The statistics about wealth inequality in this country are both astonishing and alarming. But statistics can't tell the entire story if they're presented in isolation. Our country is increasingly being turned into a plaything for the ultra-rich.
Here are eight signs that the ultra-wealthy Americans have way too much money.
1. Jeff Bezos bought the second most influential newspaper in the country -- and it barely dented his net worth.
Two things always get a lot of coverage from reporters in this country -- what billionaires do with their money, and anything that affects reporters. When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, we got both.
There's been a lot of speculation about what the Amazon founder might do with his new personal acquisition. Here's an aspect of the story that's gotten much less attention: The Post's $250 million sale price is roughly 1/100th of Bezos' reported net worth, which is said to be in excess of $22 billion.
That's a lot of net worth for one individual. Granted, Bezos is much smarter than most of his peers. He's got skills and he's worked hard. Why shouldn't he be rich? It's the American way, after all. But does he need to be that rich? He didn't get all that money on merit alone. Bezos has accumulated his massive fortune in part because tax policy has coddled him and his fellow billionaires, while most of the country is mired in an ongoing financial struggle.
2. They literally don't know what to do with their money.
A new study shows that the wealthy are holding on to far more of their money than before: 37 percent of their income goes unspent, a figure which is three times as large as it was in 2007. What's more, they have more cash on hand, and 60 percent say they don't plan to spend or invest it.
In other words, they're getting more of out national income than ever before -- and they're hanging on to it, which means it isn't creating jobs or economic growth.
3. Corporate profits and wealthy income.
Corporate profits are capturing more of the nation's income than they have for more than half a century. They stood at 14.2 percent as of the third quarter of 2012, which is higher than they've been since 1950, and their after-tax performance has stayed just as robust since then.
At the same time, the portion of our national income which goes to employees is the lowest it's been in nearly half a century. (More here.)
Wall Street greed and criminality caused the crisis of 2008, but government efforts since then have concentrated on rescuing banks, and on boosting stock market performance and other forms of profitability for corporations. And it shows: Corporate earnings have risen by more than 20 percent each year on average since then, while disposable income has only risen by a meager 1.4 percent on average.
And even that isn't equitably distributed. A recent study showed that the top 1 percent of earners has capture 121 percent of income gains since 2008, while the rest of the country fell behind. The top 10 percent's share of income is the highest it's been since 1917 -- and maybe longer. This imbalance isn't an act of God or a force of nature. It's the result of a series of bad policy decisions, about workplace rights, taxation, and where we expend our government's resources.
4. Internet billionaire Sean Parker had a multimillion-dollar "Lord of the Rings"-style wedding, and trashed a beautiful public glade to do it.
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