Further evidence of this advanced stage of finance-capital is on the other side of the equation, the concentration of wealth. The richest 400 people in the U.S. have as much wealth as 154 million Americans or 50% of the population. The wealthiest 1% of the U.S. population now has a record 40% of all wealth -- more wealth than 90% of the population. According to an extensive study by auditing and financial advisory firm Deloitte, U.S. millionaire households now have $38.6 trillion in wealth in addition to an estimated $6.3 trillion hidden in offshore accounts.
Only 74 Americans are in this elite top bracket, people with annual income is $50 million or more. The average income within this category was $91.2 million in 2008. As astonishing as that is, in 2009 they averaged $518.8 million each, or about $10 million per week. This means, in the depths of the economic collapse, the richest 74 Americans increased their income by more than 5 times in one year. These 74 people made more money than 19 million workers combined.
Indeed, during the recession the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting poorer. In 2009 alone, the pay of America's highest earners quintupled, while more Americans found themselves on food stamps than ever before. CEOs got a 23% raise last year and corporate profits are at record highs while the minimum wage has less buying power now than in 1956.
If we stay on the present course, the wealth amassed by millionaire households is set to increase by more than 100% over the next 9 years. From a total of $92 trillion held by the world's richest in 2011, by 2020 the world's millionaire households will possess $202 trillion, or roughly 4 times current global GDP. If you think the wealth divide is bad now, unless significant changes are made, it is going to get much worse.
The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is disappearing, not because the wealthy are smarter or work harder, but because of corrupt crony capitalism. The wealthy have worked to dominate government since the early 1970s. President Obama's $1 billion re-election campaign exemplifies this. He is holding fundraisers where he charges $35,800 for admission -- that is more than the median income of American workers. The twelve members appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction got nearly $64.5 million in donations from special interest groups over the past decade, with legal firms donating about $31.5 million and Wall Street firms donating about $11.2 million. And since they were appointed to the commission, they have been seeking contributions from Wall Street.
As a result of this bribery disguised as campaign donations, policies are skewed for the wealthiest, some examples among many:
- 1,470 Americans earned over $1 million in 2009 and didn't pay any taxes.
- Historically the U.S. had an excess profits tax on the super-rich in tough economic times, now politicians talk about lowering the rate on top tax brackets.
- The tax burden on the super-rich is unfairly low. IRS statistics released this May reflect that in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the tax rate is 18.1% on the wealthiest 400 Americans, while someone who has net taxable income of $60,000 after deductions and exemptions pays 25%.
- Warren Buffet describes paying only 17.4% income tax because of policies that coddle the rich, "If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine -- most likely by a lot."
- Many major corporations pay no taxes, indeed many receive huge tax refunds, despite record earnings.
- Corporate taxes have dropped consistently since the 1950s, with more and more burden falling on small businesses.
- The SEC has been covering up the crimes of Wall Street by destroying evidence.
- The Federal Reserve loaned banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money at very low interest rates.
It doesn't have to be this way. The 1% wealthiest should not have more political power than 300 million people. The people have the answers -- if the views of Americans were followed the country would be on the right track on many critical issues. We can democratize the economy and give people more control over their own lives and influence over the economy. But, it is the responsibility of the people to demand politicians listen to them.
The traditional tools of elections and lobbying no longer work. Americans need to build an independent movement and independent media along with independent politics to challenge the deep corruption in American government caused by corporatism. That starts on October 6, 2011 when Americans come to Washington, DC and occupy Freedom Plaza to call for an end to corporatism and militarism.