they have better things to do with their limited time.


What people get is not what people earn/deserve. Saying that the rich earn/deserve so much more undermines the whole argument. Some people are getting less than they deserve, and others are getting way way more.


Yes, both sides have campaign donations from rich donors they represent. While campaign outcomes by party might not have changed much, the behavior of the politicians they've legally bribed with campaign donations and who are dependent on that money for reelection is certainly affected. Congress has become more and more friendly to the wealthy and less and less concerned about the constituents they technically represent.