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Visualizing US Income Disparity, Or How The Rich Have Gotten Poorer For The Fifth Year In A Row

Tyler Durden's picture


There was little of note in the annual US Census Bureau update titled "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States." The key number everyone hones in on in this report - the number of America living in poverty - is already well known courtesy of foodstamp data. Per the Census bureau this number was 46.2 million Americans in 2011 or "after 3 consecutive years of increases, neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates." Actually this statement is quite wrong as the foodstamp data speaks a very different story, but it is an election year, and most people are mathematically challenged. Either way of looking at it, 15% of the US population living in poverty is hardly a statistic to be proud of, regardless who is president. Which brings us to a second point: when looking at the wealth dispersion by percentile, Wharton economist Justin Wolfers commented that "The rich just keep getting richer." Actually, based on the Census data he was looking at this also is wrong, as the underlying series shows that both the household income of the uber-wealthiest 95th percentile, as well as the income spread between the 95th and 10th percentile, over the past 5 years has actually been going down. In fact, the average income of the richest disclosed percentile is $186,000, or the lowest since 1999. So yes, the rich may be getting richer, but it certainly is not based on Census data, which shows that the wealth of the top percentile has been not only flat but modestly declining for 12 years.

If anything, perhaps the Census Bureau should narrow down the top 5% percentile to the top 1% or better yet 0.1%, or best of all 0.00001%. Because the number of people truly getting richer in the current economy, is more and more limited to a few hundred people.


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Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:17 | 2785969 The Wizard of Oz
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Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:51 | 2786113 SelfGov
SelfGov's picture

Whoa, man. How weird is it that income plateaued around the same time that global oil production plateaued?

You'd think oil production and the economy were inextricably linked somehow. Weird.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:22 | 2786244 ATM
ATM's picture

Good clean burnging coal baby!

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:31 | 2786503 strannick
strannick's picture

By ''poorer'' are you referring to a decreased rate of increasing richness?

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:18 | 2785973 dolph9
dolph9's picture

This does not distinguish between the upper middle class and the genuine upper class.

It's all about how much liquid wealth you have and how connected you are.  If you are a banker (or anybody else) who has tens or hundreds of millions, and you get a bailout from our corrupt government, then you are doing just fine if not better than before.

The upper middle class is treading water and soon enough they will become downwardly mobile.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:25 | 2786002 Divided States ...
Divided States of America's picture

Honestly, if they had a section with NEGATIVE Income (in some form of debt), I am sure the lines would be increasing at the fastest rate as the income goes lower (more negative).

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:53 | 2786122 LMAOLORI
LMAOLORI's picture



That's the New World Order plan two classes Ultra Rich and Poor.  The Middle Class Gun Toting American's were too much of an impediment to the Elites in which of course you must include the politicians.  That is why they also allowed unfettered immigration both legally and illegally.  If they flood the country with poor while at the same time outsourcing our jobs (NAFTA thanks clinton) it was easier to accomplish since they created infighting. A poor unarmed citizenry is actually easier to control.  You may think not but just look around at all the third world shit holes and see how well they do protesting their government. Even the so called revolutions the U.S. helped create via soros and friends like the Egyptian uprising ended in military or another form of Totalitarian control (Libya for example is in the hands of Al Qaeda & Muslim Brotherhood). 

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:25 | 2786255 ATM
ATM's picture

Ultra Rich = Totalitarian.


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:55 | 2786130 CPL
CPL's picture

You don't get it.  Anyone holding paper currency in any form in ALL tax brackets are poorer because they hold fiat currency.


This is only a matter of time before people race for the door.  All we are discussing now is who is smart enough to get out first and then RULE.  Because people with the gold make the rules.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 15:09 | 2786950 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Agree.  What's this BS about "uber-wealthiest 95th percentile."  Is that a joke?   Why not a graph of the real wealthy 0.001%?  This article is clearly another paid-for by the 0.001% diatribe.


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:18 | 2785974 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

It all depends on how you define "rich".  If you include the professional class with the plutocrats, you get a distorted picture. 

The plutocrats are getting richer and they have all the power.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:37 | 2786057 wcvarones
wcvarones's picture

Good point -- this is median by quintile.  The median of the top quintile is professionals and business owners, not the oligarchs.  The median of a large group hides what's happening to the oligarchs.

Break it out by top 1% or 5% and you'll get a very different story.


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:15 | 2786201 Urban Redneck
Urban Redneck's picture

1% of 300,000,000 people is 3,000,000 people

.1% of 300,000,000 people is 300,000 people

.01% of 300,000,000 people is 30,000 people

.001% of 300,000,000 people is 3,000 people

.0001% of 300,000,000 people is 300 people (ABOUT RIGHT)

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:20 | 2785984 wcvarones
wcvarones's picture

Difference is wealth vs. income.  Yeah, they're earning 0% on their Bernanke Fun Bucks, but their gold and stocks are up huge.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:21 | 2785989 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

Man, what troubling news.  I'm going to say a prayer for these poor folk who can't go on that second vacation!

All kidding aside, this chart really demonstrates the dealth of the small business owner, and the middle income wage earner.  They are going the way of the Dodo. 

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:24 | 2785997 Mercury
Mercury's picture

That's because wealth creation/destruction is just that - and not a zero/sum game.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:41 | 2786074 mickeyman
mickeyman's picture

I beg to differ. It is a zero-sum game. Eventually all your wealth sums to zero.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:58 | 2786148 CPL
CPL's picture

Correct.  There is no u-haul behind the hearse. 


Pharohs tried that and the historical discoveries over the last 100 years indicate that we were too late to loot most of them.  lol  As much as I love the Indian Jones movies, all the movies have a common theme, looting the shit out of hollowed ground. 


The dead don't care.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:32 | 2786213 Mercury
Mercury's picture

There is a U-Haul behind the hearse.  It’s just a question of whether  government agents or your heirs are driving it.


The problem with the ancient Egyptian economy by the way, as Hernando DeSoto pointed out a few years ago, is that the pharaoh basically owned everything. Even the nobility didn’t own the land they controled which means they could never capitalize it.


In other, later systems with a landed aristocracy, important mechanisms were in place to build wealth...for only a very few maybe but nonetheless wealth was built to an extent that wasn't possible without explicit private property rights.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:38 | 2786300 CPL
CPL's picture

The semantics of ownership after death are always tricky.


Would the government or family care about the couch or tube tv?  Probably not.  Everyone is more concerned with the assets that have apparent value like cash, house and the silver spoon collection.  That's where the fist fight comes in.  Not because the assets exist but because they represent a value in the current currency.


Antiques Roadshow is an awesome show to underline "value" and how we are not business men or working stiffs, but ultimately collectors that eventually lose our collections.  Prince or pauper...people's old crap show up.  A historian gets worked up, explains some background and takes a swing at what something is worth.  I doubt that the older nice biddy's that drag a chesterfield or a painting there care if there is an auction value.  Most of them are looking for a relatable value for insurance.


And yup...the Pharaohs watched their assets decline with the shrinking of the Nile as the population of the area increased.  Egypt was blessed being in the right time and right place, environmental and people breeding like rabbits put the nail in the coffin for the military might of the region.  Hardly the biblical plague of locusts, just more people than locusts, but capable of pitchforks and torches.  There is quite a bit of story telling in the old testament about revolutions and such.  The Jewish spring against the Pharaoh.


As the Pharoh asset class of working assets like people, land and food failed so did the idea of a God king.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:40 | 2786539 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Well, some people spend their money on worthless crap and some spend it on things of real quality that have and hold their value. And some people do not only that but also plan ahead and pass their values and their stuff onto the next generation. Wealth can concentrate and build by such means completely independent of capitalism or cronyism etc. and I personally take little issue with that.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:40 | 2786792 CPL
CPL's picture

I agree, inherited power, title and land is vile.  But it's also situational.


If any of my children showed an interest in running my business, I would not let them.  Morally it's wrong because they didn't earn it, ethically it's a conflict of interest because they have control of a purse that has other earmarks and commitments towards employees and partners.


Worst case I seen was in 2002, a nice lady and lawyer I knew had a heart attack and passed away at 53.  She ended up not including caveats in her will about how funds were to be managed by her single hier Gilbert.  Gilbert worked in the pub I liked to frequent, good lad, good grades, worked hard...earned his own bread.  When his Mum passed away and left him around 300k, not a fortune by any means to a lifetime of work.

Gilbert went from good kid with things going for him, to a cracked out dead 19 year old wrapped around a tree and a new porche.  Gilbert mistook the left overs of his mother's life as his fortune, then pissed it away with the help of his "friends" and managed to get himself killed by crashing his car.  His mother's intention was that he have school covered and have a little left over to start a life.  She mistook his moral compass for her own after a lifetime of hard work and hard savings.  

He didn't have enough left to be buried proper with a wake.  He was secretly deeply in debt releveraging his mothers home and pretending to be rich after pissing away the cash money's given.  


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:24 | 2785998 impermanence
impermanence's picture

When the axe is imbedded mid-way through the skull, do you really need an MRI to reveal the cause of death?

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:40 | 2786072 darteaus
darteaus's picture

Only if the axe first had to penetrate your abdomen.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:04 | 2786165 CPL
CPL's picture

All causes of death are related to Pulmonary/respiratory failure. 


People can be (and are unfortunately) born without brains and live their lives as house-pets to others.


But the fiat de compli is lungs and heart stop working.  When we die, everyone suffocates to death in terms of process.  Cancer...MS...AIDS with complications.  All of it.  The process to death is the same.  Morphine and other pain remediation helps shut it down faster without the patient feeling their heart and lungs stop.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:25 | 2786005 prains
prains's picture

400 americans own more capital than 150 million americans, i didn't realize there were that many lazy americans   



Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:34 | 2786036 dadichris
dadichris's picture

IMO, this is a simple function of our monetary system. Lending money at interest will lead to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of very few in as short as a 50-year span. This is simple math.  It's delusional to believe that there can be any other result from our existing debt-based monetary system.  This has nothing to do with capitalism vs. socialism and everything to do with fractional reserve banking and debt-based currency.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:37 | 2786054 pods
pods's picture

Preach it far and wide brother!


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:05 | 2786168 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Pleased that's settled

Now we just have to get past the hurdle of the 'Gold is Money' crowd who want to replace one monopoly on money with a monopoly commodity money system

then we get to where we should be, a Free (competitive) Market in Money

wake me up when we (finally) get there

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:29 | 2786270 ATM
ATM's picture

In other words - Barter where anythng of value becomes a possible money but relative value changes with each person.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:27 | 2786008 dadichris
dadichris's picture

I disagree; the rich do keep getting richer in terms of net wealth.  Tracking income data is a red herring.  It's not how much you make, it's how much you control that matters.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:33 | 2786032 Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden's picture

Actually, what you are referring to is how much cash-flow owned assets generate. What you are trying to say is that the richest are concentrating more and more of the cash-flow producing assets. This may be the case, but said assets are certainly not manifesting themselves in cash flow creation for their owners. And that is precisely the problem of the entire insolvent "developed" world.

As more and more debt is being piled on (total global public and private debt is at an all time record currently), the offsetting assets have not been replenished (via CapEx spending, technological innovation or otherwise) and as a result the asset side of the global balance sheet is generating less and less cash. Which by the way is the primary reason why the global central bank cartel is doing all it can to lower the global interest expense, i.e., the cost of liabilities. Because with assets generating less cash by the day, there is logically less cash that can go to pay the interest on liabilities.

Another way to say this is what we have been saying for over a year now: money good assets are evaporating by the hour, confirmed by observing the ever looser collateral requirements by the ECB (today) and the Fed (tomorrow).

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:46 | 2786091 Mercury
Mercury's picture

They might also be buying up hard assets that may or may not be currently generating enough cash to cover their cost of carry.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:47 | 2786101 Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden's picture

but... that would mean.... unpossible

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:07 | 2786176 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Eating the seed corn! Mmmmm. yummy.

"CapEx, it's what's for dinner."

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:26 | 2786730 sgt_doom
sgt_doom's picture

Correct, of course, dadichris, as this graph is based upon public sources, and the vast majority of the wealth, assets, etc., of the super-rich is privately recorded, when it is actually recorded.

Hence, David Rockefeller was listed at an estimated worth of $30 billion back in 1960, while today he's listed between $2B to $3 Billion --- and trust me, he hasn't given it away, simply had their accountants hide that wealth and ownership in foundations, trusts, offshore trusts, and offshore unregistered trusts, etc.

Which is why the vast majority of private planes and jets are located in the British Virgin Islands (on paper, that is, as that be where they are registered for tax avoidance purposes --- and hiding ownership and wealth).

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:33 | 2786028 Jason T
Jason T's picture

The US Empire peaked in 2000 as per Martin Armstrong, 224 years after its' 1776 birth.  Just as the Roman empire lasted 224 year or from 44 B.C. to 180 A.D.  

Tis Destiny.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:57 | 2786359 CPL
CPL's picture

Actually it's a generational expansion thing that has been replicated in psychology experiments over 50 years.  25 generations until collapse

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:23 | 2786714 1Inthebeginning
1Inthebeginning's picture

Thanks for the model of population growth and behavior.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:28 | 2786740 Mike in GA
Mike in GA's picture

Thanks for the link...that is a fantastic study. Absolutely good reading and mind-blowing empirical evidence.  I wonder if America has already passed the event horizon and if so, will it (with historical hindsight) be proof that our thin veneer of civilization is less than that of mice?  Talk about Behavioral Sink! :(


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 16:05 | 2787142 CPL
CPL's picture

It's a creepy feeling that we are programmed to implode when given every opportunity to better ourselves.


What would blow your mind is all it would take is a change of attitude to reset it and start over.  Biological motivators are ALWAYS in play regardless of how advanced we assume ourselves to be.  Another behavior I would like to point out is something every fisherman I've met out in east coast knows.  


Take a crab and put it in a bucket, the crab will and can and does manage a method to escape a standard bucket.

Put another crab in the bucket with the crab in it and something weird happens.  The second crab will stop the other crab from tipping the bucket and escaping.  So next time you have a chance to check it out, watch crabs in a bucket.  There is always a couple trying to make out of the boiling pot, but behind them there are dozens pulling them back in.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:33 | 2786029 not fat not stupid
not fat not stupid's picture

Capitalism is it's own worst enemy.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:34 | 2786040 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

nope, that would be any form of monopoly, from Govt to the rotten fruit that hang from it (eg. The Fed etc)

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:11 | 2786187 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Tell me, just where is the problem with producing more than one consumes and using the excess to fund further production?

My guess is that you'll identify something in the financial system, rather than legitimate capital formation, if you try to answer that question.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:33 | 2786031 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

"...How The Rich Have Gotten Poorer For The Fifth Year In A Row"

well that settles it, not long for Benny to get his marching orders now

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:36 | 2786052 JamesBond
JamesBond's picture

isn't census data merely self-reported income?  or is there a direct line to the IRS for verification?

i suspect many people under report their income to the census....  



Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:38 | 2786063 darteaus
darteaus's picture

And all the rich of 5 years ago are still rich?

And all the poor of 5 years ago are still poor?

Maybe in Cuba or North Korea, but not in the US.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:41 | 2786078 Arcturus
Arcturus's picture

The 95th percentile is the new middle class.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:44 | 2786086 JJSF
JJSF's picture

It's all about changing the definition of what "rich" is in general public perception. Then once the state of this definition is satisfactory it is then used as a matador's cape to bring in the throngs of angry and vengful lower classes to destabilize them enough to have assets of the "rich" handed to the real this transition stage i'm referring to the banks...


Always the same throughout history..

Elites sick the lower classes on the up and coming middle and upper classes which then hand over their assets to the elites and at the same time destroy any up and coming competition..increasing their monolopy.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:44 | 2786089 AynRandFan
AynRandFan's picture

Used to be, private capital formation was a good thing.  It founded industries, it took investment risk, it promoted innovation.  Now it is derided as "unfair", backed by an abiding belief that government under the control of popular votes will redistribute a static amount of wealth which will never run out.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:44 | 2786090 Tirpitz
Tirpitz's picture

Just wondering what a middle-class medicine man with a 120,000 bucks a year income has in common with the top 400 families which control basically all assets of the land in one way or another.

Get away from the 95 percentile group and split them up into the upper 0.1% and 0.01% for a revealing picture. And then hurry and prosecute them and expropriate their concentrated wealth.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 11:56 | 2786139 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Exactly.  It's not the 5%, or the 1%, or even the 0,1%, who are doing well.  It's more like 0.001%--or about 3000 folks. 

But ultimately: those are the only 3000 folks who MATTER, because they own everything.  We're all here at their pleasure.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:01 | 2786155 CrimsonAvenger
CrimsonAvenger's picture

You see how those in the 10% and 20% brackets haven't lost any ground at all? I think we should tax the shit out of them.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:33 | 2786288 JR
JR's picture

When “the average income of the richest disclosed percentile is $186,000,” the question is, what do you call a million if $186,000 is “rich.”

What ‘s the category for a $1,000,000 or $1,000,000,000 and up?

“Rich” is the latest English word to achieve political status; used by the manipulators of wealth distribution to tap the resources of citizens who still have a dime left. It’s the mantra of the socialists whose goal is to sic the mob onto the middle class family that’s striving for a better standard of living in this supposed land of opportunity.

If $186,000 is now considered obscene and punishable and the great divide by America’s totalitarian leadership, the American Dream has been trashed for egalitarianism, for socialist Stalinism.


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:01 | 2786378 spooz
spooz's picture

The "richest disclosed percentile" is actually the top 20%, so it doesn't really present a good picture of the rich.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:35 | 2786295 denny69
denny69's picture

Uh-huh, right. They're just getting better at hiding their wealth and stashing it in a place where the statiticians can't count it. I know one thing - the 'diminishing' portions of their incomes aren't going to any charities except the ones located in those mountain top redoubts where the Nazis lived in splendor after WW ll.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:48 | 2786329 pragmatic hobo
pragmatic hobo's picture

looking back through the history of humanity, when was the last time the top 0.0001% held so much wealth compared to the bottom 95%? Not 20th century, not 19th century, is it 18th century?

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 12:57 | 2786357 spooz
spooz's picture

Average income of the top quintile was $176,292 in 2005, so $186,000 is not lowest since 1999.

Per the Census Bureau Report, the share of income going to the top 20% increased by 1.6% and share going to the top 5% income increased by 4.9% in 2011.  

Income equality has grown in the last year, with the Gini index increasing by 1.6%.  We are on a par with Uruguay, Argentina and Bangladesh.

 "In fact, the average income of the richest disclosed percentile is $186,000, or the lowest since 1999."

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:15 | 2786427 1eyedman
1eyedman's picture

the uber-wealthy are the 95th percentile at $200k in income per year???  the next 4% levels make up more than 10% of total USA gpd/income.     top 5% is more than 25% of total income.    the last few % points are indeed rarified air....200k/yr income, thats less than these people spend on jet rental/yr.    200k is not uber wealthy, simpy the bourgeosie...

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:33 | 2786444 spooz
spooz's picture

Again, the top QUINTILE represented in the chart represents the TOP 20%, not the top 5%.

Also, if you look at wealth instead of income, the top quintile has 84% of it.  

"The top 20% have 84% of the country’s wealth. Those Americans in the third and fourth quintiles–essentially America’s middle class–have only 15.7% of the nation’s wealth.   Such an unequal distribution of income is unprecedented in the economically developed world."

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 13:47 | 2786558 spooz
spooz's picture

 Nowhere in your piece do you explain that the "top percentile" represented in your chart represents the top 20%, not the top 5%. Borderline propaganda, imo.

Also, the assertion below does not match the data from CB.  What is the "top percentile" you are referring to, and where do you get your data?

"So yes, the rich may be getting richer, but it certainly is not based on Census data, which shows that the wealth of the top percentile has been not only flat but modestly declining for 12 years."

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:05 | 2786622 boiltherich
boiltherich's picture

Ronnie Raygun must be smiling down from heaven as the USA looks more like Mexico every day, that was the real Raygun Revolution, a paternalistic nation of desperately poor people owned by no more than a few hundred men.  Now if we can just get rid of those pesky water treatment plants and sewers, and the pavement and police.  People don't need fire departments when they live in one room cinder block hovels, and they don't need paved roads when they can't afford cars or even gas to put in one.  The only school the creme de la creme of the poor need is the school of hard knocks, what do we need welfare for when we can just bring back open landfills.  Poor people don't need a police force eating money, they have nothing to protect and the rich already have private security anyway.  Take a few days to tour Tijuana if you want to see our future.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:16 | 2786675 amadeusb4
amadeusb4's picture

Is this graph adjusted for inflation? Then for which year is it adjusted? 2011? Am I expected to read a hundred page report to find out?

Can we please have a log plot to see how the proles are trending in comparison?

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 14:57 | 2786892 Benign
Benign's picture


It should be noted that in drawing its sample of wealthy

households for inclusion in the Survey of Consumer Finance the Federal Reserve Board will

exclude all households that appear in the Forbes list of America’s billionaires.

A little bias there?


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 16:51 | 2787405 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Good catch.  Can't really expect the journalists to read the stuff they're quoting.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 15:17 | 2786973 WhiteNight123129
WhiteNight123129's picture

The Fed is in to help the consumer by creating wage inflation (eventually) and wipping out the debt in which he was heavily drowning into. Bernanke is helping the rednecks who own Silver. Bernanke is their friend.

The owners of capital (bonds and stock) still think Bernanke is their guy, while creating stagflation means real return losses on Equity (with nominal return) LBOs though gain. Bond holders will get wacked. The capital owners thought they could have wage repression through offshoring to China which itself repressed wages. At the same time the consumption would not go down because there would be leverage addition on the consumer, so the capital owners would have it both ways, extracting money from consumption without bearing the cost of inflation. THat was not sustainable, you can not have more goods circulating between the corporations and the consumers than the intermediary transactions (BtoB). The corporation over built capacity, now capital has to be wacked, by gradual wage inflation while teh consumer use the nominal dollars not to consume but to repay debt.

Bernanke is the enemy of the capital owner but they have not figured it out yet!!!


Wed, 09/12/2012 - 15:47 | 2787120 cynicalskeptic
cynicalskeptic's picture

Break it down and you'll find that the ONLY ones better off are at the 1/10 of 1% and above - and they are VERY much better off, with the decline in the top coming from the rest of the top 10%, 5% and even 1%

The vast majority of those in the low 6 figures are seeing serious cuts - that's 'middle class' in NY and CA where a 'starter' house is over a half million and local taxes are as much as your mortgage.  And for those who go 'move' - that's where the jobs are... the ones remaining  A hell of a lot ARE being cut still with whole departments offshored - A/P, A/R and Purchasing are following DP in the financial firms.   Add to that the continuing decline in home values and propped up 401K's held up by Fed helium... many are very much on the edge of a serious downgrade in their position on the ladder.  A few have gotten knocked off all the way to the bottom.   Lots of people in their mid 50s who remain jobless afdter losing very nice 6 figure positions.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 17:13 | 2787270 spooz
spooz's picture

So can you point me to the data I need to break it down?  

Because, to quote Businessweek:

" The real income of the highest quintile of earners rose 1.6 percent, and the top 5 percent of earners saw their incomes increase 4.9 percent [in 2011]. "

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 16:11 | 2787236 TheOldMan
TheOldMan's picture

The number of people "living in poverty" depends upon the definition of "poverty". If poverty is defined as a set percentage of median or average income or wealth, then you will always have that percentage of people living in "poverty".

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 16:23 | 2787284 spooz
spooz's picture

The official poverty line is an annual income of $23,021 for a family of four.  I find it hard to call that a living wage.

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 17:20 | 2787499 boiltherich
boiltherich's picture

Poverty can be relative as in a percentage of the median income, or it can be absolute as in a specific amount required to feed, shelter, clothe, transport, a person or household of XYZ people. Our friend Mittens for example thinks people that have between a few hundred thousand to get by on and his 20 million "wages" last year are poor and deserve a huge new tax break.

I say we need a better way to discuss what constitutes the economic classes and it is urgent because of downward mobility, people need to know when they are poor and what to call it.

The typical middle class family, consisting of two parents, one employed full time and the other now at least 20 hours per week to full time, with two kids and a dog and/or cat, two cars that do not both have to be new but one is no more than three years old and the other is no more than 8 years old, have a house of median value in the $225,000 range in most markets, for which they paid 20% down and PITI payments no more than 30% of their combined take-home pay per month, and all of that along with the lives of the parents and health of the whole family are pretty well insured. They save for two sets of college tuition, minimum of 175 per month per child from birth on, take a foreign vacation once every three years or so and a domestic vacation every summer. Between their creditworthiness and savings they have never known financial hardship and enjoy the security of knowing that they never will. They have 4 smart phones and the kids have never gone to school in ill fitting clothes. Perhaps you would have matched the description below but your parents left you enough to break into the middle class, if so count yourself very lucky.

If you do not match that description you are NOT middle class.

If you cannot afford that lifestyle then you are either poor or working class which is the polite way to say although you work full time you do not even dream of that life, you do not consider yourself impoverished but you also know you are not going to be middle class, if your kids get to go to college they will have to earn some kind of scholarship or join the service for tuition assistance as well as work while in school and take out student debt, or they can forget it. You have two cars but they are both beaters and underinsured, one is notorious about breaking down and has a check engine light that has been on since you bought it second hand, you often defer maintenance, you have health insurance but the deductibles are high and copays murder, you likely rent but if you have bought a house it was with little or nothing down on a smaller 3 br 2 ba in a soso neighborhood and you stretch to cover the PITI every month. You clip coupons and look for deals in St. Vinnie's and Goodwill. You have credit cards but they are maxed out. You take at least one payday loan per year because of unexpected expenses.

Now if you cannot even afford that you are poor. And if you have one or more major items of subsistence missing from your life like food or housing then you are in dire poverty.

The US gross national product is about 16 trillion and there are 120 million households. That is $133,333 per year per household if national productivity were equally divided. If there are 60 million households under the $50k threshold then that means there is 5 trillion less for the lower half and 5 trillion more for the upper half. The higher you go the more outlandish the distribution. And these are the same fat fuckers that say they should not have to pay taxes. I want to see them pay a death tax, that is pay up or DIE!

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