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US Income Gap Soars To Widest Since "Roaring 20s"

Tyler Durden's picture




 

The last time the top 10% of the US income distribution had such a large proportion of the entire nation's income was the 1920s - a period that culminated in the Great Depression and a collapse in that exuberance. As AP reports, the very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19% of the country's household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10% captured a record 48.2% of total earnings last year. Analysis by Emanuael Saez shows that, based on IRS data, in 2012, the incomes of the top 1% rose nearly 20% compared with a 1% increase for the remaining 99%. Economists point to several reasons for widening income inequality including globalization and technology. However, as John Taylor explains in his recent WSJ Op-Ed, using this as a lever for Obama's "middle-out" policies - higher tax rates, more intrusive regulations, more targeted fiscal policies - will not revive the economy. More likely they will perpetuate the weak economy we have and cause real incomes—including for those in the middle—to continue to stagnate.

 

 

Via AP,

Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January.

 

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

 

...

 

Since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent have enjoyed the benefits of rising corporate profits and stock prices: 95 percent of the income gains reported since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent.

 

That compares with a 45 percent share for the top 1 percent in the economic expansion of the 1990s and a 65 percent share from the expansion that followed the 2001 recession.

 

The top 1 percent of American households had pretax income above $394,000 last year. The top 10 percent had income exceeding $114,000.

 

The income figures include wages, pension payments, dividends and capital gains from the sale of stocks and other assets. They do not include so-called transfer payments from government programs such as unemployment benefits and Social Security.

 

...

 

America's top earners tend to be highly paid executives or entrepreneurs — the "working rich" — instead of elites who enjoy lives of leisure on inherited wealth, Saez wrote in a report that accompanied the new analysis.

 

Still, he added: "We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income inequality is efficient and acceptable."

 

and John Taylor's response to the Obama "Middle-Out" strategy based on this inequality (via WSJ),

The Weak Recovery Explains Rising Inequality, Not Vice Versa

 


 

Last year at this time a debate raged about whether economic growth and job creation has been abnormally slow compared with previous recoveries from recessions in the United States. Now that the growth rate has declined to 1.6% over the past year from 2.8%, the debate is no longer about whether. It's about why.

 

...

 

The administration and its supporters are not about to blame the slow recovery on its own policies, or those of the Fed. Instead, President Obama and his supporters have been talking about "an economy that grows from the middle out," as he put it in Galesburg, Ill., in July. The fashionable middle-out view blames today's troubles on policies that took root in Ronald Reagan's administration.

 

...

 

The reason? "Washington," as Mr. Obama asserted in Galesburg, "doled out bigger tax cuts to the very wealthy and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor."

 

...

 

Weak economic growth today, according to the middle-out view, is the consequence of a wider distribution, or dispersion, of income (more at the upper end).

 

...

The data for the recovery since mid-2009 do not support this view. The 5.4% overall savings rate during this recovery is not high compared with the 8.4% average since 1960. It is relatively low compared to past recoveries, such as the 9.3% savings rate during a comparable period during the recovery in the early 1980s.

 

...

 

The middle-out view fails to explain the weak economy and high unemployment today. It also fails to explain the strong economy and low unemployment in the 1980s and '90s.

 

...

 

Widening income distribution can be a concern, however, especially if it signals reduced income mobility and a growing inequality of opportunity.

 

...

 

What caused the differential income growth in the 1980s and 1990s? Research shows that the returns to education started increasing in the 1980s. For example, the wage premium for going to college compared to high school increased. But the supply of educated students did not respond to the increase in returns. High-school graduation rates were declining in the 1980s and '90s and have moved very little since then. Test scores of American students fell in international rankings. With little supply response, the returns to those with the education rose more quickly, causing the income distribution to widen.

 

...

 

The policies favored by those with a middle-out view—higher tax rates, more intrusive regulations, more targeted fiscal policies—will not revive the economy. More likely they will perpetuate the weak economy we have and cause real incomes—including for those in the middle—to continue to stagnate.

 

and the full report is below:

Saez UStopincomes 2012

 

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