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(Note, original is here .)

Many people don't understand our country's problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don't see it. People just don't understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people's ability to comprehend.

If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

How Much Is A Billion?

Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $29,000, meaning half of us make less and half make more. If you make $29,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 34,482 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)

What Do People Do With SO Much?

What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.


This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S -- but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don't get to go look at them.

Luxury Hotels

This is the Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey, Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!

A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.


Le Grand Bleu - $90 million.

Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.

Private Jets

Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

This is a Gulfstream G550. You can pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

Your billion will buy you 25 of these.

Private Islands

If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.

This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.


This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn't even have deficits.

I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.

Luxury Items

Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.

Medieval Castles

Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you're going to get, peasant.

Let's Go Shopping

So you say to yourself, "I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please."

  • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)
  • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.
  • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million.
  • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.
  • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)
  • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
  • Total: $178.5 million.

My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.

How Extreme Is The Concentration?

Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

Income VS Wealth

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation...)

Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. "In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent." (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.


Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:


The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.

Worse Than Egypt

In fact our country's concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

Here's the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt's.

The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand's psychopathic theories about "producers" and "parasites" take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery ("personal responsibility") as they become ever poorer.

Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about "False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes," warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.

Influence Buying

There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

The secretive Koch Brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

... Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs' core energy businesses.

We Must Address This

We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.


The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is "Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

(Note - edited to resolve picture permissions, and for median personal income instead of household)

Originally posted to davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:05 AM PST.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Income Inequality Kos, and Jobs Wages and Community Investment Working Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You forgot one obvious expense (33+ / 0-)

    If you're going to be driven around in a $1M car while carrying a $5M watch, you need  bodyguards . No price quoted but I'll guess $150k per guard per year.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:10:59 AM PST

  •  Great diary, (36+ / 0-)

    I would like to repost it to our Income Inequality Kos group. I read in Robert Franks' Falling Behind that those ultra-expensive Phillipe Patek watches don't keep time as well as a cheap Chinese digital.

  •  I have a hard time (26+ / 0-)

    wrapping my head around the idea that anything is worth that much money, or that anyone has that much money.

    Great diary!  

  •  You Buy Society Not Possessions (45+ / 0-)

    with billions. Government, corporations, media.

    A senator needs to acquire a midsized circumnavigating sail yacht about every week now, every week, throughout their entire year, to pay as tribute for the ability to conduct the people's business of campaigning for the job.

    That kind of tribute money doesn't come from ordinary people, it only comes from billionaires.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:25:14 AM PST

  •  The top stock mkt sector in 2010 was (13+ / 0-)

    Consumer Discressionary.

    Translated: rich people stuff.

    No home. No job. No peace. No rest.

    by A Runner on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:28:33 AM PST

  •  Sure, an island is nice (7+ / 0-)

    But what kind of internet access are you going to get there?  Get real.

    All kidding aside - it's the f'ing oligarchy, stupid.

    by nightsweat on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:30:54 AM PST

  •  And meanwhile (47+ / 0-)

    We're worried my husband might be disabled from his recent neck injury, and will slip from "lower middle income" to "poor" in the next few weeks.  

    And we, as people who are just getting by, are absurdly grateful for the good life we have.  We own our home, and will be able to pay it off with only one salary, if necessary.  We have enough to get by and a few luxuries.  We can afford vacations (this year, at least).  

    And that seems to be the hallmark of our income group.  Those of us who are making it -- not facing hunger or homelessness -- appreciate the small comforts we can afford.  

    If this critical satisfaction level drops, if, for example, the disability safety net disappears, we'll be in "eat the rich" French revolution territory pretty darned fast.

    "Right wing freak machine" General Wes Clark

    by Tracker on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:32:26 AM PST

  •  Great (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auapplemac, Dburn, jfromga

    Another person who talks about how horrible our wealth disparity is, but never talks about what causes it or what we can do about it.

    An inheritance tax won't solve it; people make the money while they're still alive.

    I know the problem. Come back when you have a solution.

    People panic too much on this site.

    by thematt523 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:32:49 AM PST

    •  You must have missed it... (18+ / 0-)

      The recommendation is to seize it.

      We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.
      •  A few things IMO (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mmacdDE, Margd

        Sharply progressive income tax, sharply progressive corporate income tax, steep inheritance, estate and gift taxes AND serious enforcement of them all.

        About 100 years ago, America believed that people should earn their money and that it should not be handed to them by their parents or family, ergo estate, inheritance and gift taxes.  

        Part of the rationale was that we wanted people to work hard and produce things.  Our change-over to creating wealth via exchanging pieces of paper that don't involve producing any products is a sign of how that idea has been subverted, along with the GOP meme about how the deserving family farmer should be able to pass property on generation after generation.  In fact, English common law had various rules that were designed to PREVENT such accumulations of wealth from passing from generation to generation.

        "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

        by gsbadj on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:22:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your history is a bit awry. Have you (0+ / 0-)

          ever heard of Ford or Astor or Roosevelt or Vanderbilt  or Post or Schuyler or even further back, Knickerbocker?

          Large fortunes made by the founders of these families and passed down. Some inheritors continued to increase the wealth while I'm sure others just lived off their inheritance.

          This country was built by people like these. The steel mills, the railroads, shipping, etc were just a few of the massive projects created by this wealth.

          I wish I had the security of wealth. I wish every one did. But I didn't create a new business that created jobs for thousands.

          I did my work and got paid usually a decent amount. I also saved and didn't need to have an expensive car or buy private labeled cloths. I came from a lower middle class family and I improved that. I know my mom and dad were proud of me. That was more important to me than what anyone else thought.

          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 03:48:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure have (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Here's Teddy Roosevelt, before the taxes were put in place

            No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood. We have not the slightest sympathy with that socialistic idea which would try to put laziness, thriftlessness and inefficiency on a par with industry, thrift and efficiency; which would strive to break up not merely private property, but what is far more important, the home, the chief prop upon which our whole civilization stands. Such a theory, if ever adopted, would mean the ruin of the entire country--a ruin which would bear heaviest upon the weakest, upon those least able to shift for themselves. But proposals for legislation such as this herein advocated are directly opposed to this class of socialistic theories. Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to hisfellows.

            His point is that people like you are CREATING things, as are people who start up businesses and create products.  People who inherit property are not receiving their property through effort of their own or by anything they have produced.

            Yes, there were fabulously wealthy people around the time and some of them managed to evade the taxes that were implemented.  But they were largely the targets of the legislation.  And don't get me started on the use of corporations...

            "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

            by gsbadj on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 05:05:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  But not to cut spending to pay off the debt? (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not seeing how the means is required for the end.

    •  well, it's clear the Democrats aren't (4+ / 0-)

      gonna do a damn thing about it...

      "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

      by bigchin on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:42:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Who cares what party will do it? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        What would they do if they did decide to take care of it? What is the CAUSE of this?

        People panic too much on this site.

        by thematt523 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:44:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  From the diary (7+ / 0-)

          "In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth."

          Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

          by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:48:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Easy answers to easy questions for $100, Alex (5+ / 0-)

          A - What is greed?

          Q -

          What is the CAUSE of this?

          Greed + legal bribery = all kinds of problems in a society. Wealth disparity being only one.

          Welcome to Survivor America 2010 - The Forgotten.

          by GrannyOPhilly on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:16:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  our tax structure (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          paige, phonegery, cameoanne, dark daze

          is too flat.  there are only three levels.

          This was Reagan's revolution.

          Also, there are many loopholes which allow the ultra rich to pay ZERO taxes.

          The answer is simple a progressive tax structure.

          But even more wrenching changes could come as we might have ruined the dollar and these bastards have their dollars hidden all over the world: create a new currency, then all those illegally gotten caches would have to be turned in.  

          Now that would cause a hell of an uproar.

          I am awaiting delivery of my new DK4 signature

          by BlueDragon on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:10:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's a series of Causes (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hester, SteinL, auapplemac, phonegery

          Look at the govt as the enabling class. The Dems once fought for the middle class until they felt they couldn't get re-elected as the effect of policies left less and less money for the middle-class to donate. So they joined the enabler class of Govt traditionally held by the GOP.

          Getting wealth and holding on to it are two different stories. But lest start with just a few on how that much wealth is accumulated.

          Entrepreneurship on the scale of Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft more than Apple put it's money on getting more and more H1B visas while making the abuse of them  trivial through regulatory capture.  Apple may have just followed the trail that Microsoft blazed as Apple was at an extreme low point when Microsoft was closing in on the height of it's power.

          The end results of operating efficiencies, favorable govt policy and the intelligence of the entrepreneurs comes out to

          1. Bill Gates: Estimated at 50 Billion +- as he has sold 10s of billions in stock over the years to fund his foundation  and to free up cash for other investments. It was easier to pinpoint his net worth when he had most of it in Microsoft Stock which at one point made him a 100 Billionaire.

          2. Steve Ballmer: Estimated net worth at 14 Billion dollars +- most of gained through a 8 % share of Microsoft when he joined the company as business manager in 1980.

          3. Steve Jobs Estimated net worth at 8-10 billion. Surprisingly the bulk of his wealth came prior to the massive run up in Apple Shares.

          I put these three together as one could argue that the commercialization of the PC would never have happened to the degree that it has which enabled everything that comes after. So despite the people who hate them for how they got where they are, one has to concede the acquisition of the wealth was from producing. Some believe that Gates had a huge trust fund which helped him fund Microsoft and went to elite schools. The trust fund is an out an out lie. The elite schools? Yes for high school. He Dropped out of Harvard to form Microsoft.
          One claim is his parents invested 40G in Microsoft. If true, it would prove to be a much wiser investment compared to 40G or more to finish Harvard.

          What isn't disputable is that when Apple went public it produced over 300 Millionaires on the first day and Microsoft many times more over the years. There was a good chance of a lower level employee becoming wealthy if they were in the start-up phase or shortly after Microsoft went public. There also an opportunity in 1986 for anyone with $1000 to become a multi-millionaire 14 years later . If one had $5000 , they would have been worth 22 Million in 2000. That's like IRA money. I often curse myself because I was ready to make that buy then since I had a feeling the company would do some serious growth, even though I was a Mac person but less enthusiastic after Jobs lost his his Job in 1985.  

          Alas I  had cosigned on a family car which suddenly became my responsibility when the payments stopped . It was an expensive car then and really expensive now. Something I never would have bought . It cost me much more than the tens of thousands that ultimately went into it.  I doubt anyone here would boot 4 to 22 Million away especially these days for a relatively small investment. It's much easier to speak out against it when one doesn't have it.

           As one compares Microsoft and companies like Google, who required many levels of capital before going public ,   then we have Facebook who has received billions and isn't public yet. Microsoft was probably the least invested in company by outsiders in the formation stage. They company just immediately began to make money which fueled it's growth out of cash flow. There may have been later stage investors but I haven't heard of anyone influential, meaning making a sizable investment.

          We don't see many corporate CEOs on the Forbes 400 list. I suspect it's a result of  those who didn't found the company and are allergic to having skin in the game but demand huge pay packages consisting of stock option awards that quickly can be exercised and sold. Even now, there are some founders that can't sell their stock fast enough. The most egregious example is where the CEO is on a schedule to sell 10,000 shares a day every trading day of the year. As the stock traded above 100 and into the 130s the stock converted to cash just for the CEO was more than 3x the profit of the entire corporation. Imagine going to work each day and knowing you were going to make a million or more dollars that day regardless of how you or the company performed.

          Even the Google Boys started to unload billions worth of stock. Steve Jobs hasn't sold a share and takes $1.00 a year in salary. I think he should be put up on a pedestal. It would be totally complete if he was able to make his products in the US as they used to do.  

          As far as Holding on to their Wealth. Gates is planning on giving 97% of his wealth away to various causes. His kids will be comfortable but they won't even be close to the next group. As far as Jobs, and the founders of Apple and Microsoft, I don't know what their plans are. I think we can look at it by the way they have conducted their business lives. They take way under 1 Million in compensation, Steve Jobs $1.00. They don't grant themselves additional stock options as opposed to a Michael Dell . So I have a feeling they will have wealthy kids those who do have kids but nowhere near Forbes 400 wealth. As for the rest, I suspect all of it will be given away in some form of another.

          There is a unique category for wealthy people like Paul Allen and Steve Wozniak who helped found large corporations but quit early. In Paul Allen's case he held onto a substantial amount of Microsoft stock. He left because of illness, then after he was fully recovered started cashing his stock in with many zeros in the l to fund many of the failed ventures from Vulture Capital his venture capital firm .

          These guys were the technical brains behind the founding of Microsoft and Apple.

          Those who Hold and didn't and don't produce.

          The most extreme example is the Walton Heirs. Between four kids and Sam Walton's wife they have 100 Billion split 5 ways. I believe one of them actually works but any work they may engage in is more to alleviate boredom than anything else. They are more than satisfied with the 400 Million or so in dividend income to each Heir and satisfied that the stock price stays static.

          Unlike Microsoft Founders and Apple founders, the Walton family cannot really make any claims that regular employees got wealthy for holding stock options as the company rose in value.

          In fact They are so bad that their under paid workers formed a nationwide emergency fund for people who get major illnesses and have no money . Out of the 1.2 Million employees in the USA that managed to get a fund in excess of 5 million. The Walton's staying true to form, must have had a change grabbing party as they could only find $6,000 to contribute out of their combined wealth.

          They are a living testament for an estate tax, however, I believe a estate tax was in place when Sam Walton died. So there isn't much help there. Those who are determined to pass their fortunes down though the family will be able to do so. The Estate tax simply makes a bit more expensive.  

          There is a good reason not to tax fortunes left by producers if the taxation would require the liquidation of a large company. It's debatable what would have happened to WalMart, but I have a feeling the whatever  taxes were collected or could be collected would come out of the stock holdings of the Heirs. At which point the company would issue more shares diluting the the Govts stake which would be sold off as soon as practicable while the Walton's would have more shares that ultimately would appreciate in value and more shares to collect dividends from. The company would buy back shares with excess cash flow until the ownership percentages were restored.

          Private companies could be sold but timing is everything to maximize value not only for the Heirs and Charities but the Govt also. I imagine there will be some stock held in private companies by senior management and in some cases all workers.

          The real problem is if the liquidation of the assets the form the crux of the wealth is done in a very bad market. It would probably be strip mined or loaded up with debt so the new owners could cash out immediately and leave the company to crumble which many have to the detriment of the workers.

          Since the Govt is so intent on giving tax payer dollars away to the wealthy, more specifically the bankers, I don't look at the govt anymore as an equitable institution to place large funds with. Even a non-corrupt congress and executive branch would use it to pay down debt. Socially there would not be any advantage for many many years if at all and that's only if a constitutional amendment was passed that require much more than a vote by congress to establish debt ceilings. That's like giving a debt addict full freedom to raise the credit lines on their debts which in turn could be used roll over existing debt and buy new stuff.

          Had the banks been taken down in a controlled implosion, I think much more confidence would be placed with the govt. But to date, no one has been arrested and only small banks have failed.

          More Causal factors are

          1.  the suspension of the rule of law for the wealthy.
          2. An anti trust dept that seems intent on showing us how little they can do.
          3. No estate taxes but even if there were the rules would have to be loophole free. That won't happen as long as there is corruption and lobbyists to feed it.
          4. The import of the work product of workers in other countries duty free and an allowable tax deduction on corporate taxes.
          5. Allowing corporations to keep two sets of books. One for shareholders and one for the IRS which makes the average tax rate 10%. All one has to do is to compare corporate collections to individual collections to see that the Govt is an enabler of the wealthy. Last year I believe they collected 360B from corporations which was certainly an improvement over the 54 Billion collected during the height of the great recession. But it's less than 1/3 of the actual amount that should have been collected. If one allows this number alone to accumulate and adjust for inflation over the last 20 years, the failure to collect corporate taxes even at the lowest rate would probably show additional wealth division in the trillions of dollars and that's before the wealthy shareholders.

          To me I am no longer surprised at the fixation people have of the individual wealth of people.  Take the  combined wealth of the Forbes 400 at 1.5 Trillion. Then compare that number with 2 Years of missed collections of corporations. Not only would the number go down at the top 0.1% but also for the top 10%

          Corporate taxation is rarely if ever mentioned under the auspices if "we have to pay more, the whole world will destruct but never mind the trillions on our balance sheets and the unknown trillions hid around the world. This also draws allies from the other side who consist of institutional fund managers for pension funds. If the book value is reduced by too much then the value of the pension can't rise at any reasonable rate to cover the underfunding that has occurred over the years.  

          If one wanted to go where the money is, that is where it's at. But even here you would see a kickback as people stare at their 401K values and realize that corporate stock in the 401K would advance far more slowly if the corporation was taxed fully. Yet an Estate tax would never get close to the annual taxes paid by corporations against a budget that has quickly gone to 3.5 trillion not counting the 500 Billion or so in debt that's incurred but not seen as it is  kicked  over to Special Purpose entities similar to Enron....  

          The Govt accounting system is some strange hybrid of cash and accrual accounting. Cash Accounting is usually reserved for businesses that deal in all cash like say a lemon-aid stand. Staying on this strange hybrid allows the govt accountants to keep the growing monster of pension fund obligations plus entitlement programs out of sight and mind, which most certainly would show itself in some form on a accrual accounting system. Translated to : We are in much deeper shit than we think

          No one knows how that money is going to be spent either if tax collections from the wealthy in whatever form was successful. Progressives assume it means more social programs, but if they are cutting them now, what in the world makes them think that there will be an expansion if only the Govt would do it's job and "spread the wealth"?.

          I assume it's an article of faith among progressives, but show me any evidence of any program that has been implemented towards that end. Don't try to explain it away with "not enough money". There is always enough money for a trillion dollars worth of Defense , wars and intelligence agencies.

          There wasn't an expansion of them when Clinton almost hit a surplus. There just isn't any will to go against wealthy people's interests as they have become aligned with govt interests,  that should be defined as an Institution, but the influential and corrupt in Govt who attempt and are successful in institutionalizing corruption. .

           See Nixon's problem with "anything the President does is legal" was saying it in the first place but primarily not having it become part of the law of the land. It could have been done then with the proper money flow directed at the right people. But that wouldn't come until later. Nixon's  lying  wouldn't even show on the radar of some of the shit being done in our name now. He pioneered the concept but never saw the real benefits. I think it became out in the open with impunity during the second Bush years and carried on in Obama's presidency.

           In other words if the Swiss are obligated to arrest former heads of state for torture, what in the world protects Obama? He's on the right team?

          We are on the course we are on and there won't be any deviations until people who formerly thought they were safe from the horrors of private insurance , age discrimination with total  impunity, and the starvation and death rate of the people who have been experiencing declining fortunes for some time now. That includes progressives, many on this site who are part of the enabling class of Govt that insures the wealth stays intact and is allowed to grow unfettered by any fairness nonsense

          In short, there are plenty of causes of the of the inequality in wealth, but the main grouping I would put down is inaction or action at the federal and local levels that allowed it to grow and fester. Let's face it, the hue and cry would not be so loud if the bankers hadn't gone wild and the economy was normal. But special a focus is on the wealthy as the cause for all that ails us now.

          I suggest one looks at the very govt that is supposed supposed to equal the playing field according to Democratic thought and their actions even under the biggest majority in our lifetimes. I don't recall anything but token efforts to address the inequalities. If we didn't do it then, what makes anyone thing that's the answer now?

    •  Rich don't wanna pay their fair share (19+ / 0-)

      I believe part of the problem is the rich don't want to pay up their fair shares of the taxes. They want the poor to keep paying their taxes just as long as it isn't them. The rich people don't want to pay for a social system or universal healthcare. They have a callous disregard for the poor in society. Once in a while they will hold a charity event but usually its just a PR campaign to make them look good in the news.

      "Better to fight for something than live for nothing." - George S. Patton

      by tinhut on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:59:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thought Sports is trivial - another comparison... (20+ / 0-)

    (Yes, sports is trivial compared to regular people doing regular jobs. But this needs saying.)

    People who follow the NFL's labor issues are said to have problems supporting the millionaires against the billionaires in the labor struggle.

    If you are having trouble deciding to side with the players, put it in the context above. No team sports athlete has the kind of wealth mentioned above. Not even pre-ownership Michael Jordan.

    But more to the point, if you're still not convinced, NFL owners are ALL billionaires. And the Fixed Operating Cost of an NFL team is more-than-covered by the Billion-dollars-plus TV deal they have with CBS/Fox/DirecTV.

    EVERY DOLLAR SPENT ON NFL GAMES ON SUNDAYS IS PURE PROFIT FOR THE OWNERS. COSTS WERE LONG SINCE COVERED. The owners fly around on their G6 jets and call that a team expense, which is why they will argue the opposite. But know that the cost of putting on a year's worth of football games is covered BEFORE a single game is played every year.

    Support your local NFL players!

    "If you think the other side is EVIL, you're part of the problem." -Chris Matthews

    by malharden on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:35:25 AM PST

    •  We all admire celebrities and sport stars (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bhlogger, cameoanne, BlueDragon

      however I can't feel sorry for someone who is a multi-millionaire and lives a fairly comfortable lifestyle. It just doesn't seem fair that a sports player gets pays millions of dollars just to chase a little ball around while theres people out there who are struggling economically to make ends meet. However that isn't the point, its the Wall street fat cats that are the real culprit here. You are right that the owners of the sport teams for the most part are billionaires and its advertising that pays for a lot of this stuff.

      "Better to fight for something than live for nothing." - George S. Patton

      by tinhut on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:52:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, not that you should feel sorry for them, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...speaking specifically of NFL players, their life expectancy is roughly 54 years old.

        Yes, they "choose" this vocation.

        But honestly, if you do something that takes 20 years off your life (I know coal mining is another good example -- but not necessarily a line of work we want to encourage) plus makes billions of dollars in profit, maybe for you to get a couple mil a year of that is not a bad thing. Especially when the alternative is that some already-mega-rich-guy keeps all the profit for himself.

        "If you think the other side is EVIL, you're part of the problem." -Chris Matthews

        by malharden on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:50:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't feel sorry for them (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but they're not obligated to produce more effort for an equal amount of money. Their employers are not entitled to benefit 100% from their increased labor.

  •  Well done. (9+ / 0-)

    Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

    by TomP on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:38:55 AM PST

  •  The 'American Dream' is only a dream (19+ / 0-)

    Most Americans think their country is the greatest one in the world because they believe that only in America can one get ahead and improve the conditions of their life. The facts no longer support this.

    Evidence: Social Mobility

    People may move up or down the social ladder within their lifetime or from one generation to the next. That everyone has the same chance of moving up is what lies behind the idea of equality of opportunity.

    •  You're absolutely right (5+ / 0-)

      We've been brainwashed into thinking this. The ultra rich control the media too.

      My partner and I will be retiring from this country at our earliest available opportunity. Mexico, France, Portugal... all of these places are more affordable and provide better health care (better AFFORDABLE healtcare).

      "What luck for the rulers that men do not think." - Adolph Hitler

      by bhlogger on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:36:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  American Drean (6+ / 0-)

      George Carlin Said it best, "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

    •  The Purpose of Social Mobility... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cameoanne, Claudius Bombarnac

      is to prevent revolution. If an entire class is held down long enough they will do something about it. But if provide a path for the bright and ambitious to leave the lower classes and join the upper one you can drain away most of the potential leaders for class struggle.

      This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

      by Mr X on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:32:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  YES! What the world is going through (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        davej, upstate NY

        is really best described as class warfare.  What is happening in Egypt is nothing more than one battle in this war. It was the high rate of poverty and unemployment that has driven their revolution. "Freedom" is nothing but a canard.

        Grotesque Global Financial System: Greece. Economic Theft on an Unprecedented Scale

        Greece is a microcosm of a modern class war rarely reported as such.

        In the developing world, a system of triage imposed by the World Bank and the IMF has long determined whether people live or die. Whenever tariffs and food and fuel subsidies are eliminated by IMF diktat, small farmers know they have been declared expendable. The World Resources Institute estimates that the toll reaches between 13 and 18 million child deaths every year. This, wrote the economist Lester C Thurow, is "neither metaphor nor simile of war, but war itself".

        •  While I think he's generally right (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrkvica, Claudius Bombarnac

          in terms of his thesis, I believe his proofs are missing in the case of Greece.

          What has not been written about too much (but has been talked about in the EU parliament by people such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit) is corporate welfare in the EU and elsewhere, which has become a massive defrauding of the working class.

          I submit that there is a relationship between banks, corporations, bribed politicians, and the debt of countries like Greece, and this relationship is multinational. The money loaned to Greece left the country after the politicians took their commission, and it was repatriated to the countries that hosted the lending banks. When the banks' losses for lending needed to be covered, the very people of the host country covered the losses. What you have here is a massive laundering scheme where everyone skims off the top.

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 07:00:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's classic neoliberal economic policy, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            upstate NY, mrkvica

            (once reserved for developing third world countries) now being applied to the developed countries.

            With multinationals operating on a global scale, they no longer fly any flag and are starting to feed on their own.

            We are now seeing some of the effects of this within the United States as counties and cities become starved for operating funds due to low taxation.

            Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' does not (and never did) exist. Unfettered capitalism will eventually devour itself. Unfortunately, it will destroy many, many lives in the process.

            Greed and thirst for power have become the prime motivators in this unholy alliance between politics and corporate interests.

      •  Precisely my comment below (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica, figbash, Claudius Bombarnac

        It's a sure recipe for constant turmoil.  We seen it in Latin America.  Now we are seeing it in the Middle East.

        We'll be way behind on the curve because Americans are basically delusional but I don't assume that even that will hold up indefinitely.

        "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

        by noofsh on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 04:10:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Brought to you by Faux News (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, Claudius Bombarnac

      Yes it's bullshit.  As is neoliberalism in general.  Free trade doesn't raise all ships nor does it create opportunity.  Instead it created lopsided wealth.

      "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

      by noofsh on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 04:07:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Capitalism requires three things (0+ / 0-)

        in balance for it to operate correctly - capital, material and labor. The supposed 'free trade' policies only allow free movement for the first two (unless it is to their financial benefit to do so).

        Labor has effectively been shackled and impeded from acting as a counterweight and because of this, what most call capitalism is nothing but a sham and a delusion.

        The majority of the people do not look behind the curtain... for now.

        The internet has been slowly pulling the curtain apart, allowing glimpses of what is really going on in the background. I expect an increasing push to deregulate it in the near future. It will probably be done much like the Patriot Act was - under the guise of 'protection' from an amorphous enemy within.

  •  John Lennon was right (38+ / 0-)

    We're all fucking peasants.

    The one thing that the hatriots have correct is that it is "We the People".  We truly need to realize it's US who have the power.  We keep wanting to elect people into power...

    We don't work in the way that the other party does. We don't resolve things with intimidation or fear tactics.  We don't use violence or anger.

    You never hear, "An angry mob of liberals..."

    We need a nice balance of brain and spine if we truly are ever going to be actually heard.

    Thanks for the photos, I'm a cashier at a grocery store.  more and more welfare cards coming through.

    I saw a Mom last week ask her little kids to go out to the car and dig through the seats for nickels and such so she could get one more jug of milk.   I just gave her the extra jug.  She started to cry and I walked out and gave her a hug.  

    Crying over milk... while these billionaires are paid back... disgusting.  

    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." ~Jimi Hendrix

    by Damnit Janet on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:46:06 AM PST

  •  How Come French Has Most of... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RantNRaven, Inspector Javert

    ...the useful terms?

    Perhaps it's a legacy of the Norman conquest, but concepts such as, "Noblesse Oblige" and "Rentier" don't have simple English equivalents.

    Pointing out the decline of noblesse oblige in the U.S. and the rise of the rentier class in the U.S. would give you powerful selling points. But because those are both French terms, the use of them comes across as vaguely snooty.



    •  GAH - FREEDOM FRIES!!! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, Dauphin

      We don't need no stinkin' Frenchies!  They're socialist commie Europeans!!!  [also notice that either (1) teahadists don't want to give up "French" salad dressing or (2) even teahadists recognize that no self-respecting Frenchperson would ever use the stuff]...

      I am proud to live in a nation that hasn't practiced torture since 1/20/2009 - I just wish this alone didn't justify celebrating.

      by RethinkEverything on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:37:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't want this topic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auapplemac, Roger Fox

    ever brought up again, until somebody actually comes up with an explanation for WHY this is happening. All these articles do is bitch about how much money these people have, but never why.

    Some say that acknowledgment is the first step. Okay, what's the second step?

    Until there's a diary that shows why this disparity is occurring, and what can be done, you guys should refrain from discussing this.

    People panic too much on this site.

    by thematt523 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:48:10 AM PST

  •  greed is an addiction... (13+ / 0-)

    that's the only plausible explanation i can come up with for wanting that much money.  the adrenaline rush of acquiring more and more must be exhilarating for these people.  sure, i'd like to be more financially secure, but the lack of compassion necessary to be this fucking wealthy would require one to sell one's soul.  plus, i think i'd miss kraft macaroni and cheese.

    A point in every direction is the same as no point at all.

    by oblios arrow on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:49:47 AM PST

    •  Isn't that relative? (0+ / 0-)

      Someone who makes $15,000 a year might feel the same way about someone who makes $85,000 a year. To them, that much money would be enormous to the point that they may not have any idea what to do with it. It would be very easy for them to say that someone who makes $85,000 a year is a greedy POS who sold their soul.

      It's all relative.

      Citizen, Sergeant, US Army (Former), Veteran OIF 1

      by liquidbread on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:07:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No because we're talking about billionaires (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        davej, bhlogger, paige

        I'm not sure if you can make that quite comparable. Remember we're talking about a GIANT wealth gap. A gap so large it's difficult for people to even imagine it. Another reminder is, most wealth is acquired thru an inheritance [ie old money] is therefore not earned so I'm not sure it's all relative.

        "Better to fight for something than live for nothing." - George S. Patton

        by tinhut on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:20:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I understand that (5+ / 0-)

          I get that it is aggravating to see how much money is not being put to good use. I have this argument all the time with my conservative family members. I always argue for more regulations and laws that encourage economic investment of profits and capital rather than financial investements because economic investments affect everyone while financial investments only affect few.

          However, my point still stands. If you are poor, then everyone seems like they are jerks who are profiting off your hard labor. I recall very clearly how angry it made me when I was raking in $3.25 an hour at my minimum wage job, and I was barely getting by while I had to watch the owner drive around in a new Ford truck. And it wasn't even an expensive, fancy truck. It was just new, and that made a difference to me. And that owner only made $85,000 a year from his business.

          We need to advocate for changes that will increase incentives for economic investments and decrease the profitability of financial investments. Just taking money away from rich people isn't going to solve the problem. There is too much incentive for people to find ways to amass wealth. The law and regulations are in favor of helping people create and maintain wealth rather than encouraging them to use that wealth to improve the economic system.

          If we created tax breaks for alternative fuels, clean energy, emission controls, technological improvements that lead to more efficient machines, etc. then those innovations are made available to everyone who can then benefit from their economic impacts. But we don't. Instead we have policies in place that encourage people to invest their money for their own personal gain. That ties money up and takes it out of the economy. The end result is that only the individual benefits.

          This makes sense from a personal financial security perspective (i.e. retirement), but it should not make sense for a business to pursue financial investments in the same way and with the same incentives and benefits. There should be no incentive to do so, and I think that is where increased taxes should be targeted. If businesses have less incentive to make financial investments and hold onto capital, then they will have to turn to the more beneficial economic investments to find ways to increase profits for their shareholders.

          Citizen, Sergeant, US Army (Former), Veteran OIF 1

          by liquidbread on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:07:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Some right-wingers think like that (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        figbash, paige, PsychoSavannah, Margd

        They resent people who have good union jobs because they get benefits, etc.  They hate government workers.  Why?  Because this people have some economic security.  

        I would like to ask them:  isn't economic security a good thing.  Wouldn't you like to have it?

        "YES WE CAN!." Barack Obama Update: Well, apparently we can't.

        by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:52:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Economic Security (4+ / 0-)

          This is exactly right. Economic Security should be the focus of laws and regulations. We should create incentives for businesses to invest in economic improvements rather than financial investments. Right now, everything is skewed towards promoting the idea that you need to use wealth to make more wealth, so we make it easier to do that. But that is bad for the economy as a whole. Instead we should be making it less attractive to invest financially with increased capital gains taxes, elimination of investment loss tax deductions, and other disincentives and instead try to funnel those dollars into economic investments so that everyone benefits.

          Citizen, Sergeant, US Army (Former), Veteran OIF 1

          by liquidbread on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:14:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

            I have a small stock account (am going to retire soon).  My stockbroker has a small firm.  They actually go and meet with the heads of the companies they invest in, try to find out if they are good companies (headed for success and providing a good, not harmful product).  

            These big guys buy and sells dozens of times a day.  They are not investing in anything, they are just playing craps at the casino.

            The word "investment" has become a dirty word.  But when you think of its original meaning it is a good thing--putting time and money into something to make it grow.

            "YES WE CAN!." Barack Obama Update: Well, apparently we can't.

            by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:29:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Of course it is...for them (0+ / 0-)

          All these wingnuts will say they should have economic security.  In fact, they would argue that they are entitled to reap all the economic security they can get because they allegedly contribute to society.  However, they don't believe that lowly worker is entitled to those same benefits.

      •  No, it is not all relative. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is easy to spend $85K/year on actual human needs for a family. Housing. Food. Education.

        It is impossible to spend a billion dollars on actual human needs for one family. The diarist demonstrated that succinctly.

        What could BPossibly go wrong?? -RLMiller

        by nosleep4u on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:18:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Its depressing to think about it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Imagine how much of that money could be used to actually help people.

      "Better to fight for something than live for nothing." - George S. Patton

      by tinhut on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:10:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Pete Peterson, the Kochs, how much does (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pat bunny, puzzled, Karl Rover

      anyone need? They don't need anymore but their egos demand being the top dog.

      I just don't get why we have to suffer for them.

      Why does Pete Peterson need to destroy SS before he dies rich?

    •  People want status markers (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob, karenc13, figbash

      All primates that live in groups have a status hierarchy.  Humans do too.  The unfortunate thing is that having obscene amounts of money is the only thing that can make these mooks satisfied they are really on top of the heap.  

      There was a study that showed that once executive compensation had to be publically disclosed then the compensation of people at the top started skyrocketing.  Everyone said, why can't I make as much as Joe???  Then of course Joe wanted more to show his extreme worthiness.

      Really these guys are all like a bunch of monkeys in a cage preening and posing.

      "YES WE CAN!." Barack Obama Update: Well, apparently we can't.

      by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:01:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's not about 'enough' (4+ / 0-)

        You are exactly right. The huge agglomerations of wealth aren't about having enough, a lot, or more than I could spend in a lifetime.

        It's about having the most. Once you look at it in terms of ego (or megalomania) and not plain ol' greed, it makes a little more sense.

        Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

        by Joe Bob on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:57:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bhlogger, Prognosticator, TomP

    I got a tax increase!!!

    "The United States should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."Thomas Jefferson (also attributed to George Washington and John Adams)

    by regis on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:56:12 AM PST

  •  I'd love to see the philanthropic track record (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bhlogger, Magnifico, RantNRaven

    for those 400 people whose wealth equals the wealth of half the population combined.  I'm sure a handful of them would look pretty good, but I'll bet the large majority would be contributing a much smaller percentage of their wealth to charity than do people with average wealth.

  •  Excellent diary (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bhlogger, RantNRaven, TomP, DawnN, BlueDragon, Margd

    tipped, recc'd and hotlisted.  Thanks for the way you framed this.  

  •  Be Careful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, bhlogger, BlueDragon

    Some fucking asshole might say, "You're just jealous".

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:57:31 AM PST

  •  the tea partiers are right (14+ / 0-)

    to want their country back.  Unfortunately, as one might expect given who tea partiers are, they are wanting the wrong country back.

    After the New Deal, after labor unions won rights to organize almost universally, after tax rates were set to generate enough income to pay for the government, when the social safety net was strengthened and supported by Republicans and Democrats during the 50's, when the Democrats in the 60's won on Medicare,etc.,  poverty remained, but its impact was lessened.  And middle class people could keep up with inflation, save for college for their kids, save a little for retirement, etc.   Income inequality from the roaring 20s was returned to livable levels.  And the country felt prosperous and confident because people saw a future, felt like they could be included in the American Dream.   There were problems, but economically, more people were sharing more of the pie.

    The Southern Strategy and the successful building of a mythos that poor people were getting all the money,  allowed the theft to begin again, and now people are divided over race, blame 'poor people', cling to guns and religion, all to justify the rich taking huge chunks of the wealth.   And people want their country back.  If only they would wake up and take 15% of the wealth back from the rich, things would look like it did in the mid to late sixties for a lot of people.  If we force companies to leave some of the wealth they have taken from America in America for the workers, things would be pretty good again.

  •  can't wait to read all (0+ / 0-)

    the ''free market capitalists'' comments on this thread.....n/t

  •  This is the stuff revolutions are made of. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State, bhlogger

    One important question - if billionaires are buying the political machinery of this country, are they also buying control of its military?

    This can't be happening.

    by TheOrchid on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:05:57 AM PST

  •  couldn't agree with you more.... (4+ / 0-)

    tipped and rec'd

    We Must Address This

    We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.

    I checked out the link to The Working Group on Extreme Inequality, boy what a mind blower.

    Why aren't more americans screaming about this from the rooftops ?

  •  2 Questions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1. Why do you make no distinction between those who have EARNED their money by providing what people want at a price they are willing to pay and those who have accumulated their money through manipulating government intervention to their advantage?

    2. Why have you said nothing about the government interventions on behalf of the wealthy? Redistributing wealth toward the powerful is exactly what governments will always do, no matter who is in office

    •  I suppose (8+ / 0-)

      the one who "earns" a billion by "providing" something "people want" sat there all by him or herself making it, and didn't use any public roads, or hire anyone educated in a "government school" or had a contract enforced by a court, etc.?

      Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

      by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:38:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Your premise (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is just that, a premise. What to make of it is a whole other matter. To your examples of what government provides them:

        1. That's the problem with financing roads by taxes and not tolls. If they used tolls, the rich would pay more for roads, as you're suggesting. The problem is dispersed costs with internalized benefits. When we can, we should finance roads by tolls, and when we can't, we should finance them by fuel taxes.

        2. And I'm sure the person who went to a government school would have just as many opportunities if not for the billionaire who takes the risks to provide jobs. The rich already pay higher tax rates, so they pay more than in proportion of their income to fund public education.

        3. Why are you mentioning contract enforcement and not police protection? That's what contract enforcement is. Police protection is protection from force by others, and fraud IS force. Contract enforcement is police protection, hardly a handout.


        •  Toll booths instead of stop signs (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pat bunny, paige, Audri, EclecticCrafter

          at every intersection.  I get it.  Good luck with that.

          That is a one-dollar-one-vote system. America is supposed to be a one-person-one-vote system.  And that works better.  Taxes and laws and stop signs work better than toll booths and private police forces.

          Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

          by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:36:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  See what you're doing? (0+ / 0-)

            First of all, you're assuming that's a specific I would support given the general principle I laid out. But notice I said "when we can, finance them with tolls, and when we can't, finance them with fuel taxes." A toll booth at every intersection would be very impractical, which is why local roads should be funded with fuel taxes (which also gets the rich in proportion to their use of the roads). Your allegation against my point, even if completely true, does not justify your alternative of a steeply graduated income tax.

            And I never said anything about a private police force, but rather than accusing you of putting words in my mouth, I'm going to give you a chance to justify your assumption. For the record, I believe we need a public police force.

            Thomas Paine said that government, in its best state, is but a necessary evil, and he was right. We therefore need some government and we need to ensure they have the money to perform their functions. Nobody here is disputing that

            Your whole one-dollar-one-vote allegation is completely unfounded. Nothing I have said implies that I believe in charging for votes. You might be more wise to stick to the facts and not say things that are unfounded and offensive.

            •  Your plan assures (0+ / 0-)

              that only the wealthy will be able to travel.

              How much better off the world might be, and how much better other nations might see us, if we held out a hand instead of a fist.

              by Audri on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 10:14:51 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

                Tolls, by definition, charge people for their use of the roads, regardless of their economic status. I was going off of davej's (and George Lakoff's) argument that rich people use roads more than others do, and therefore we are justified in making them pay more for roads than in making other people.

                I'm all for making people pay for roads in proportion to their use, and we should not be putting an income blanket on it when we're trying to get at proportion of use. It's a similar problem with putting a race blanket on affirmative action, when it's really trying to get at socioeconomic status.

                My point is if all rich people do use roads more than everyone else, and we're truly interested in making people pay for roads in proportion to their use, we can do tolls, and we would get the same result as a graduated income tax. Plus, rich people who don't use roads much would then not pay as much. And with their argument that people who use roads more should pay more, why should it be otherwise?

    •  How can you EARN 1 billion $ a year (6+ / 0-)

      I mean, think about it.  Some billionaires go to the office, work late into the night, have some good ideas.  Maybe they should be rewarded for that.  But with that much money?

      "YES WE CAN!." Barack Obama Update: Well, apparently we can't.

      by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:48:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even if you worked 24/7/365 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pat bunny, nosleep4u

        you'd have to be making $114K/hour to "earn" a billion dollars in a year.

        If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

        by ebohlman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:28:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  MGross's comments (0+ / 0-)

          below are notable. I would add that two people can go through all the same steps, risk the same amount of money, log the same number of hours and the same number of calories, yet have a very different income on their tax return at the end of the year. The reason? One of them produced something consumers really desired at a price they were willing to pay, the other didn't.

          Henry Ford said it well, "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."

          •  What a load of garbage. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Here, let me fix it for you:

            two people can go through all the same steps, risk the same amount of money, log the same number of hours and the same number of calories, yet have a very different income on their tax return at the end of the year. The reason? One of them produced something consumers really desired at a price they were willing to pay, bought a Congressman the other didn't

            What could BPossibly go wrong?? -RLMiller

            by nosleep4u on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:35:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Which is a feature (0+ / 0-)

              of government being able to dole out such favors, which it shouldn't be able to. The people you describe deserve no sympathy, but that doesn't change the reality of what I described.

            •  So who's more to blame in your example? (0+ / 0-)

              The one who is working on behalf of himself and to a certain extent, a group of employees or, the public official who has been given the opportunity to serve his or her constituants in their collective best interest?

              TO me it's clear, one is expected - the other is a crime which should be punishable by life in prison with no parole.

              The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

              by ctexrep on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 11:59:41 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Many factors go into it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The biggest one is risk. They risk their time, money, and energy to get an idea off the ground. If the idea becomes a bust, they're out of a lot of money. If it succeeds, they strike it rich. It all depends on whether his idea of what consumers wanted was actually what they wanted.

        That follows whether you're a business owner or an investor. When we reduce the return without reducing the risk, we get less of these attempts.

        When you factor in that their risks laid the foundation of what now provides something consumers enjoy and employment opportunities for many, seeing how they make $1 billion isn't hard.

        The best way I can think of it is this: if I recommend a product to you and you go buy it, I should make money off it. If you then keep buying it, I would make more money. If you then tell others to go buy it and they do, you should make money off it, but so should I, because it gets traced back to me. That's what happens with billionaires and others who lay the groundwork and consequently get residual income from it. But they're not the only ones who profit from it, those who are doing the work now profit from it as well.

      •  You're confusing work and effort. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, The Silent Consensus

        If you make decisions that increase productivity, it's quite easy to earn that much money, given a sufficient scale.

        ExxonMobil does something around $300-400 billion in sales every year.  If you improve profit margins even 1% as CEO though your decisions, you've produced over $3 billion a year in revenue.

        What percentage of that $3 billion do you think the CEO should get for his efforts? Would 33% be unreasonable?

        •  As if that is what a CEO does (0+ / 0-)

          Give me a break.

          That is basic business 101.  

          Let's say I get Exxon to pay the taxes it should pay, can I get a billion for me?

          Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

          by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:19:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

            the owners of a company are the last people to be paid. They get money through sales, otherwise known as revenue. They then have to pay the production workers what they're owed, the lenders what they're owed, and the various departments what they're owed, and the rent and utility bills, then if they have anything left, that's called profit and that's what goes into their pocket. Then that is what's taxed.

            To be clear, I'm not assuming corporations. They are creatures of the state and I don't believe the state should create them.

    •  You really think it's possible (0+ / 0-)

      for someone to actually earn a billion dollars in one year?

      Seriously? Did you not just read in the diary what a billion dollars buys, five times over?

      Noone, not Einstein and MLK and Salk all rolled into one, can make that kind of contribution to society in a lifetime, to say nothing of in a single year.

      These people are not earning their pay. They are leeches.

      What could BPossibly go wrong?? -RLMiller

      by nosleep4u on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:30:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. (7+ / 0-)

    Many people would be hard pressed to visually display their understanding of a thousand vs a million vs a billion.

    Try it. Image a horizontal line  drawn on a typical computer screen.

    On the far left is a mark and label “zero”.
    On the far right a mark and label “One billion”.

    Ask someone to place the mouse cursor approximately where one thousand should go.
    Next ask them to place the cursor where one million should approximately go.

    Zero, one thousand, and one million are all on the left one or two pixels.

    •  The thing that really burns my (11+ / 0-)

      butt is when those who defend the current moving capital to the wealthy system imply that if poor people would only work harder they could make billions too.  As if rich people are rich because of their hard work, long hours, and clever thinking.  I agree that someone could work perhaps twice as hard as I do, (and I'm no slacker) but no way someone could work 1,000,000 times as hard as I do.  There is absolutely no correlation between hard work and pay scale.  It's your position in the game.  And the rules of the game are all made up by humans.  Greedy addicted humans.  

      If we don't all perish, which is the inevitable outcome of rampant greed, I see a future in which conspicuous consumption is considered a disease for which there is rehabilitation.  Just like snorting too much coke.  Big if.

      I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

      by fayea on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:38:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How many AOL millionaires did nothing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Angie in WA State, ebohlman, fayea

        different than anyone else, secretaries, marketing guys...they were just in the right place at the right time.

        I know bunches of them, so not better than anyone else!

        •  If Bill Gates had been born (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          10 years earlier or 10 years later, he'd have wound up at most a millionaire (quite likely given his family wealth) but nothing close to a billionaire.

          If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

          by ebohlman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:31:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Nor should there be. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There is absolutely no correlation between hard work and pay scale.

        Our society rewards results, not effort, because you can eat results, not effort.

        I assume most here wouldn't be on board with rewarding Enron execs for all their hard work in destroying the company, no matter how many late nights they pulled.

        •  So under Eisenhower (0+ / 0-)

          when top tax rates were 90%, and we built the highway system ... who should be rewarded for the improvements that highway system made in the economy?  

          You're saying CEOs should instead be rewarded for stopping us from building high-speed rail which will improve our economy, but the companies and a few wealthy keep the short-term tax gain...

          Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

          by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:22:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Nonsense. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Audri, mattwb

          There are millions of people in this country who've worked hard and productively their entire lives and have nothing to show for it because the billionaires have rigged the system.

          Your defense of the thieving billionaires is a spit in the face of these hard working people.

          What the current system rewards is not productivity but nastiness. Your definition of "results" is solely in terms of income. It is circular, and therefore nonsense.

          Further, it takes no account of actual productivity, nor has any sense of excess, and is immoral in the extreme.

          What could BPossibly go wrong?? -RLMiller

          by nosleep4u on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:47:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  On The Backs of the Poor.. (4+ / 0-)


    cutting home heating aid to the poor as a way to balance the budget-- really, President Obama??

    compared with:

    The President is requesting $118 billion for the DoD in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for Iraq and Afghanistan -- a separate amount, over and above the department's baseline budget.

    anyone else see the massive travesty here? $118 BILLION over and above the baseline.

    fortunately, I doubt these sorts of absurd and ineffective cuts will make it thru Congress.

    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:20:51 AM PST

  •  Great diary (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, Audri, RantNRaven, nosleep4u, Margd

    Periodically I try to think about how in the world I could possibly spend my money if I were a CEO making, say, $25 million a year.  I see that it's pretty tough to do.

    By that point, you're basically just earning more and more money to boost your own ego.  That money ain't gonna "trickle down" to anybody.  How is owning a collection of Ralph Lauren cars going to trickle down?  Could someone please tell me how owning a yacht does anybody any good?

    Bah.  If I had my way, nobody could earn more than $5 million annually in this country.  Make people actually do something productive with money instead of hoarding it.  Consider that you could pay 20 salaries with $1 million.

    T&R from me.  Well done.

  •  Nice story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sagansong, schnecke21, Eric0125, Margd

    I'd love to see each picture paired with it's counterpart - the mansion next to a median price home, the car next to a median price (and age) car,  the yacht & plane next to some pics of public transportation - you get the idea.

    Maybe you could make it a 3 way compare & include pics from food lines, shelters, & tent cities.

  •  I don't think people... (10+ / 0-)

    ...understand just how much money we're talking about here. I think that some people just have this knee-jerk reaction when you say "the richest 1% blah blah blah". They think "You make your choices, you make your bed and you lie in it. " But what they don't understand is that the ultra rich are actively working to make themselves richer via law. They are buying laws and regulations that serve only themselves.

    I know some progressives and liberals who still believe that it's only our choices that make us poor or lower income. Trying to explain to them that the rich are actively working to make us poorer and them richer is difficult.

    So... I shall point them to this diary. Good work!

    "What luck for the rulers that men do not think." - Adolph Hitler

    by bhlogger on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:28:36 AM PST

    •  Maybe a good way to put it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is that being rich means being able to use your money to buy more money for yourself.

      If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

      by ebohlman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:37:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There Are About ... (4+ / 0-)

    1100 billionaires in the world.  About 380 of them are in the U.S.  If they control $1.6 trillion among themselves (.00012 percent of the population), they contol about 11 percent of the country's wealth.

    Most of these folks are people you never heard of.  Donald Trump is a piker by comparison.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:29:55 AM PST

  •  You know... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Bob, Audri, RantNRaven

    ... I make about 42k a year and I'm in the same tax bracket as someone who makes over 80k a year?

    Blows my fucking mind.

    "What luck for the rulers that men do not think." - Adolph Hitler

    by bhlogger on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:31:30 AM PST

  •  As usual, a hard-hitting diary... (5+ / 0-)

    ...I would recommend that you add Economy and Labor to your tags.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:37:36 AM PST

  •  Coming back to this topic (6+ / 0-)

    How do we establish value of people?  Why are some people considered so valuable they have to be outrageously compensated?

    Why are some people with skills (electricians, woodworkers, etc.) considered not very valuable and somewhat expendable and interchangeable and some people with different skills (being able to play a sport well, being able to manage large groups of people) seen as much more valuable and less replaceable?

    I can understand why somebody who is able to run a large corporation is a valuable person with a hard-to-replace skill set.  But is that person really millions of times more valuable than the person who repairs the copiers or sets up the computer networks?

    "Right wing freak machine" General Wes Clark

    by Tracker on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:39:01 AM PST

  •  Someboday please help me out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pam from Calif, raincrow

    How do I recommmend this w/o using my facebook or twitter?

    I know this is out there somewhere, but I'm at work, pressed for time

  •  . (9+ / 0-)

    Pyramid of Capitalist System


    We Rule You
    We Fool You
    We Shoot At You
    We Eat For You
    We Work For All
    We Feed All

    Full explanation of this 1911 political poster in link

  •  A little good news? (7+ / 0-)

    Now that everyone is really bummed out.

    G.M. Workers to Get $189 Million in Profit Sharing

    And who was it who saved the US car industry?  You know: that guy who doesn't care at all about jobs, what's his name, oh yes, the president.

    "YES WE CAN!." Barack Obama Update: Well, apparently we can't.

    by Time Waits for no Woman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:43:12 AM PST

  •  AWESOME! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is just fantastic.  Thank you.  I'm going to share this all day long!  Thank you.

  •  The Best (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State, Audri, Nailbanger

    This is the best diary I've ever read here since joining in 2006.

    I'll be sharing this with everyone possible for years to come, or until this dire situation no longer exists.

    Thank you for posting this, davej.

    Be of sound mind and politcs -SP

    by Soundpolitic on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:45:57 AM PST

  •  Cannot be stressed too much--if folks (3+ / 0-)

    REALLY got how skewed it is, they would march out into the streets or online like the Egyptians.

  •  I don't think the moral angle works with Repubs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    concernedamerican, raincrow

    ... which is always amazing as they are the Jesus party and all that.  Trying to use guilt won't really work either.  I think most Repubs believe that billionaire should be able to accumulate as much wealth as he can.

    The argument needs to be made that it is just bad economics.  An economy can't function if the disparity is that wide.  Poorly paraphrasing Ford - pretty soon there ain't going to be enough folks left to buy shit.

    The smartest thing you'll read todayTM.

    by TheC on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:46:45 AM PST

    •  They've skinned him and are wearing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, Nailbanger

      that skinning as a disguise to hide the pulsating mess of greed and total disregard of others and consequences. It is as if they are more concerned with building a huge funeral pyre of the rest of us to take with them as smoke when they die after a life of extreme gluttony and self indulgence.

      But they love their hollowed out Jesus. Coming soon to the extreme right : an erasure of the words of Jesus to be replaced with the book being rewritten by the greediest and most self-centered. So they will have an animated hollowed out Jesus. Then they can simply reprogram him to say what rings thier chimes. Palin will buy 6. Rush will be a major contributor to the reprogramming along with Oreilly, Coulter and Beck.

    •  That's what import/export markets are for. (0+ / 0-)

      In a global economy, you have a government that can only act nationally, but companies that act globally.  The US is in competition with other nations, who have every incentive to cater to businesses in the interest of their citizen's wealth.

      Instead of leveling the playing field with regulation, you simply force your country to assume a handicap.

  •  So... what are their names? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, Chimes of Freedom

    Here's a place to start looking:

    The really rich, the really connected over multiple generations, are old money... in most cases not the richest, but when you add all the family together, it's pretty formidable... plus, they have the connections.

    It's not the Gates's, the Buffets, even the Waltons or the Kochs... those guys are newcomers.  The key to power is not get rich quick, no matter the amount.... it's the steady accumulation of wealth and concomitant efforts to preserve the status quo which make the uber rich so effective.  This is the oligarchy, the American plutocracy.

    Bill and Melinda can't get invited to an intimate Tuesday evening dinner for 14 at the Dodge estate... or the Duke estate... or the Vanderbilt, or the Astor, the Brown, the Du Pont, the Morgan, etc., etc.

    These guys are the "American royalty."  Americans are so much in awe of them, no one talks about them.  We've done such a good job of escaping the class system in England, we've built one of our own.

    Kick apart the structures - Seth

    by ceebee7 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:05:52 AM PST

    •  Accumulation of weath is alot easier (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ceebee7, nosleep4u

      once you have your basic needs paid for.  That is the reason that taxes should be progressively higher as income goes up.

    •  I should point out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that Bill Gates actually comes from old money (his father is a millionaire and so was his grandfather); he's not nouveau riche and as such would rank reasonably high on the "status" dimension of Weber's three-part (class, status, power) model of social stratification.

      That he's old money also explains why he's fairly progressive rather than being a raging Randroid.

      If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

      by ebohlman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:47:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's crazy (0+ / 0-)

    Come to think of it, how many houses can one person own and live in ? How many cars/jet planes does one guy or gal really need to have?

  •  Access to graphs? (0+ / 0-)

    Could you provide links to graphs?  I would love to post pictures of the income distribution in the US.  It says much better than words how large the gap is.

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:17:16 AM PST

  •  Nicely done (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State, raincrow, Eric0125

    It's amazing that when you go on a shopping spree with that billion dollars, because it seems like you buy the world, and you  still have more than enough remaining to buy the world again.  

    I think that I would consider a billion dollars to simply be an endless supply of money.  

    "Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand."

    by otto on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:20:12 AM PST

  •  How MUCH wealth? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, raincrow

    The top 1% of US households added 20 trillion dollars to their net worth from 1985 to 2010, which is more than the entire accumulated wealth that existed on the entire planet in 1980.

    And, as I like to add, most of that wealth accumulation belonged to the top .1% of households.

    Which is fine. Good for them. The problem arises when everyone else suffers a marked decrease in their quality of life because of it: poverty, education, health, etc.

    •  They could not do it without the govt. (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, the basic security and infrastructure that government brings is critical. but just the existence of that wealth is by government design, created out of nothing.

    •  So, its not actually "fine" (0+ / 0-)

      Its not a good thing, or "good for them". Its not good for the economy. It corrupts the government. It undermines the entire foundation of this country. It will destroy this country.

      The most patriotic thing we could do would be to make huge tax reforms that redistribute this wealth back to a more reasonable balance.

      To say its "fine for them" is the same thing as saying you support this trend. In reality, the deficit and the financial collapse is the direct result of this exact same issue. Its not fine.

      I should put something smart or witty here, but can't think of anything.

      by onionjim on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 02:37:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  While sailing around on the oceans of the world... (4+ / 0-)

    we encountered a few of those mega yachts. We saw one in Panama, complete with helicopter and sailing yacht onboard. But, this one must have been owned by a poor dirty hippie because the sailboat onboard was only 40'.

    In Tahiti we came across a 165' sailing yacht(aka big freaking sailboat named Perseus!) We met the Brazilian engineer and shared a few beers with him. This little yacht only cost $25 million. Oh, and another $2.5 million a year to keep it floating!

    Mrs. R happened to be in a pearl shop in Papeete when Mrs. Perseus came in to do a little Christmas shopping for family and friends. They closed the store, but let Mrs. R stay inside. When Mrs. R returned to our humble 37' sailboat, she asked, "How much is $10 million Polynesian Francs in US dollars?" After a rough calculation I responded, "Around a $100,000". Here reply? "That's how much Mrs. Perseus just spent on Christmas gifts!" I'm sure that's just chump change to them!

    It must be nice to spend money like that. I can't even begin to imagine...

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    by reflectionsv37 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:25:44 AM PST

  •  "behind every great fortune lies a great crime" (5+ / 0-)

    been said many times, bears repeating.


    witness the GOPranos...rethugs....Paul Wolfowitz: "If they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too."

    by change the Be on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:29:09 AM PST

  •  $1bn/year = $2.7m/day (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paige, raincrow, leema, Margd

    You would have to spend $2.7 million every single day for 365 days to completely spend a $1 billion yearly salary.

    That almost sounds like a chore to me. I think I would run out of things to buy by the time my birthday rolls around (Jan 25). I could pay off all my outstanding debt (student loans, car loan, etc.) on Jan 1, at about 12:31am.


  •  Reading this actually made me nauseous. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davej, concernedamerican, eru, socalmonk

    Sickening. Just, sickening. And how do we stand up against it? How do we even begin to "address" it?

  •  Perhaps you should include a photo (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, paige, eru, raincrow, socalmonk

    of a corpse being removed from a house or apartment where someone died for lack of heat or air conditioning.

    The community of fools might be small if it were not such an accomplished proselytizer.

    by ZedMont on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:32:06 AM PST

    •  While reading this diary, I kept thinking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, ZedMont

      about Jacob Riis' pictures of the NY slums during the first decades of the 20th century.

      At times I feel we really are reliving those decades when the "Robber Barons" ruled. And most people (it seems to me) know nothing the "Robber Barons" but know the "Cadillac Queen" of the Regan era quite well. She now receives "earned income credit" using deceiving methods.

  •  Taxes are one thing but to me something (0+ / 0-)

    is inherently wrong with a system that allows people to make so much money, so quickly, and often in such nefarious, illegal, or non-contributing manners.  I'm not sure I know what to do about a Bristol Palin, or Sarah Palin for that matter, getting rich, but it doesn't sit well with me.  

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:46:45 AM PST

  •  Trying to find the pic of Koch behind his wall. (5+ / 0-)

    Someone snapped a great shot of Koch and his grand-daughter, err wife, at their recent buyout of America, secret meeting. He is behind his wall grouchily, looking at the protest. Anyone have a link or the picture?

  •  The rich got richer lately... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...and it shows in luxury item spending;

    High-end retailers led the increase in December sales at stores open at least a year, company data showed Jan. 6. The Bloomberg Retail Sales Luxury Index jumped 8.1 per cent from the same month a year earlier, while the Bloomberg Retail Sales Discount Index eked out a 0.9-percent rise.; an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:07:16 PM PST

  •  davej - you know, I think it might make (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, Sychotic1, ybruti, eru, leema

    that pie chart showing the Distribution of US Wealth, 2007 even more impressive if you were to post a similar pie chart for the year 1955.

    The difference under a top marginal tax rate of 35% (2007)vs 91% (1955).

    "in Order to form a more perfect Union"
    Basta de Guerra. No más. Enough War. No more.

    by Angie in WA State on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:07:56 PM PST

    •  Good idea, but ditch the comparison (0+ / 0-)

      of marginal tax rates. You simply can't compare pre-1986 rates with post-1986 rates because there were major before/after differences in what constituted taxable income. The 1955 rate would have applied to a much smaller percentage of a wealthy person's total income than the 2007 rate would. Pre-1986 there were all sorts of deductions and exemptions and offsets that don't apply now (trivial example: consumer credit interest was as deductible as mortgage interest back then). All sorts of tax shelter schemes that are forbidden now were legal back then.

      If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

      by ebohlman on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:59:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I keep hearing this argument couched in (0+ / 0-)

        different terms.

        But the bald facts of history show that top marginal tax rates matter.


        Before the Great Depression era (circa 1929-1935) this country really did NOT have a middle class.

        We had the wealthy and the poor and the destitute.

        The reforms of the FDR era including a huge jump in top marginal tax rates lead to about 60 years of what is commonly called Peace and Prosperity in the US, and the rise of the first true Middle Class in America.

        The Income Inequality of the Roaring 20s took a beatdown - and stayed relatively in the same status for most of that 60 years.

        The past thirtysome years, starting with the Reagan Administration, included significant cuts to top marginal tax rates - and began the rise once more of a wide disparity in Income Inequality.

        You may make the argument that the two things are unrelated - but decades of data showing where the assets (cash and non-cash) in this country lie, and the federal regulations in effect during the time, including tax rates, tell a different story.

        "in Order to form a more perfect Union"
        Basta de Guerra. No más. Enough War. No more.

        by Angie in WA State on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:02:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your examples (0+ / 0-)

          involve changes from one pre-1986 marginal rate to another, or one post-1986 marginal rate to another, so they're apples-to-apples comparisons. It's quite legitimate to compare today's marginal rates to Clinton-era levels, for example, because the same marginal rate would result in (almost) the same effective tax rate. But comparing today's rates to Eisenhower-era rates is apples-and-oranges, because the rates don't apply to the same percentages of total income. A given marginal rate back then would translate to a lower effective rate today.

          If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

          by ebohlman on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 08:11:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think it's going to get a lot worse... (4+ / 0-)

    before it has any chance of getting better.

  •  I doubt that we'll ever see much changed. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As long as the folks that are making $50,000 a year consider themselves middle class there won't be much pressure to fix the wealth disparities.

    If and when they wake the fuck up and realize that they're really just one level above poverty, and living on the crumbs that 'trickle down' from the wealthy, we may see the pressures applied on politicians.

  •  Let's talk downscale (0+ / 0-)

    You can stay in a low-end suite (the "Deluxe One Bedroom Suite" with a single king-size bed) at the Burj Al Arab for the advance purchase rate of 1,502 US dollars per night. I dare say that's way out of the price range of the vast majority of Americans looking to take a vacation. But even that's fairly palatial, at 1830 square feet.

    What's it going to cost you to spend the weekend at one of the more out of the way, lesser-known ski resorts in Colorado, like Winter Park? Not Vail, Beaver Creek or even Steamboat, but a place where locals go. A mere $159/night will get you slopeside next to the Zephyr quad lift, in about 550 square feet of living space, one bedroom, one bath. Got a family? Double that rate for 2 bedrooms.

    Have we reached your price point yet? I'm still looking...

    workers of the world, unite
    -8.75, -7.03

    by Chimes of Freedom on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:24:41 PM PST

    •  1830 square feet one bedroom suite! (0+ / 0-)

      That's nearly twice the size of my 2 bedroom house!

      How much better off the world might be, and how much better other nations might see us, if we held out a hand instead of a fist.

      by Audri on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 10:34:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wish all the people of the world enough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I wish all the people of the world enough.  

    I do not wish great wealth for anyone, and yet a few will always have it.  It is not, in my view a noble thing in and of itself to have great wealth.  Despot is not a noble word.

    I wish enough for all to live a good and happy, useful life.  

    I will never be wealthy, and I do not want to be.  I only want enough.  I also wish myself enough to have a happy useful life.

    ** A useful life is one that leaves the world a better place, when one departs this life.  

  •  Sachs: Do we need Egypt in America? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thinkdouble, RainyDay

    Dr. Jeffrey Sachs was just on Bloomberg and said America has "two center right parties owned by the rich"

    Is it time for Egypt in America?

    The Top 1% and the United States of Inequality

    by FIREeconomy on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:44:37 PM PST

  •  Yippee we're all gonna die. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    john keats, Betty Pinson

    "For them that think death's honesty will not fall upon them naturally, life sometimes must get lonely"

    (who else) Dylan's It's all right ma.

  •  The USA needs an Annual Federal Estate Tax (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thinkdouble, tarminian, paige, UU VIEW

    The wingnuts constantly gripe about the "death tax," what most of know as the estate tax. It is levied against a small percentage of our nation's richest people when they transfer their property when they die.

    Consider that most people have only one asset worth mentioning: their house. In practically all of the USA that house is taxed every year & we pay that property tax. Note that about 1/5th of houses are "underwater" today - their mortgage debt exceeds the value of the home, yet they still are required to pay the annual property tax, despite the fact that they hold no equity at all in the house. The powers that be see nothing wrong with taxing us like this.

    If we want to bring this ugly, massive disparity of wealth back into rational bounds, we have to levy an annual property tax against all property - including stocks and such. If some poor schmoe with an underwater mortgage has to pay property taxes on his home, then the mega-billionaires in that gated community across the tracks should be required to pay annual taxes on his/her massive portfolio.

    Greenspan admits his free market faith was "a mistake" - Reliance on self interest creates a flaw "in how the world works."

    by Otherday on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:47:13 PM PST

  •  Thanks for a terrific diary (3+ / 0-)

    Now show us the tent cities made up of people who've had their homes foreclosed on.

    I can see Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Match Girl" being played out in real life--in this country.

    I may be heterosexual, but I'm NOT a Mad Hetter!

    by Neferhuri on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:55:48 PM PST

  •  Wealth & Power website (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Catte Nappe

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:02:47 PM PST

    •  Excellent, excellent article (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A remarkable study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) reveals that Americans have no idea that the wealth distribution (defined for them in terms of "net worth") is as concentrated as it is. When shown three pie charts representing possible wealth distributions, 90% or more of the 5,522 respondents -- whatever their gender, age, income level, or party affiliation -- thought that the American wealth distribution most resembled one in which the top 20% has about 60% of the wealth. In fact, of course, the top 20% control about 85% of the wealth (refer back to Table 1 and Figure 1 in this document for a more detailed breakdown of the numbers).

      Even more striking, they did not come close on the amount of wealth held by the bottom 40% of the population. It's a number I haven't even mentioned so far, and it's shocking: the lowest two quintiles hold just 0.3% of the wealth in the United States. Most people in the survey guessed the figure to be between 8% and 10%, and two dozen academic economists got it wrong too, by guessing about 2% -- seven times too high. Those surveyed did have it about right for what the 20% in the middle have; it's at the top and the bottom that they don't have any idea of what's going on.

      Americans from all walks of life were also united in their vision of what the "ideal" wealth distribution would be, which may come as an even bigger surprise than their shared misinformation on the actual wealth distribution. They said that the ideal wealth distribution would be one in which the top 20% owned between 30 and 40 percent of the privately held wealth, which is a far cry from the 85 percent that the top 20% actually own. They also said that the bottom 40% -- that's 120 million Americans -- should have between 25% and 30%, not the mere 8% to 10% they thought this group had, and far above the 0.3% they actually had. In fact, there's no country in the world that has a wealth distribution close to what Americans think is ideal when it comes to fairness. So maybe Americans are much more egalitarian than most of them realize about each other, at least in principle and before the rat race begins.

      Also a nice segment on the relationship between wealth and power, and a comparison of the CEO/worker pay ratio - over time, and with other countries.


      The ratio of CEO pay to factory worker pay rose from 42:1 in 1960 to as high as 531:1 in 2000, at the height of the stock market bubble, when CEOs were cashing in big stock options. It was at 411:1 in 2005 and 344:1 in 2007, according to research by United for a Fair Economy. By way of comparison, the same ratio is about 25:1 in Europe.

      And that's just one article - among others I want to go back and read
      The Left and the Right In Thinking, Personality, and Politics

      Why Progressives Should Stop Blaming the Media

  •  It seems our culture is geared toward (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    brainwashing (i use that term very loosely) us toward the attitude that if you have the means to live this way, you have to live this way. When the truth is, you don't have to live this way. Money should open your options in life, not put you in a box simply because you have the means to do so. Although i love old architecture, it's becoming more rare and, as a result, more expensive because of keeping up an old house due to lack of craftsmen experienced in the work.

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:04:38 PM PST

  •  My problem isn't with the top 1% (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    even when combined with 9% more to give the top tenth. It's the top 50% that's killing me. Combined they own 97 and a half percent of the wealth, and  that percentile from 50 to 90 enables the top 10 and 1 percent.

    Look what happened on health care. Benefits to the bottom half of society are like a 3 alarm fire to that top 50%, all of a sudden it's "kill the bill". Protecting American jobs? OK for high tech workers, not so important for landscapers or carpenters. Never hear much about minimum wage.

    It's not the left and right that has their boot on my neck, it's that 50%.

    The lower 50% votes Dem, the upper 50%, well not as heavy.

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:08:17 PM PST

  •  How many surfs work for the Squire (0+ / 0-)

    If this were a earlier era in England  today's wealthy would be the Squires, or land owners, and the rest of us would be the peasants or surfs that used the Squire's land and paid him a percentage of their income, perhaps in goods. So let's see how many surfs work for the Squire. Assume that the Squire takes in $1 Billion per year. Assume that the surfs make today's median wage. We'll use the number in the diary $50,000 although that's actually high for individual median income. Lets further assume that the Squire's tax is 10% of your income.

    It takes 200,000 of us median income workers to support one wealthy billionaire.

    That one person should be able to enjoy the equivalent of 10% of the labor of 200,000 of his fellow citizens is obscene beyond belief.

  •  a million / billion / trillion compared (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Link here:

    It's an eye opener.

    "Watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal..."-7.75, -7.28

    by solesse413 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 01:28:02 PM PST

  •  30 Years of Neoliberalism (4+ / 0-)

    This is what free market capitalism does when not tempered by the leveling hand of government.

    This is what happened in 1929 after a couple of decades of freemarket (laissez Faire) capitalism.

    It is what always will happen if unfettered capitalism is allowed ... it is the purpose of capitalism.

    It is the job of progressives and liberals to offer an alternative to Neoliberalism.  Unfortunately, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are both disciples of Neoliberalism.

    Time is short.  The rest of the world is waking up, why not America?

    •  I think most educated people understand this (0+ / 0-)

      Unfortunately most people (including kos readers) simply arent educated enough to understand this.

      Many republicans want too little government intervention and too many liberals (including most KOS readers) want too much.

      I would love to see competition (not necessarily privatization) for most services with the federal govt providing an oversight and regulatory role.

      The most successful people will always accumulate a lot of wealth in any system. I dont begrudge them that money, but it is important to understand how the concentration of wealth allows people to flout equality under the law by influencing the government system. It should be the role of the government to  reduce unbalancing influence - which could mean taxation as income by all wealth transferred at death.

      If I give you the wealth when Im alive it is income to you. If you receive it after Im dead it should still be income to you. This is logically consistent and practical as well.

      Unfettered capitalism will eventually result in oligarchy or dictatorships - always.

      Estate taxes are a good way to

  •  Even Thomas Friedman's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    home is beyond the pale.

  •  at my current wage of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davej, Audri would take me how many years to save a billion dollars?  0, 0, carry the zero....fuck!

    But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have laid my dreams under your feet; tread softly, because you tread on my dreams. – Yeats

    by Bill O Rights on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:36:02 PM PST

  •  The Question Should Be Asked How Many (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    houses, cars, boats does one person need anyway, when the majority of Americans will never own a house, car or ride in a boat.  Income inequality in the US is higher than Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or even Pakistan.  The difference is people in the US are not starving.  

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:38:15 PM PST

  •  This diary is a classic and a keeper (7+ / 0-)

    I will be referencing it over and over.  To think that $1 billion is what we spend every 3 days in Afghanistan on military operations, when $4 billion would employ the entire country for 2 years at rebuilding and immediately stop the war.  But that's not what it's about.  Military contractors and shareholders want to get to their own $1 billion in personal wealth so they can have the things in this diary.  So they give lots of money to congressmen, who vote to keep the wars funded.

    "War is a racket" - General Smedley Butler

  •  Many years ago (5+ / 0-)

    my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was largely out of control, but we were unwilling to put her in an institution. I agreed to quit college "temporarily" (with 4 hours left on my degree) to help out.

    Over time, and with the right medications, my mother got better (more or less). But in the meantime, I had used up all my savings helping to keep the family solvent. Before I knew it, I had found myself stuck in a vicious circle: working median-income jobs, trying to save up enough to get back to school but never being able to. I had become a race-track dog, forever chasing that fake rabbit that I was never going to catch. Meanwhile, I got married; a few years later, we had a kid. I love her to death, but that one kid eats up pretty much all of our money. I'm trying to give to her that which had been taken from me--but I know her future is even more precarious than mine ever was.

    Here's my point: before my mother got sick, I was on the classic American path: get good grades, get into a good college, get a degree, yada-yada. But one family blowout, just one, derailed my entire future. One bad turn shouldn't send an entire family over the edge, nor should it have such a huge impact on that family's next generation.

    I worked (gladly) to help pay for my wife's ambition. She became a professional artist in the summer of 2001. I don't have to remind anyone what happened a few months later. What should've been our family's golden ticket became a protracted struggle as potential clients' "disposable income" became less and less disposable. We get by, but we're nowhere near where we need to be--where we should be--by now.

    These rich bastards, who have absolutely zero clue what it's like to live in the "real world," need to be whacked upside the head with reality. Maybe letting everything crash in '08 would've done it; I don't know. I do know that, had it all crashed, my family would not have been much worse off than we already were, while the super-wealthy would have gotten to see up close how the other half lives. (I'm sorry--I mean how the other 93% lives.)

    And it kills me how their "patriotic" propaganda convinces people that they're fighting for the average citizen. And what happens when the people--the have-not majority--come to their senses and decide that enough's enough? It's enough to make one wonder if something like what happened in Egypt could ever happen here.

    There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

    by Phil T Duck on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 02:45:37 PM PST

  •  Stregthen (0+ / 0-)

    I don't want to be a party pooper, but it would really help your argument if you had a link for "Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year." I went digging and was able to find an article from Forbes on people who made $1 billion in 2009. Now granted that was a bearish year, but we are talking about something like 9 people in the whole world (led by Michael Bloomberg).

    I completely agree with the sentiments of the diary, but your example talks about the top 1 millionth of a percent of the world's population. But what about if we say, people who make $1 million a year. That number is MUCH bigger. In 2008, nearly 325,000 tax returns were filed with an annual gross income greater than $1 million (0.2% of all returns).

    Income inequality doesn't mean the difference between people who make $1 billion a year and those who make the $27,000 a year. Even those who make $1 million a year are wealthy and comparing them to the median represents significant inequality. I appreciate what this diary tries to do, but it needs to be framed differently. After all, no one was EVER proposing a new marginal tax rate on income above $1 billion.

    PrairieStateBlue - Open Source Illinois Politics

    by ltsply2 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:04:53 PM PST

  •  Thanks so much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but we are supposed to worship them like on all of these rotten evil "housewives" and othe non- scripted TV shows that show us what we are missing and what we should aspire to.

    It's ok as long as we have rich people to make our decisions for us.

    Evil in America courtesy of evil rich people.

    John KKKasich, R-OH-gov hates black people, women, and children.

    by OHknighty on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:09:09 PM PST

  •  A visual representation is tempting... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Permit a single "x" to stand for $29,000.

    Enough Xs to equal $1,000,000,000 (34,483 Xs) fills almost 10 full pages.  

    I'm tempted to post it, since I went and checked to see how many pages it filled.  But that might constitute breaking the site in a way that would not be appreciated by the development crew. Nor by anyone reading comments beyond that long, long, long, long, long, long list of Xs.

    "Be just and good." John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

    by ogre on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 03:48:22 PM PST

  •  That stable of politicians? (0+ / 0-)

    Dirt cheap.

    Bargain basement deals

  •  When money loses its value (0+ / 0-)

    The richest will become the poorest overnight.

    They didn't take baby steps when they saved the Rich.

    by Whimsical Rapscallion on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:11:33 PM PST

  •  Beyond disgusting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is downright criminal.

    If I listen to one more TV talking head say that social security needs to be cut and even fail to mention that the wealthy should be paying way more tax my head will explode.

    That's the real problem here.  It's not only that they are obscenely wealthy but they control media and governments.  Indeed, they control our lives.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:18:00 PM PST

  •  Turn this into an infomercial and show it on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Fox News. Hourly. Every day.

    Seriously. I think this is an excellent diary; the thing is that most people here understand the consequences of excessive accumulation of wealth. The people who need to be exposed to the information you've presented are the ones who DON'T come here and would rather not deal with it.

  •  Pardon me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave the Rave

    Do you have any Grey Poupon?

    Oh, there you are, Perry. -Phineas -SLB-

    by boran2 on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:23:51 PM PST

  •  But they earned it blah blah blah (0+ / 0-)

    It doesn't matter if they really did get all their money by virtue of some innate superiority.  They have resources that we need, and we are numerous enough to make them give it up.  Property rights are only as existent as a good reason to enforce them.

    We didn't win the Cold War. We lost it to the same corporate oligarchs that Russia did.

    by verdastelo on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 04:30:05 PM PST

  •  Why the fuck do they want all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dhshoops, publicv

    that crap.  I've seen those Maybachs.  BFD.  Fancy, schmancy watches.  BFD again.

    Does it make them happy that they are ruining the planet?  Does it make them happy that they are driving people into poverty?  

    What a hideous way to spend your life.

  •  My list of what to do: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davej, Claudius Bombarnac

    1. Expand the estate tax.  (One of the few places where accumulated wealth is actually taxed, and it only affects heirs, who clearly did not in any sense whatsoever "earn" that wealth.)

    2. Lift the cap on social security taxes.  (Solves any concern about social security right there.)

    3. Make the income tax code more progressive.  (It has been going in the wrong direction for more than thirty years.)

    4. Rethink and renegotiate "free" trade policies.  (Both for our benefit and the benefit of other nations, reverse some of the incentives to destroy local productive capacities, offshore jobs, and concentrate wealth in a few multinational corporations.)

    5. Re-regulate the financial industry.  (Banking should be boring again, not a way to get incredibly rich without producing a thing.)

    6. Cut U.S. military spending in half.  (We would still have, by a huge margin, the largest military in the world.)

    7. Establish true universal single-payer health care.  (Would  save enormous resources wasted now, unleash entrepreneurial creativity, and make our larger businesses more competitive.)

    8.  Invest in education, green technology, and infrastructure.  (Would make us more productive in the future, wean us off fossil fuels, create jobs, and help save the planet.)

    You want morning in America?  This would do it.

    What's your list?

    Civil marriage is a civil right.

    by UU VIEW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 05:55:54 PM PST

    •  That's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UU VIEW

      a great list.

      But how to get it?

      I say we need a Left Wing Tea party.

      The Right Wing Tea party has their leaders scared and on the run.

      We need the same.

      •  The same, except sane. (0+ / 0-)

        The how to get it is, of course, the hard part.  I join wherever I can with others who share the same vision.

        Of course, it's frustrating to realize that the problem is not that the solutions are not there--it's a problem of political will (and of distortion of politics by the very concentration of wealth that this diary is about).

        In the end, it's not even better for the super-wealthy for the wealth gap to keep growing.  A good plenty in a more egalitarian society would make most people happier than having to wall yourself off in fear of the millions of people you are fighting to keep impoverished.  Occasionally, wealthy people realize this, and they are some of the allies for change that we need.

        Civil marriage is a civil right.

        by UU VIEW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 08:34:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          UU VIEW

          we need to be the insane left.

          That want what we want or our Dems are voted out.

          That is how the Tea Partiers are getting their way. BTW

          •  Well, the policies we want are sane. (0+ / 0-)

            And I don't think we are actually as insane as the far-right Tea Partiers, who in fact are largely advocating against their own best interests.

            But if you mean we need to be just as devoted to our ideas and willing to vote out those who don't support them, then yes.  And if that looks rabid and insane (as it would be portrayed by the media), then maybe it could be called crazy like a fox.

            Hmm...  Just how did you pick your Dkos name?

            Civil marriage is a civil right.

            by UU VIEW on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:39:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  It's a start (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UU VIEW, Claudius Bombarnac

      Just a start.  Sigh.  I would add getting corporate money completely out of politics and out of affecting public attitudes.

      Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

      by davej on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 08:39:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't see much of those occuring (0+ / 0-)

      in a manner that would be effective in the near future.

      The current form of capitalism is like a junky on crack - it won't stop until it hits bottom. But it won't hit bottom as long as it's co-dependent government partners keep bailing it out.

      The basic problem is the current form of capitalism itself. Labor has to be be made a part of free trade and the non-existent 'invisible hand' has to be replaced with effective regulation.

      The Chicago School of neoliberal economic policy has to be thrown on the junk-heap of history. I don't see this happening under the current administration as Obama is a true believer in it.

  •  Add the Weird Al song (0+ / 0-)

    "This Is the Life"

    Or perhaps "Baby, You're a Rich Man" now that young people have become aware of it from "The Social Network":

  •  And don't save those seeds, serf, (5+ / 0-)

    they're copyrighted by Monsanto, Inc.

  •  The way the system has been perverted... (4+ / 0-)

    ... since the Eisenhower years ensures a concentration of wealth that produces more wealth but does not produce employment; it does not enrich those who actually do the work nor does it lead to excellence nor innovation.

    There will always be rich people; I'm fine with that.  But we have truly established a new hereditary aristocracy.  We've got lords and ladies who've learned to blend in and to convince their serfs that their economic interests are aligned.

    The inadequate is the enemy of the necessary.

    by JRandomPoster on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:40:56 PM PST

  •  great explanations and examples (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for showing how bad it has gotten.

    many thanks, davej

    I dream of things that never were  -- and ask WHY NOT?
    -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by jamess on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 06:50:22 PM PST

  •  I am going to be like that some day. Don't (0+ / 0-)

    raise my taxes nbow just as I am getting close!

  •  Your last few paragraphs sum up (0+ / 0-)

    exactly what time it is.

    God is good. If it isn't good. It isn't God.

    by publicv on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 07:27:01 PM PST

  •  Talked to a pilot (5+ / 0-)

    who picked up a dog in Boca Raton, flew it to a groomer in NYC, and back again a few hours later.

    We can't even imagine the money of the guys who are pulling our strings. And yet we spat on this site about nickels and dimes.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 07:42:21 PM PST

    •  That's (0+ / 0-)

      just sick. They are sick psychopaths.

      The day will come when justice prevails.

    •  Sounds kind of familiar. (0+ / 0-)

      Once upon a time there was a family who struck it rich in Rexburg, ID with a company called "Diet Center". They loved their little family compound in Idaho with the heated outdoor swan pond and all. Even let the locals drive around the property to see their Christmas lights and the lights on the fountain in the swan pond. Then they decided to get a duplicate setup in Scottsdale. Had all their clothes and other things in duplicate so they wouldn't have to move so much stuff when they wanted a change of scene. Just had their pilot fly stuff around ahead of time. Didn't even have a jet in those days, just a couple of lowly King Airs. But they paid for a lot of that with company funds and wrote it off. Back then the IRS was a bit less fettered by downsizing than it is today and they eventually had to pay the piper. But they survived.

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:10:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  At least that is an example of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      'dribble down' neoliberal economics. The dog groomer and the pilot got a tiny bit of the spoils.

      Unfortunately, most of the money moves around the world as an untaxed commodity - money making money - with no productivity involved.

  •  Those pictures arnt effective. The arguments are. (0+ / 0-)

    The photos just look like a travelogue or commercial photography.
    In themselves, they don't say anything about the larger point you want to make.
    How about a side-by-side highend/lowend pairing?

  •  Jack London observed this phenomenom (0+ / 0-)

    of wildly disparate fortune:

    And Ah Chun sat and smoked on, and in the curling smoke-wreaths he saw take shape the face and figure of Toy Shuey--Toy Shuey, the maid of all work in his uncle's house in the Cantonese village, whose work was never done and who received for a whole year's work one dollar. And he saw his youthful self arise in the curling smoke, his youthful self who had toiled eighteen years in his uncle's field for little more. And now he, Ah Chun, the peasant, dowered his daughter with three hundred thousand years of such toil.

    From The House of Pride  - Chun Ah Chun

  •  Well, perhaps the best thing (0+ / 0-)

    for the planet would be if "the 6000" just went ahead and finished the job. Not what I would want that necessarily but at least there would be that consolation.

    I hope I'm joking about anything like that actually coming to pass.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:06:19 PM PST

  •  What bothers me the most is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tracker, rexymeteorite

    The fact that some of these Billioinaires will never understand the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck. They will never know the shame of standing in line at a food bank just to survive. For many of these people, the thought of buying anything pre-owned is an absurd concept. Their money will continue to circulate within their little billionaire club while they laugh at the piss poor puppets who have no choice but to work for their companies and corporations for a less than livable wage.

    •  hey!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Old money staying in old hands for generations tends to generate people who are completely disconnected to society. Living in the bubble, never to understand the struggles of the working class. In fact, they cut our wages, benefits, sell us unhealthy and harmful products and prey on us with glee and sit back and watch as their portfolios soar. Its absolutely disgusting.

      Watch CNBC or Fox Business with me sometime, hon. I am telling you, these smarmy assholes in 2,000 dollar suits sit back and tell the unemployed to get out there and get a job. And those are just the front men for the power elites. Their slice of the pie is TINY in comparison to the big dogs.

      I dunno, kind of in a populist mood tonight.

      Anyway, welcome to dkos ellieV! Everyone, this is my fiancee. She is a wonderful person and I have no doubt will be a thoughtful kossack.

      I lift weights, but I don't sweat. I go for a swim, but I don't get wet.

      by rexymeteorite on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:43:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If I had a billion dollars (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'd eat sushi all the time. And crab. And I'd start a big fish farm, and I'd start a rail system that goes from Muskegon to Grand Rapids and everybody in Muskegon would go to college for free if they got close enough to a 3.0 GPA


    AND...And I'd ditch my 98 Ford Escort and get a fancy car. Like something made this century.

  •  Depressing... really depressing... (0+ / 0-)

    I recently happened upon a sweepstakes to join on a web page that is associated with a channel I routinely watch.  The main prize was astoundingly HUGE.  A million dollar summer house with $500k cash and cars and designer furnishings! (winnings almost total 3 million)

    I wondered just how much money do these stations make to offer such a huge prize for nothing.  I realized how little I have and how much is out there.

    This article seals it.    

  •  Freeze their Swiss bank accounts n/t (0+ / 0-)

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use - Galileo

    by hamm on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 09:31:27 PM PST

  •  Time to get this president's butt (0+ / 0-)

    out of office.

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use - Galileo

    by hamm on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 10:09:12 PM PST

  •  I don't know why they don't have to pay taxes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The big excuse from repubs, "if you tax these assholes it will hurt the economy". Yeah right.

    I should put something smart or witty here, but can't think of anything.

    by onionjim on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 01:23:22 AM PST

  •  I was invited to a showing of a private jet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It was a sad mistake. As a retired American living in SE Asia, I am often mistaken for being wealthy. A banker friend was so desperate to get prospective customers for the visit of this slightly-used US$17M small private jet, that I was invited. I was about to offer to rent it for a couple of hours a year until they told me it was US$2,500 per  hour to fly.

    Yes, the rich do live differently.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 01:41:18 AM PST

  •  Here's a powerful graphic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica, Lawrence

    The Dutch economist Pen created an image of wealth distribution that sticks in your mind, relating to people walking past an observer, and their heights changing relative to their wealth.

    Pen then described what the observers would see. Not a series of people of steadily increasing height—that’s far too bland a picture. The observers would see something much stranger. They would see, mostly, a parade of dwarves, and then some unbelievable giants at the very end.

    As the parade begins, Pen explained, the marchers cannot be seen at all. They are walking upside down, with their heads underground—owners of loss-making businesses, most likely. Very soon, upright marchers begin to pass by, but they are tiny. For five minutes or so, the observers are peering down at people just inches high—old people and youngsters, mainly; people without regular work, who make a little from odd jobs. Ten minutes in, the full-time labor force has arrived: to begin with, mainly unskilled manual and clerical workers, burger flippers, shop assistants, and the like, standing about waist-high to the observers. And at this point things start to get dull, because there are so very many of these very small people. The minutes pass, and pass, and they keep on coming.

    By about halfway through the parade, Pen wrote, the observers might expect to be looking people in the eye—people of average height ought to be in the middle. But no, the marchers are still quite small, these experienced tradespeople, skilled industrial workers, trained office staff, and so on—not yet five feet tall, many of them. On and on they come.

    It takes about forty-five minutes—the parade is drawing to a close—before the marchers are as tall as the observers. Heights are visibly rising by this point, but even now not very fast. In the final six minutes, however, when people with earnings in the top 10 percent begin to arrive, things get weird again. Heights begin to surge upward at a madly accelerating rate. Doctors, lawyers, and senior civil servants twenty feet tall speed by. Moments later, successful corporate executives, bankers, stock­brokers—peering down from fifty feet, 100 feet, 500 feet. In the last few seconds you glimpse pop stars, movie stars, the most successful entrepreneurs. You can see only up to their knees (this is Britain: it’s cloudy). And if you blink, you’ll miss them altogether. At the very end of the parade (it’s 1971, recall) is John Paul Getty, heir to the Getty Oil fortune. The sole of his shoe is hundreds of feet thick.

    "If you don't use your majorities, you lose your majorities."

    by SteinL on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 02:27:06 AM PST

  •  We know what this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, Knarfc

    growing gap leads to for the rest of us...

    "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party." -Paul Wellstone

    by crackpot on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 02:28:23 AM PST

  •  Kefaya! (0+ / 0-)

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 03:58:19 AM PST

  •  How can societies survive this gap? (0+ / 0-)

    That's the question that keeps looming in my mind.  This is a recipe for constant turmoil.  The masses won't consent to misery when there is such obnoxious wealth around them.  Can't work.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 04:06:16 AM PST

  •  Sure. (0+ / 0-)

    But what you have here is a diary showing nine pictures of wealth. No gap or comparison to a wealth gap.

    I would suggest comparison photos of the homes and methods of transportation, and the "leasuretime activities" of those without such wealth: after having lost their jobs, lost their houses, lost their health, been seriously injured on the job, lost their retirement pensions, lost limbs, health, dignity, and /or santiy after serving in the US military, become victims of crimes (rape, etc.), and / or failed to obtain quality legal help once charged with a crime, etc.

    Perhaps a companion diary or combine with this one.

  •  I remember driving to Las Vegas... (4+ / 0-)

    ...from the Chicago area a while back.  I was trying to save money so in Oklahoma I stopped at a real rundown motel where a family of five was living in a one room kitchenette and all but the youngest kids worked at the local sizzler to make ends meet and then on the way back I stopped in Vail.  Boy oh boy the US is fucked up in it's priorities.

    We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

    by delver rootnose on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 05:32:05 AM PST

  •  we can't do much about it (0+ / 0-)

    the rich own all of the congressmen, senators, white house, supreme court, state houses, state judges, federal judges.  We just have to watch our country be dismantled and sold off for pennies on the dollar.  It was a greta country, but now it's not my country anymore, The Donald Trumps of the world own it, I just set here and look at my computer and wonder why the More&Betta Democrats don't really do anything about it, I don't wonder anymore, But I used to wonder why.

    80% of SUCCESS is JUST showing up

    Christine Taylor Green, RIP, Gun Control?

    by Churchill on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 05:54:08 AM PST

  •  Great diary thanks (0+ / 0-)

    It made me a little sick though ;-S

  •  What I can't understand (4+ / 0-)

    is how they've kept the middle and lower class so complacent in the whole thing.  Satiating us with junk food and TV, perhaps?

    We've got serious work to do. Health care and civil rights for all, please!

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 07:24:48 AM PST

  •  Where the heck did you get your figure (0+ / 0-)

    for median income. Because it's wrong. Closer to $50,000.

    Conservation! Because the cheapest energy is the energy you don't use.

    by ohiolibrarian on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 07:54:59 AM PST

  •  Great diary. (0+ / 0-)

    The income and wealth inequality has reached truly perverse levels both in the U.S. and globally.

    That the top 10% own 90% of all stocks, bonds, etc. is downright perverse.

    Tipped and recced.

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

    by Lawrence on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 08:05:54 AM PST

  •  Shocking Excess! (0+ / 0-)

    What a great diary. Even though I thought I had a grasp of the difference between the rich and everybody else, this really made it clear. Especially the idea that you could buy the mansion, car, plane, island, yacht and still have millions left over. And that is just one years salary!

    Bumper stickers:

    Fewer Billionaires, More for the Rest of Us

    Fewer Billionaires, More Infrastructure

    Fewer Billionaires, Bigger Social Safety Net

    I am an enigma wrapped in a mystery inside a thin, thin candy shell.

    by madame damnable on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 09:38:20 AM PST

  •  A Magnum Opus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and an eye opener. Great work, davej!

  •  But those people work harder and deserve it more.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What people don't understand is that there is a fundamental instability in a capitalist economy that will ALWAYS lead to the accumulation of wealth at the top.  Left unchecked, it will give rise to a "pure" capitalism like we had pre-labor movement or like what is found in many third world countries.  To put it another way, the middle class is inherently unstable.  Without government intervention, we would be left with a super-wealthy ruling class, a peasant class, and almost nothing in between.  It is only through labor laws and the investment in shared resources like education, social security, and infrastructure that the middle class exists at all.  These investments need to come from the wealthy because 1) they are the primary beneficiaries of our capitalist economy, and 2) that is the most direct way to stabilize the wealth distribution and ensure that social mobility (necessary for innovation and entrepreneurship) is maintained.

    The super-wealthy have convinced a large portion of the population that any deviation from pure capitalism is socialism and/or evil.  That belief would vanish quickly if people understood the consequences of such policy.

  •  Let's take two Billionaires.... (0+ / 0-)

    Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

    How many billions in wealth have they created for others?

    I get your diary - but all wealthy people are not bad -

    Mayor Bloomberg does not take a salary and gives millions a year away.

    Evil fucking bastards they are.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 11:49:17 AM PST

  •  I've been avoiding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this diary.

    I know, I know.  A cowardly thing.

    But now, I just want to cry.

    Because I don't think there's anything that can fix this.

    Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

    by luvsathoroughbred on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 12:14:55 PM PST

  •  Take names and Kick Butt. (0+ / 0-)

    Wanted Posters
    Dead or Alive
    Shoot 'em in the Ass so as to blow their Brains out
    Nut' em Gut 'em and Hank 'em from a Meat Hook


    Old Stand-by Rhetoric....
    still, I think it might help to put some faces to all those dollars.... so  "we" little folks know where to get tax revenues.
    Seriously, Budget cuts just won't do it.... not enough "dollars" there....period.
    When the economy  and the country hit the "skids".....they may be asked to "contribute"... or maybe "kindly leave" they did from "England"... a few years back.....Maybe they can go to.... where? China? I sort of doubt that.....

  •  Spend 1,000 dollars a day.. (0+ / 0-)

    since the calendar began. That's 365,000 dollars times 2011 years.. and you wind up well short of a billion dollars.

  •  Winner take all mentality (0+ / 0-)

    causes extreme wealth.
    Actually all the wealth should be concentrated in
    just one person but that would cause the system to collapse so the rich steal from each other.

  •  Let's get real here (0+ / 0-)

    The SPINELESS Democrats couldn't even bring themselves to to rescind the tax breaks on the wealthiest 1% of Americans, or the top 1% of wage earners either . Forget this talk of the top 2% of earners, which includes everybody from  Billionaire Bill Gates, all the way down to to some small business owner making 250 K . All the Dems had to do was increase the tax rate  tax the top 1% , and force the  Repubs to OPPOSE THAT ,for all the world to see - that they preach Austerity at the same time they want lower taxes for Billionaires. I see Robert Reich is now addressing THE TOP 1%,  which as pointed out in this brilliant diary, posses a highly disproportionate share of our countries weath and assets.

    I learned French because I like the language. I'm learning Spanish because I like the people who speak it.

    by Vengeur on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 08:57:58 PM PST

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