In 1978, there was one American Billionaire on the planet, give or take. By 1988, after 8 years of Reagan as President, there were 68. Since 1988, the number of US billionaires has increased to Four Hundred and Twenty Five. And that period includes the bursting of the dot.com bubble in 2000 and the housing market collapse and financial crisis of 2008-2009. As you can see, the biggest jump occurred after the election of George W. Bush (count me "shocked and awed" over that revelation). Last year alone, the top Billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by $200 Billion, raising their total net worth to 1.7 Trillion. In other words, a relatively small number of people control resources with a value only slightly less than the federal income and payroll taxes collected by the US government last year. Say Hallelujah (I'm sure the Koch brothers do)!
Meanwhile, the "average" American family's net worth dropped 40% between 2007 and 2010. Sure, Billionaires took a hit in 2009, but they've bounced back nicely. The rest of us? Not so much.
Making matters worse, income levels also fell during the tumultuous three-year period, with median pre-tax income falling 7.7% as earnings from capital gains all but disappeared.
The loss of income and net worth appears to have impacted savings rates, as the number of Americans who said they saved in the prior year fell from 56.4% in 2007 to 52.0% in 2010 -- the lowest level recorded since the early 1990s.
I keep waiting for all these Billionaires to create more jobs, but oddly enough, despite the "good times" Billionaires are enjoying these days, those "good jobs" haven't appeared - anywhere. Yes, our unemployment rate dipped slightly below 8% for the first time since - oh I don't know, since Bush landed the country in the dumpster. However, that hardly something to cheer about. One might even think it's a little misleading. For example, consider the population to payroll rate, i.e., the percentage of people in the entire US population who have a job at which they work 30 or more hours a week and are paid wages or a salary (i.e., receive a paycheck).
That rate had climbed to over 45% in December, 2012, but as of February, 2013 it had fallen to 43.3%. Now admittedly it is a metric developed by Gallup, but it isn't that much different than the metrics used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show little improvement on the employment front, particularly when you consider the unemployed people whom the BLS does not bother to count as unemployed as well as the actual percentage of the population the BLS counts as employed, good job or not.
The employment-population ratio held at 58.6 percent in February. The civilian
labor force participation rate, at 63.5 percent, changed little. (See table A-1.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 8.0 million,
was essentially unchanged in February. These individuals were working part
time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to
find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)
In February, 2.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
the same as a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These
individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work,
and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not
counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks
preceding the survey.
So, even though the BLS reports that the unemployment rate declined, the actual percentage of the population in the workforce remained stagnant, with many people still unemployed, unemployed but not officially counted as unemployed, or working part-time jobs.
By the way, just for the record, I don't consider a job where someone works 30 or more hours a week necessarily a "good job" though I suppose it beats jobs where one works fewer hours. Many of those "good jobs" don't include benefits, like health care coverage. Many of the jobs the BLS and Gallup no doubt include in their metrics don't pay enough to keep individuals and families out of poverty. Indeed, despite the phenomenal good fortune of our American Billionaires over the last three decades, and especially since 2000, lately more and more people keep slipping below the official government determined poverty line.
The U.S. poverty rate last year was unchanged from the year before, according to new figures Wednesday from the Census Bureau. But that still means almost 1 in 6 Americans was poor.
The new data show that 46.2 million people in the U.S. lived below the poverty line — about $23,000 for a family of four. The number of poor was almost exactly the same as it was the year before, but still historically high.
"I guess I would say the bad news isn't as bad as it has been," says Richard Burkhauser, an economist at Cornell University. He notes that the Census Bureau credits a shift from part-time to full-time jobs, especially among lower-income workers, for keeping the numbers from growing. But at the same time, he says, the nation's median household income dropped 1.5 percent, to just over $50,000.
I think most people would agree with me that, if 50% of the country makes $50,000 dollars or less per year, and if 46.2 million people live in poverty, our Billionaires (and millionaires, too) have done a really eff'd up job at creating "good jobs." When the top 20% of the population earn more than half of all the income earned in 2011, and the top 5% earned over 22% of all income (I'm guessing those numbers were higher in 2012) our self described job creators suck big time. Sure, the corporations the Billionaires (and their millionaire brethren) own and control made huge profits last year, but those profits were generated at the expense of workers.
In the third quarter, corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago, according to last week'si gross domestic product report. That took after-tax profits to their greatest percentage of GDP in history.
But the record profits come at the same time that workers' wages have fallen to their lowest-ever share of GDP. [...]
Profits accounted for 11.1% of the U.S. economy last quarter, compared with an average of 8% during the previous economic expansion. They fell as low as 4.6% of GDP during the recession.
"Corporate profits took a big hit in the recession like everything else, but they've seen a massive bounce back," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. "Wages are determined by what's going on in the labor market and we haven't seen a big bounce back there."
To get a little better idea of just how much they suck, consider that "corporate earnings are rising nearly 20 times faster than disposable incomes," which seems obscene to me, though this seems even more obscene:
From 2009 to 2011, 88 percent of national income growth went to corporate profits while just one percent went to workers’ wages, and hourly earnings for workers actually fell over that time. And while they aren’t investing in job growth, corporations are also paying taxes at a rate that hit a 40-year low in 2011.
So workers are paid less, corporations earn more and yet are paying less taxes per capita than at any time in the last forty goddam years. And our Billionaires just keep raking in most of the benefits of our "economic recovery."
Thank goodness everyone on the Beltway Bubble has the answer to all our economic woes: austerity for the not so rich. True, they may disagree about the details, but ... Forgive me if I go watch the fourth season of True Blood on DVDs I borrowed from the Library and pretend we live in a world of blood-sucking, killer vampires. For some reason that seems like a better world than the one in which I actually reside right now.