Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One Table Shows How The 1 Percent Won The Recovery

In the table above, UC Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez and the Paris School of Economics' Thomas Piketty show that the top one percent made dramatic income gains following the 2007-2009 recession, in comparison to previous recessions. In fact, that group has accrued 95 percent of the income gains since the recovery started. Dylan Matthews comments in the Washington Post Wonkblog:

This table comes courtesy of UC Berkeley's Emmanuel Saez and the Paris School of Economics' Thomas Piketty, everyone's favorite inequality-tracking researchers (thanks to Annie Lowrey for pointing out the paper). They've added preliminary 2012 numbers to their dataset on growth in Americans' — and in particular rich Americans' — incomes, which gives us three years of data (2010, 2011, 2012) during the recovery, in addition to the full 2007-2009 span of the Great Recession. That lets us compare what happened to incomes in the recovery to what happened in past recoveries, and what happened during the recession to what happened in past recessions.

Shockingly — shockingly — what they found is that while only 49 percent of the decline in incomes during the recession was born by the top 1 percent (whose income share fell to 18.1 percent due to the recession), 95 percent of income gains since the recovery started have gone to them. This is a big change from past recessions and recoveries. Only 65 percent of the expansion under George W. Bush, and 45 percent of that under Bill Clinton, went to the top 1 percent. The rich bore a greater share of the 2001 recession's damage than of the Great Recession's, and the differential between the amount lost in the recession and gained in the recovery was much smaller last decade.

"Overall, these results suggest that the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s," Piketty and Saez conclude. "Indeed, the top decile income share in 2012 is equal to 50.4%, the highest ever since 1917 when the series start."


Michael J. Mand said...

This talbe confirms what we already knew. We have a serious problem in that it goes against our ideals to restrict what people can earn and we've always applauded those who learned how to succeed. And still, I suspect that most "one percenters" earn their wealth within the boundaries of existing law. Yet, as the study points out, the extremely wealthy seem to be unwilling to share in thier good fortune with those who really created it with their sweat (or with their jobs that have been lost permanently to technology). The question becomes, how can we change laws so that all can benefit from this "rising tide"? How can we convince those in control of the money that it is in their interest to share the pot a little more evenly? Raising taxes to re-distribute the wealth, although it may be necessary, is too divisive a strategy to make it the center of a new economic plan. We need to make it more difficult to shelter income with deductions that don't benefit society directly. Unfortunately those in control of the money also control the process of legislation. "And the painted ponies go up and down".

Jeff Tone said...

The "existing law," as you point out later, has been fashioned by those who have enough money to pay off politicians in our corrupt political system–one in which massive payoffs to politicians are known as "campaign contributions." This was codified even further by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. So it isn't a question of earning one's wealth, but of gaming the system. That's how the one percent has, as the chart points out, accrued 95 percent of income gains following the recession.