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Life is Great ... But Only If You Are Already Mega-Wealthy

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As I pointed out in November:

A report by University of California, Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez concludes that income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression.

The report shows that:

  • Income inequality is worse than it has been since at least 1917
  • "The top 1 percent incomes captured half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007"
  • "In the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth."
As others have pointed out, the average wage of Americans, adjusting for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1970s. The minimum wage, adjusting for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1950s. See this.

On the other hand, billionaires have never had it better (and see this).

Now, state-run Russian news service RIA Novosti notes that the number of billionaires has soared during the economic crisis:

The current global financial and economic crisis once again confirms the fact that during economic upheavals the rich get richer and the poor become even more destitute.

On Thursday, Forbes Magazine carried an updated list of the world's wealthiest people.

As of late 2009, the number of billionaires soared from 793 to 1,011 and their total fortunes from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. The number of Russian billionaires almost doubled, from 32 to 62.

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Despite the crisis, the list of billionaires has grown by 200 people and their aggregate capital has expanded by 50%. This may seem paradoxical but only at first glance. This result was predictable, if we recall how governments all over the world have dealt with the economic crisis.

Anti-crisis measures essentially implied massive infusion of money into the economy. The United States alone spent over $10 trillion. Against the backdrop of a global recession, the funding could only be put to good use on stock and raw materials markets, leading to the creation of new financial bubbles.


The volume of federal allocations injected by the Russian government into the economy was much higher than in Europe and the U.S. Forbes tactfully referred to this as the government's cooperation with big business, primarily raw materials companies.

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However, even high-ranking Russian officials have repeatedly complained that anti-crisis allocations were either used for stock market operations or deposited in foreign bank accounts.

Life is good ... but only if you are already mega-wealthy.

Even Alan Greenspan recently called the recovery "extremely unbalanced," driven largely by high earners benefiting from recovering stock markets and large corporations.

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George Washington

As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)

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