Friday, February 10, 2012

Land of the Free, Home of the Poor

The extent of economic inequality is astonishing and underestimated by nearly everyone. PBS NewsHour’s Land of the Free, Home of the Poor with Paul Solman is brilliant and a must watch.

Over 90% of people interviewed underestimated the extent of wealth disparity picking the Swedish wealth profile as the one they thought represented America. Differences b/w Democrat and Republican voters were insignificant.

  • Top 20% possess 84% of the wealth 
  • Second 20% possess 11% of the wealth 
  • Third 20% possess 4% of the wealth 
  • Fourth 20% possess 0.2% of the wealth 
  • Fifth 20% possess 0.1% of the wealth 
In the last 10 years most of the change has been a dramatic increase in the wealth proportion of the top 0.1%

Warren Buffet:
Yes, there has been a class war in the United States and my class, the super rich, have won
Towards the end Richard Freeman points out that the extent of inequality in the USA matches that of China, still a mainly peasant society, and African countries.

Another reference which makes some similar points and also emphasises that across the political spectrum Americans desire a more equal society than the one they currently live in: Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time
First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

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