The One Percent

People have widely disparate impressions of what constitutes the 1%.  Okay, here’s what I always like to see.  These numbers are gathered from official IRS data for 2010 by Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics at Cal-Berkeley.
Percentile threshold Income threshold Income Groups Number of families Average income in each group
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
A. Income including realized capital gains (from Table A6)
Full Population 156,167,000 $51,550
Bottom 90% 140,550,300 $29,840
Top 10% $108,024 Top 10-5% 7,808,350 $125,627
Top 5% $150,400 Top 5-1% 6,246,680 $205,529
Top 1% $352,055 Top 1-0.5% 780,835 $418,378
Top .5% $521,246 Top 0.5-0.1% 624,668 $798,120
Top .1% $1,492,175 Top 0.1-0.01% 140,550 $2,802,020
Top .01% $7,890,307 Top 0.01% 15,617 $23,846,950
To help you interpret, columns 1 & 2 show you that, if you made $108,024 in 2010, you were in the top 10%.  If you made $150,400, you were in the top 5%.  To be in the top 1%, you had to earn $352,000, and so on.
Columns 3, 4, & 5 tell you that there were a total of 156,167,000 households that filed returns, 140,550,300 of whom constituted the bottom 90%.  The average income overall was $51,550 and for the bottom 90%, it was $29,840.  The bottom half of the top 10% (10-5%) had 7.8 million families with an average income of $125,627.  The four percent just above that had 6.2 million households averaging $205,529.  In the bottom half of the top 1% were 780,835 families averaging $798,120, and so on.
Now, here is a graph by Arizona Political Science professor, Lane Kenworthy.  It shows how both GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and median family income have grown since 1947.  Note that up until about 1980, income growth pretty well tracked GDP growth, but has not kept pace since (remind me again who became president about that time?).  Since GDP has continued to grow, SOMEBODY is making money, so where has all that money gone?
And here’s a chart from Mother Jones magazine.  It shows how much income has been gained or lost by various income groups owing to the failure of Middle Class incomes to keep pace with GDP growth.  Note how the amount lost by the bottom 80% compares with that gained by the top 1%.

How much income have you given up for the top 1 percent?


The wealth still being generated by this country’s economy is no longer accruing to the people who do the work to generate it.  Rather, it is going to a few extermely well-to-do people at the very top of the income scale.  Either we’re going to do something about that or it’s going to become the status quo.  It’s our choice.

Be the change you want to see in the world.
–Mohandas K. Gandhi

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In 2010, 93 percent of income gains went to the top 1 percent

Here’s a re-post from Ezra Klein of the Washington Post:

(Mike Konczal) In recent months, some commentators wondered whether the national conversation over inequality was coming too late. Early data suggested that the top 1 percent’s share of national income had dropped from 23.5 percent to 18.1 percent in the early years of the recession. “We don’t want to spend years focused on income inequality, only to learn that the financial crisis fixed it for us,” wrote the Atlantic’s Megan McArdle.

The latest update to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty’s income data suggests we need not worry. Timothy Noah summarizes:

In the first year of the recovery, 93 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent.

In other words, the very rich had a bad 2009, but an incredible 2010. Their share of national income bounced back to 19.77 percent. So inequality is marching upward once again. And there’s reason to believe this will keep going.

We mainly talk about income inequality, but wealth inequality matters, too. For most households, their wealth is in real estate. Those assets aren’t returning to pre-crisis levels anytime soon. But for rich households, their wealth is in financial assets, and those assets are recovering much more quickly.

Here’s more from Mike Konczal.

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On Friday, February 27, the Wyoming House of Representatives moved forward on a bill sponsored by Republican David Miller that would set up a task force to prepare for the anticipated economic and political collapse of the United States.  Among other things, the task force would look into things like building up stocks of food for the ravenous hordes of panicked citizens and (literally) producing its own coin of the realm.

Now, I have to admit I find myself chuckling at the thought of supposedly serious statehouse politicians in tailored business suits channeling the same train of thought as Y2K survivalists and such (BTW, what do you think ever became of all that freeze-dried food?), but, after all, they ARE the duly elected representatives of the people of Wyoming and, as such, obligated to protect their constituents from harm, so I’ll give them that much.

It was what happened next, however, that put the screen door on the submarine, so to speak.  Republican Representative (is there anything ELSE in Wyoming?) Kermit Brown added to the panel’s list of charges, the following items: implementing a draft, raising a standing army, navy, air force and marine corps and acquisition of an aircraft carrier complete with strike aircraft.  Yes, you read that right: an aircraft carrier.

Now, an aircraft carrier is a fine thing to have in tumultuous times, I grant you.  But it could be of dubious value when the particular tumult you are trying to assuage is some 600 miles or more from the nearest ocean.  Of course, the Great Salt Lake is only 50 miles or so away, but the Utes may not want it cluttering up their landscape, and besides, post collapse it could be viewed as a violation of state sovereignty and subject to impoundment by the Mormons, who will have their own desolate state to protect from invading heathens.

There is also the small matter of cost.  Wyoming has a population of less than 600,000 and a state budget of only $4 billion, both the smallest of any other state, including Alaska and Hawaii.  The last aircraft carrier built by the U.S. was the George H.W. Bush, at a cost of $6.2 billion, and that doesn’t include aircraft, ordnance or crew.  FA-22 stealth fighter aircraft go for about $150 million apiece, the carrier requires a crew of more than 6,000 and annual operating costs are estimated at more than $120 million.  You do the math.

Now, far be it from me to tell Wyoming lawmakers how to run their state.  Lord knows, I don’t ever plan to move there.  But a quick Google search indicates that they spend less than 15% of that $4 billion on health care and hunger assistance for the poor, and yet here they are, ready to consider squandering perhaps twice the annual budget on military hardware for some pie-in-the-sky conspiracy crap that will never happen?  And people think the problem in this country is too much SOCIALISM?

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Whay are gas prices so high?

I got this yesterday via email from one of those red state, goober acquaintances we all have:

Get some of these. It is a perfect way to reach the idiots (obozo supporeters) who never watch the news. Some may buy gas every once in a while:

Gas Pump “Stick it to Obama” Notes (25 Pack)

Be a part of the campaign that ousts Obama…

One post it note has created a national movement on Facebook. An anonymous citizen left a sticky note on a gas pump as a wake-up call to fellow citizens that has set off a chain reaction of events that could literally altar the 2012 presidential election.

So what did the post it note say that caused such a ruckus?

The text reads: “Hey There, Voter! Do you remember that on Inauguration Day (Jan 20th) 2009, the national average for a gallon of gasoline was about $1.78? How’s that “Hope & Change” working out for you? Anyone But Obama Nov. 2012.

Now, you can purchase a pack of 25 sticky notes with this message from Patriot Depot for only $4.95! Sticky notes are a great way to quickly spread the conservative message with no sticky residue! Buy a pack of 100 sticky notes for just $14.95!

So I replied thusly:

I watch and read a LOT more news than YOU do, pea-brain.  That’s why I know that Obama administration policies have little or nothing to do with the high price of gas.  Here’s a chart of gas prices over the last four years:


Gas was actually higher during the last summer Bush was president.  That big dropoff?  That was the housing bust,  a GLOBAL event (proof that Freddie & Fannie could not  possibly have caused it).  It caused a worldwide economic recession, which meant that the ENTIRE WORLD slowed its energy use dramatically.

ECON 101A: low demand = oversupply = low prices.

As the world economy has picked back up, energy consumption has, as well, and prices have risen again as the glut diminished.

Here’s a LINK to the Institute for Analysis of Global Security.  They explain so that even YOU can understand:

With 1.3 billion people, the People’s Republic of China is the world’s most populous country and the second largest oil consumer, behind the U.S. In recent years, China has been undergoing a process of industrialization and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With real gross domestic product growing at a rate of 8-10% a year, China’s need for energy is projected to increase by 150 percent by 2020. to sustain its growth China requires increasing amounts of oil. Its oil consumption grows by 7.5% per year, seven times faster than the U.S.

On another PAGE, they explain:

The two countries with the highest rate of growth in oil use are China and India, whose combined populations account for a third of humanity. In the next two decades, China’s oil consumption is expected to grow at a rate of 7.5% per year and India’s 5.5%. (Compare to a 1% growth for the industrialized countries).

So, you want to know why gas prices are going up?  I’ll give you two reasons: (1) China and (2) India.

ECON 101B: high demand = undersupply = high prices.

BTW, the U.S. is producing more oil under Obama than it did under Bush, according to Politifact:

Here are the annual totals, in barrels produced, going back to 2003:

2003: 2,073,453,000
2004: 1,983,302,000
2005: 1,890,106,000
2006: 1,862,259,000
2007: 1,848,450,000
2008: 1,811,817,000
2009: 1,956,596,000
2010: 1,998,137,000

The full-year data is available only through 2010, but 10 months of data from 2011 have been made public. Through the end of October 2011, production totaled 1,713,038,000 barrels. If that pace continues, the year-end total should be around 2,055,646,000 barrels — higher than any year since 2003. That’s eight years ago, just as Obama has said.

The U.S. is also now a net gasoline EXPORTER.  So why are gas prices going up?  Because, meathead, ALL oil goes directly onto the world market (just like the Canadian oil from the XL pipeline would), where we have to compete for it with the Chinese and the Indians.  It’s called CAPITALISM.  What do you want?  For oil companies to sell it only for domestic consumption at artificially low prices?  Why, THAT would be SOCIALISM!

So, go ahead, buy your post-its (for 15 cents apiece!).  Buy a THOUSAND of ’em.  They won’t reduce gas prices a nickle.  But they WILL help the guy peddling them to morons like yourself pay for his BMW.

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Cutting the Federal Budget

So, you want to cut the federal budget?  Be my guest.  A lot of people want to do that.  After all, the government is just wasting our tax dollars, anyway, right?  They’re spending a a trillion more than they’re taking in, right?  We need to eliminate that deficit, don’t we?

Here’s a snapshot of 2010 federal spending using mostly data from the Center on Budget an Policy Priorities (or CBPP, which, you’ll note, gets it’s data from the Office of Management and Budget).  I’ve added in a few details for clarity as noted below (* and **).  And don’t worry too much that it’s now 2012, the budgets and deficits are similar.  To be sure, the issues are exactly the same.

CBPP presents the budget in six broad categories: Defense, Social Security, etc.  They break out the categories of Safety Net and Other to show the major programs under each.  I took the liberty of also separating out Medicaid and CHIP from SS for added detail.

* CBPP provided no dollar amounts for Safety Net programs.  I provided estimates of the major programs based on Google searches, most of which were taken from CBO or OMB data.  The last three programs (child care, housing assistance, home heating assistance, etc.) I ignored because verifying the numbers is tedious and they only amount to a few billion dollars among them.

** CBPP gave the percentage breakouts for Other, but not the actual budget amounts.  These I calculated from the percentages.  You will note that these subprograms do not sum to the Other category total due to rounding.

So, in 2010, the government took in $2.2 trillion and spent a whopping $3.5 trillion.  For the arithmetically challenged, that, means we had a deficit of $1.3 trillion.  Okay, now you’ve got a pretty decent list of what we spend money on right in front of you.  YOU decide where to cut $1.3 trillion.

Defense?  Sure, that’s a good place to start.  But how much are you going to cut?  $200 billion?  $500 billion?  Don’t forget that aid to Israel, Pakistan and Egypt are in that total, as well as Homeland Security.  Also, don’t forget that there are more than a few people still out there who would just as soon see us all dead.  Cutting more than $100 billion or so from this total is doable, but probably not feasible politically.

Okay, how about Medicaid?  After all, that’s just “welfare” for people too poor, too lazy or too stupid to buy insurance, right?  No, not exactly.  Almost half of Medicaid goes to the disabled.  Most of these people are on long term care and unable to work.  Many are actually on life support.  Remember Terry Shiavo?  She was on Medicaid.  President Bush flew to Washington D.C. on a Sunday just to sign a bill to KEEP her on Medicaid-funded life support.

And more than half of all nursing home care is paid for by Medicaid (no, Medicare DOESN’T cover that).  And before you start eyeballing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), know that it’s a mere $11 billion of the total.  That’s a lot cheaper than taking forty or fifty million kids off CHIP and then having to pay for their chronic conditions later because they couldn’t afford to see a doctor early.

Okay, we can’t slice interest on the debt.  How about those Safety Net Programs?  Buncha freeloaders, anyway, right?  Well, okay, there’s the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits.  $130 billion is a lot of money.  What do those go for?  They are direct payments to the poorest working taxpayers.  If you are working, but you don’t earn very much, you get some of your money back in the form of direct payments.  If you have kids, as well, you get a little more.  Think of it as incentive to work and support your family, even if you have to work at McDonald’s.  Yeah, you could cut this, but effectively you’d be raising taxes on the poorest, most vulnerable citizens – and the ones who are ACTUALLY WORKING!  Bad idea.

Then there’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  This is a Social Security monthly stipend for people who are fully or partially disabled, but are too young for regular Social Security.  Most have had debilitating illnesses or injuries and either can no longer work or can’t work much.  You gonna cut these people off?  I don’t recommend it.

Then there’s unemployment compensation.  Sure, you can tell all the lazy bums living large on unemployment to “get a haircut and get a real job,” but, unless they’re willing to move to China and work for pennies a day, the fact remains that there aren’t enough jobs for all of them.  Consider also that every penny of those unemployment checks get spent in short order because that’s all the income most unemployed people have.  Then think about the fact that removing that $156 billion from the economy amounts to just a tad over 1% of GDP.  And seeing as how the economy is only growing at a rate of just over 2%, cutting off unemployment just doesn’t make sense, purely from an economic, much less humanitarian perspective.

Food stamps and school lunches?  Forty-six million people are dependent upon food stamps.  School lunches are about $10 billion of that $76 billion, give or take a billion.  You want to cut this?  Go ahead, but first read Matthew 25:31-46 and think for a minute whether you might be separated with the rest of the goats come Pearly Gates time.  Your choice.

That’s pretty much it for the Safety Net programs.  The other stuff is nickles and dimes.  Heck, you can cut the whole thing – tax credits for the poor, disability checks, unemployment, food stamps, child care, home heating, the whole nine yards – and you’ll STILL be only 40% of the way to eliminating the deficit.

So what’s left?  Other.  Veterans benefits and federal retirees?  You can’t seriously cut that, right?  Oh, but there’s scientific and medical research.  There’s an easy $70 billion.  Transportation and infrastructure –  roads, bridges, air traffic control?  Need any of that?  Education – ANOTHER easy $100 billion!  Never mind that most of it goes to help kids pay for college. Non-security foreign aid?  Toast.  Next time there’s an earthquake in some third world backwater, we’ll tell ‘em we’re broke.  And what’s this “All other?”  How about, Congress, the courts, U.S. Attorney’s, FBI, that kind of crap.  Okay, we have to keep most of it, but we can do without the EPA and stuff, right?

So let’s take stock.  Let’s say we cut $100 billion from defense, dump everything but SSI and tax credits for the poor from the Safety Net programs (another $250 billion), cut research, education and foreign aid ($200 billion) from Other Programs and slash 10% of what’s left of that (another $50 billion).  And while we’re at it, let’s cut ALL of Medicaid that doesn’t go for children, the elderly or the disabled (15% or about $40 billion).

So far you’ve trashed a lot of defense programs, destroyed most of the social safety net, eliminated all scientific and medical research, made it so that pretty much only wealthy people can afford to send their kids to college and pretty well ensured that we will be of no help to any country that suffers a natural disaster. And you’ve only saved about $640 billion or LESS THAN HALF of the deficit.  Where you going to get the OTHER $660 billion, Einstein?  Social Security?  Medicare?  Defense?

One final point.  The candidates vying to take the current president’s job have made no bones about the fact that they won’t cut ANYTHING from Defense.  In fact, the presumed nominee has vowed to INCREASE the size of the standing army and build additional ships for the Navy. And yet he has also promised to REDUCE TAXES and ELIMINATE THE DEFICIT.  I see an arithmetic issue here.  Do you?  Where do you think HE plans to cut?  Somehow, I don’t think I need to spell it out for you, but columnist Ezra Klein of the Washington Post does such a good job, I hereby outsource that task to him:

The federal budget is fairly simple. I can explain it to you in fewer than 30 words: Most of the money comes in through taxes and borrowing. The vast majority of it is then spent on programs for the old, programs for the poor and defense. That’s pretty much it.

Mitt Romney’s plans for the federal budget are also fairly simple. I can explain them to you in less than 100 words: He’s promising that taxes will go down, defense spending will go up and old-people programs won’t change “for those at or near retirement.” So three of his four options for deficit reduction — taxes, old-people programs and defense — are either contributing to the deficit or are off-limits for the next decade.

Romney is also promising that he will balance the budget and reduce total federal spending by more than $6 trillion over the next 10 years. But the only big pot of money left to him poor-people programs. So by simple process of elimination, poor-people programs will have to be cut dramatically under a Romney presidency. Around 40 percent of projected spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Open Letter to a Redneck Nation

So, you’re one of those frothing-at-the-mouth teabagger types who has been amped up for the last three years to kick that black Muslim sumbitch outta the White House and take back America.  And now you’re gnashing your teeth, kicking your dog and backhanding your wife because things don’t seem to be turning out quite like you planned.

Well, better get used to it, pal.  With Mitt Romney changing his answers two and three times a day, Rick Sanctimonious’ continuous outrage that women are actually (gasp!) having sex and taking those horrible, horrible pills to make sure accidents don’t cause people, and Newt Gingrick going around talking about making the moon the 51st state, only a few idiots like you are going to vote for one of these bozos.  And you don’t even need to SEE Ron Paul’s birth certificate to tell that he’s from Mars (and hence not a citizen).  You can easily discern that fact from the bat-shit crazy things he says.

Can you imagine Mitt Romney negotiating with the Chinese?  Somehow I think that, “No, no, that’s not what I meant when I signed it,” ain’t gonna fly with those guys.

But, it gets worse for you, buddy.  MUCH worse.  When THIS WOMAN (yes, that’s her giving an “assessment” of the average redneck) gets elected in 2016, teabagger heads may actually explode.  You’ll find yourselves longing nostalgically for those good old days when all you worried about were “faggots” getting married and government death panels doing the eenie-meenie-miney-mo thing on whose dialysis machine gets unplugged.

Why, I bet there’ll even be a law enacted requiring all Christians to convert to a new religion, just to foster multiculturalism.  And I don’t mean one of those easy, Baptist-to-Presbyterian or Lutheran-to-Catholic things.  No, I mean a change with a whole new Diety, prophet and holy book type of deal.  You know, Islam, Hinduism or Zoroastrianism, stuff like that.  Learning all the new rules about what not to do, what not to eat or drink and who to hate (all so you can still get into heaven) will give you plenty to do while you’re waiting to get that call to Jannah, loka or wherever.

Also, in order to promulgate peace and understanding between races (and, of course, leading ultimately to a pure, homogenous race of earth-dwelling beings), no more white-on-white marriages will be allowed.  Henceforth all marriages will have to be to a person of another race or species (dog, orangutan, lion, etc.).  Modern genetics will even make it possible for you and your new spouse to have “offspring,” irrespective of existing DNA differences.  Hell, I bet most rednecks will either commit suicide or be killed and eaten by their spouses.

Yep, it’s a brave new world alright, buddy.  Best be gittin’ used to it.

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You’re not really, actually going to get into that car, are you?

I admit, I watched the now-famous Newt Gingrich interview live on Meet the Press last Sunday.  I was at once both impressed and little concerned when he said, in reference to his opposition to the GOP deficit reduction plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” then going on to add that he was “against radical change” from either the right or the left.
Of course, since then he has been bloodied and beaten by every Republican and right-wing “personality” in the Western world and has basically done everything short of agreeing to blow them all as penance.  But think about this for a minute: Here was one of the right’s most vicious attack dogs, going all sensible on us by saying that maybe, just maybe, we should all try to compromise and get along.  For the sake of the country, you know.
But, NOOOOOOoooooooo!  His party will have NONE of that crap!  NO getting reasonable.  NO compromise.  And CERTAINLY nothing “middle-of-the-road.”  It’s hard-core meat-cleavering of the federal budget, Medicare, Social Security and everything else short of the military-industrial complex and rich people’s money bins.  “Cut trillions or we’re jumping off this cliff and taking you all with us!”

A sane man greets a positive and reasonable suggestion with an acknowledging nod and, at worst, an equally reasonable counter offer.  An extremist asshole reacts as did the majority of the Republican establishment, with outrage, scorn and ridicule.

There you have it.  You can either see it or not.  Republicans are now – CLEARLY – certifiably insane.  You can get in the car with these psychos, their brains addled by extremist ideology and and driven to erratic behavior by the manic belief that they can force the country to do their bidding via suicidal brinksmanship, or you can wait for a nice, safe Democratic bus.  Your choice.

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