Being Super-Rich in America

BEING SUPER-RICH IN AMERICA…..Harold Meyerson is unimpressed with the “Hamilton Project,” a brainchild of Robert Rubin’s that advocates a variety of familiar Rubinesque economic policies: balancing the budget, investing in education, increased scientific research, etc. Meyerson thinks something is missing:

Their list of national problems includes nothing about a corporate and financial culture that richly and reflexively rewards executives who offshore work to cheaper climes and deny their American employees the right to join unions.

….There’s nothing in the statement about raising the minimum wage or mandating a living wage; the word “unions” is nowhere to be found, though unionizing our non-offshorable service sector jobs is the surest way to restore the broader prosperity for which Rubin and his co-authors pine.

I don’t have anything against Rubin and his mainstream ideas, but Meyerson is right: it’s depressing that mainstream liberalism is so economically timid these days.

I know I’m not the first ? or even the thousandth ? to make this point, but consider a few wonkish numbers from the past 20 years:

  • Per capita GDP in the United States has increased about 52% over the past two decades. This economic growth is due mostly to increased productivity, which in turn is largely due to technological progress. It’s not due to any magical increase in the quality of CEOs, managers, or factory floor workers.

  • Median personal income 20 years ago was about $18,000. If everybody’s income had grown 52% since then, median income would be about $27,000 today.

  • It’s not. It’s only $23,000. If you add in health benefits it changes the numbers only slightly.

The reason for this is obvious: our economy has grown 52%, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s income has grown 52%. It means that the incomes of the super-rich have grown 100% while the incomes of average schmoes have grown only 25%. And average schmoe incomes haven’t risen a penny since George Bush took office.

In other words, the rich are taking most of the money and leaving little behind for anyone else. And then, to add insult to injury, they whine about having to pay taxes on that vastly increased income.

And you, my lovely little schmoes, have to listen to that whining every day on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and in the pages of National Review. Your income ought to be about $4,000 higher than it is, but instead of getting that income you get bought off with a $200 tax cut from the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the lucky duckies at the top get a 100% pay increase and a 30% tax cut. It’s a good time to be super-rich in America.