I overheard a conversation on the table next to me while waiting for some food today – a dup of middle aged middle class couples complaining about “benefit scroungers” and praising the “hard work” of millionaires. I guess we have some way to go until everyone catches up with what’s really going on in the world.
In football terms, “piling on” means jumping on a player when he’s down. In the economic new normal described by Bernie Sanders, it means taking most of the wealth and all of the income, moving profits and jobs overseas, and making impoverished people pay the bills.
1. Taking ALL the Income
Charles Koch said, “I want my fair share — and that’s all of it.” He’s been getting his wish lately. In the first two years of the recovery, the richest 1% seemingly impossibly captured 121% of the income gains, while incomes for 99% of Americans declined, with the median household income dropping by 7.3 percent.
More and more people are working in respectable but low-wage positions in food service and retail. Low-income jobs ($7.69 to $13.83 per hour) made up one-fifth of the jobs lost to the recession, but accounted for three-fifths of the jobs regained during the recovery.
2. Wealth Grab
According to an AP report, the stock market has regained all its losses since March 2009 while adding an extra 18 percent. That’s $11 trillion restored, plus almost $2 trillion gained. Using Economic Policy Institute figures (Tables 6 and 7), we can determine the beneficiaries of the new wealth:
- The richest 1%, 1.15 million families with 38.3% of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $666,000.
- The next 2-5%, 4.6 million families with 30.9% of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $134,000.
- The rest of the top 20%, 17.25 million families with 22% of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $25,500.
- The 30% just above the middle, 34.5 million families with 8.9% of the stocks, each regained their losses and added an additional $5,160.
The bottom 50%, 57.5 million families with 0% of the stocks, gained nothing.
3. Corporate Betrayal
According to their own SEC reports, Citigroup, Pfizer and Bank of America made much of their 2011-12 revenue in the U.S. (42%, 40%, and 82%, respectively). Yet they declared a total of $69 billion in foreign profits and losses of $19 billion in the United States.
As the big companies have been declaring themselves multinationals with no allegiance to the country that made them successful, they’ve also eliminated tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. Citigroup, Pfizer and Bank of America are among the leading job cutters. The shock of the recession has allowed them to turn their backs on their country, and Americans are too bewildered (and ill-represented) to properly fight back.
4. Let the Hungry Pay
The massive four-year redistribution of wealth and income toward the top leaves bills to be paid. So Congress wants to cut food assistance. Nearly 47 million people get an average of less than $5 a day to eat, at a total 2012 cost of about $80 billion, which is about the same amount 20 Americans make from just one year of investment income.
In the spirit of American independence, Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee quoted the Bible: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Fincher, along with all but one of his congressional colleagues, failed to show up for a recent unemployment hearing. Hungry Americans remain at the bottom of the pile, getting crushed by arrogance and insensitivity.
Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.