A new paper by Mr Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics says the wealth inequality gap is reaching historic distances.
The 16,000 families making up the richest 0.01%, with an average net worth of $371m, now control 11.2% of total wealth—back to the 1916 share, which is the highest on record. Those down the distribution have not done quite so well: the top 0.1% (consisting of 160,000 families worth $73m on average) hold 22% of America’s wealth, just shy of the 1929 peak—and exactly the same share as the bottom 90% of the population. Meanwhile the share of wealth held by families from the 90th to the 99th percentile has actually fallen over the last decade, though not by as much as the net worth of the bottom 90%.
The outsize fortunes of the few would not be too worrying were they largely the product of entrepreneurial activity: riches amassed by hardworking billionaires who are as likely as not to give their bounty away through philanthropy. Messrs Saez and Zucman find some evidence for this dynamic. Wealthy families are younger than they were a generation or two ago, and they earn a larger share of the country’s income from labour: 3.1% in 2012 versus less than 0.5% prior to 1970.
Simply put, the top 0.1%'s wealth is about to overtake the bottom 90% for the first time since 1929. The best part is that the top 0.1% wants to control the "redistribution" of our nation's wealth. So far it seems like they've divided it up as thoughtfully as Hyman Roth dividing up Cuba in the Godfather II